With rising environmental concerns, fuel efficiency, and technological breakthroughs, people are getting more interested in what they should buy: Fuel-based vehicles or electric cars. Let us look at a few essential aspects of what sets them apart and what might be good for you.
Diesel and petrol engines’ working principles are more or less the same, with differences primarily in how the engine ignites air and fuel. Before getting into the working principle, let’s look at the engine parts of a commonly used four-stroke inline engine. First, let us examine the crankshaft. This part converts the linear motion of a piston to rotational force. Next, we have piston and piston rods that are fitted on the crankshaft. The pistons are pushed downward by the expansion of compressed air, which will force the crankshaft to rotate. Then, we have valves that control the flow of air and fuel into the cylinders. These valves are driven by the intake port and the exhaust port. A timing belt then drives the piers. A four-stroke engine essentially goes through a cycle of four different stroke phases to output power. They are intake, compression, fuel, exhaust.
First, air and fuel mixture is injected into the cylinder through the intake port, and the inlet valve is opened. Simultaneously, pistons’ downward movement occurs, triggering suction to keep the mixture enclosed within the cylinder. Once the combination is in place, the compression stroke begins, and the mixture is compressed. During this, both inlet and outlet valves stay closed to prevent the machine from leaking. At the end of the compression stroke, the mixture is ignited. This is done by placing a spark plug in the cylinder, which will produce an electric spark. The ignition results in an explosion, and the piston is pushed down. This causes the crankshaft to rotate, and when the piston moves up again, the outlet valve is opened. The piston pushes out the burnt gas through the exhaust port. This is one cycle of a four-stroke engine to produce power.
The critical difference between petrol and diesel engines is that diesel engines don’t have a spark plug. Diesel engines achieve ignition solely through compression. The heat created through the compression of air and fuel mixture is what ignites it. Diesel engines offer a much better fuel economy than petrol engines. Diesel-based cars have a higher price point up front, but diesel-based cars will save you more in the long run if you are travelling far and often.
Electric cars, on the other hand, rely on batteries to produce power instead of traditional engines. Much like how electronic devices like smartphones operate through a rechargeable battery, electric cars derive their power in a similar fashion from batteries. Needless to say, these batteries need to be recharged to be used again. The efficiency and battery size depends on the model of the car. Electric cars can be further divided into three types: Plug-in electric, Plug-in hybrid, and hybrid-electric. Plug-in electric cars operate purely on batteries, plug-in hybrids operate mostly on batteries but can switch to diesel/petrol engines, and hybrid-electric operate mostly on diesel/petrol, with an option to operate on a battery.
Fuel-based cars still dominate the market today because of how prominent they have been for almost a century now, completely unrivalled. Recently, electric vehicles have started to get famous through technological advancements. Yet, its availability is still virtually impossible in developing countries. Apart from that, the electric car industry has to face the challenge of defamation through propaganda from fuel-based car manufacturers that try to show electric cars to be an unviable means of transporting vehicles.
Electric cars have the upper hand in most things compared to traditional fuel-based vehicles. Due to environmental concerns, people and organizations are starting to look for safer vehicle alternatives that don’t negatively impact the environment. For short, all-electric vehicles, or EVs, are less harmful to the environment due to zero carbon emission. Raw materials, production and disposal of EVs are also significantly less impactful to the environment compared to fuel-based cars. To further consolidate this point, lithium-ion batteries used by most EVs are recyclable at the end of their lifecycle, making them highly environment-friendly, whereas fossil fuels, once consumed, will leave their impact on the environment irreversible.
While diesel engines do provide a better fuel economy than petrol engines, electric cars win by a large margin when it comes to cost for refuelling or, in their case, recharging. Because electric cars don’t need as many mechanical parts as fuel-based cars, it also significantly cuts down on maintenance costs as there is simply no part to replace or repair. However, EVs are more expensive to manufacture and purchase.
Even though fuel-based cars dominate the car industry today and the trend will continue for at least the next few decades, it is set to change soon after. Environmental concerns like global warming and carbon emissions are growing bigger by the day, calling for changes. Some governments have already signed off and declared statements and policies to leave fuel-based cars and adopt electric vehicles instead.
Fossil fuels are consumed at a rapid rate, and they won’t last forever either. Technological breakthroughs in batteries are set to happen in the future, whereas mechanical engines have more or less stayed all the same regarding fuel efficiency. This will force the fuel-based car industry to change or die out entirely at some point in time.
The biggest challenge electric car manufacturers face is production cost and marketability. Until the manufacturer can’t make an EV for less, EVs’ price won’t be low. And even if EV manufacturers were to achieve it, they have to make it available for everyone in most countries. With fuel-based cars’ dominance in the market, affordability and availability remain a big hurdle for electric cars. However, electric cars replacing fuel-based cars is just a matter of when. Electric cars will undoubtedly take over the industry and make fuel-based cars irrelevant at a point, but that is something only time will tell.