Will electric vehicles prevail over the movement to use biofuels? This largely depends on who you are talking to.
The US government has pushed for electric automobiles to replace fossil-fueled cars and is providing some incentives to purchase them. Be aware that not all electric vehicles quality for the full $7,500 tax credit before you begin to shop. To view the latest list check with the Department of Energy and the U.S. Treasury. (https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxcenter.shtml)
EV’s do not have engines so there is no engine-related maintenance to attend to. That can be a cost savings depending. However, they still require brake fluid, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, coolant, windshield wiper blades, windshield wiper fluid, tires, power inverter, cabin air filters, and the largest cost of all battery replacement. Follow the manufacturer’s warranty to keep up to date with this.
It is not only the tax credits to consider, but also the range that you should consider before jumping headlong into an electric automobile. Currently, there is a lot of variation between automobile manufacturers of EV’s regarding range. Some vehicles get about 200 some miles between charges and others as much as 400 miles or so. Do your homework.
There is also the cost of an in-home charging station for your EV. According to Motortrend you can expect to pay between $1,150 and $2,750, on the low end, for the purchase and installation of a 240-volt charging station for your home or as much as $10,000. That price depends on where you live, what the electricians in your area charge, and what your current electrical panel may be capable of managing. If your home is older, you may also be required to update the service wires that bring electricity into your house. The latter may require the local utilities and permitting from city/county to also be involved making the timeframe for installation longer and more costly.
EV batteries are created by merging anodes, cathodes, a separator, electrolytes, and lithium ions. One EV battery uses seventeen pounds of lithium carbonate mined in Chile, Argentina or Bolivia; seventy-seven pounds of nickel which can be found in Australia, Indonesia, or Brazil; forty-four pounds of manganese which comes from a variety of foods; and thirty pounds of cobalt which comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Lithium, cobalt, and nickel must be mined. According to the Department of Energy, it takes more than 500,000 gallons of water to extract one ton of lithium. Technology is developing sustainable ways to extract this lithium using less water.
Let’s take a look a biofuel. Biofuels can also be renewable and as such are considered sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels. Biofuel is typically made from vegetable oils, cooking oils, animal fat, or sugar and starches. Growing crops is essential to the production of biofuels, specifically corn or sugarcane. But there is a version of biofuel that comes from the waste by-products of hydrotreated vegetable oil or HVO which are used in cooking grease and it is considered to be a preferable option to straight biofuel because it places no strain on our food supply to create it.
Bioenergy technologies are also creating biofuel from hydrogen, algae, and cellulosic biomass. Ethanol is a form of biofuel. It is a blend of traditional gasoline and alcohol. Ethanol comes from starches and sugars of plants that have been fermented. Corn is the top contender for ethanol. The most common type of ethanol is about 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline. There are versions of this that mix as much as 51-83% ethanol.
Hydrocarbons are found in petroleum fuels and biomass sources. They are almost identical to one another chemically. Biofuel production requires a series of steps to complete. Plant cells need to be broken down using extreme heat or low temperatures before the biofuel can be usable. Either method may use a biological or chemical component to complete the process.
If extreme heat is used there are three possible paths to be taken. Pyrolysis is one. Gasfication and hydrothermal liquification are the other two.
Pyrolysis is done in an oxygen-free environment. The high heat degrades the biomass into pyrolysis vapor, gas, or what is called char. The char is removed as the vapors cool and condense into liquid.
Gasification is similar to pyrolysis except the temperatures are even higher and a little oxygen is allowed. This creates what is called a syngas which is a combination of hydrogen and carbon monoxide.
Hydrothermal liquification is used for wet feedstocks. Wet feedstocks include algae. Water is heated at more moderate temperatures in this process and then temperatures are turned up to make the liquid bio-crude oil.
Biofuel does leave a small carbon footprint, but it is 80% less than those of fossil fuels. Refueling for automobiles that use biofuel takes seconds like fossil fuel compared to the hours it takes to charge an EV.
Many say that biofuels are not as environmentally friendly as the EV’s and overall they would be correct. Biofuels are more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels.
The greatest challenge here is to make the EV able to transgress longer distances between charges while also driving down the cost. However, EV’s are not completely without an impact to the environment because their batteries require regular energy and not renewable energy per se and the composition of the batteries comes from using lots of water and other resources outside of the United States.
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