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Big Benefits Of Electric Vehicles

Even though the electric car has been around in some shape or form for in excess of 100 years, it is only recently that it has made any strides towards the mass market. Tesla has been one of the frontrunners in the sector and the launch of the company’s Tesla Model 3, the group’s first mass-market vehicle, has been an unprecedented success. The company took pre-orders totalling $14 billion with hundreds of millions of dollars put down as part payment. So, what are the real long-term benefits of electric vehicles?

Emissions

We all know about the harmful emissions from traditional petrol/diesel vehicles which add to air pollution. Over the years we have seen many examples of air pollution impacting the environment, the weather and elements of everyday life such as health. So, perhaps one of the real long-term benefits of electric vehicles is the fact they have zero emissions at source.

It would be unfair to suggest that the whole electric vehicle cycle is a zero emission system when in reality this is not the case. There is a need to create the electric power, transferred via batteries, to run these vehicles and there are obviously emissions related to this. The level of emissions created in this process will depend upon how the electricity is created as we see more and more environmentally friendly power systems being built. In a worst-case scenario, the level of emissions from this particular stage of the electric car revolution is minimal compared to traditional vehicles.

Minimal repairs

As there are only two or three moving parts in an electric vehicle this has had a massive impact upon general wear/tear and repairs. Critics might suggest this is one reason why it has taken so long for the electric vehicle to hit the mass market because obviously car companies have a vested interest in supplying spare parts. When you also consider the current system used to produce spare parts most of any emissions from this area would also be eliminated.

It stands to reason that a vehicle with few moving parts is likely to be more reliable, as there is less that can go wrong, so this is also a strong positive going forward. It may take some time to build up a network of qualified tradespeople to both service and repair electric vehicles but this will happen in due course when the market is large enough. In the meantime it may be a case of searching your area for an electric vehicle expert and checking out the best price.

Inner-city driving

While we have covered a lack of emissions from electric vehicles, one area which will benefit enormously in the years ahead is large cities such as London.

The density of large buildings in cities such as London has a seriously detrimental impact upon air quality. A lack of direct wind flow ensures that unhealthy emissions remain in the atmosphere for longer than they would normally leading to problems with health such as asthma. Several large cities around the world already have congestion controls to reduce the emissions from internal combustion engine vehicles and many of these cities will eventually ban petrol/diesel vehicles in favour of all electric.

At this moment in time there are tax benefits to driving electric vehicles and at some stage there will be areas of large cities and large towns which are only accessible by electric vehicles. Tesla is currently working on an electric truck and we know that some leading delivery services already have electric vehicles at their disposal. The idea that petrol/diesel vehicles could be outlawed within 20 years is perhaps ambitious but there is no doubt that there will be ongoing restrictions on their use.

Electric vehicle prices

As with any relatively new industry it will take some time for the benefits of mass-market production to filter through to electric vehicle prices. The new Tesla Model 3 is priced at around 35,000 USD which is touching mass-market accessibility but hopefully the price will fall further as the number of vehicles grows and efficiency savings are secured. This is a natural progression for any new service or new product and with governments around the world incentivising electric vehicle users via the tax system, hopefully mass-market production prices are not too far away.

One area which may take a little longer to develop is that of electric vehicle car insurance with a distinct lack of competition at this moment in time. Personal injury claims with regards to electric vehicle incidents may also be slightly more complicated than a traditional road accident personal injury claim because of the electric power involved. This has prompted some confusion and conflicting opinions amongst experts.

How will this impact the way in which the emergency services react? What type of additional training will be required for those dealing with electric vehicle incidents? Will changes need to be made regarding the law for all road accident These are all issues which will be addressed in due course because as the market grows so will investment in so many different areas.

Energy Creation: Harnessing The Power Of Sea Tides

While there is no doubt that tidal power is something which can be used in years to come it is also one of the more challenging energy sources available today. The concept of using the power of the tides to create electricity is not new, with simple systems dating back to the early 19th century, it is the cost, locations and potential environmental impact which are holding back the sector today.

What is tidal power?

Tidal power in its most simple form is the generation of electricity using the tides of the ocean to rotate turbines. Many people might be surprised to learn that ocean tides are more reliable than wind energy (and even solar energy) which has attracted billions of dollars of investment in recent times. There is an array of different ways in which tidal power can be used such as turbines placed in the middle of the sea where the tides are strongest, man-made lagoons and turbines placed in seawalls. As the ocean tides depend upon varying positions of the sun, moon and earth, tidal power is one of the only renewable energy sources not wholly reliant on the sun.

Different types of tidal generation systems

We will now take a look at some of the more common tidal generation systems, how they work and what they have to offer.

Tidal stream generator

Tidal stream generators make use of kinetic energy which is created by using moving water to power turbines. We live in an age where not only is cost a major concern but also the impact on the local environment. The fact tidal stream generators can be built into structures such as bridges, seawalls and are often entirely submersed means that their impact on the local environment is limited. There are also extremely useful inland structures where water is pushed through at a high velocity that are perfect for tidal stream generators.

Tidal barrage

Tidal barrage generation systems are different to tidal stream generators because they depend upon the height difference between high and low tides. The structures are designed in such a manner as to channel high tide waters into a large basin behind the barrage/dam. This is the potential energy which will be used to power the turbines to create electricity. When the tide recedes the water is released via large turbines which rotate as the water flows back through. The larger the tidal barrage then potentially the greater level of electricity generation. In simple terms this is a process which stores excess tidal waves behind the barrage/dam and then releases them through turbines when the tides recede. Ingenious!

Dynamic tidal power

Dynamic tidal power systems are a relatively new technology which seems to work in theory but has yet to be rolled out in practice. The idea is that large dams would be erected tens of kilometres in length off the coast of areas where there is significant tidal pressure. This technology would harness the natural power of tidal waves to create “tidal phase differences” across the dam leading to significant waves in shallow coastal areas. While this technology is in its relative infancy, a number of potential locations have already been identified in the UK, China and Korea. In effect this is using the power of the ocean to create man-made tidal phases which can then be used to power turbines and generate electricity.

Tidal lagoon

The tidal lagoon generation system is similar to tidal barrages except that the reservoirs of water used to power the turbines are man-made. The design centres round a circular retaining wall which is embedded with an array of turbines that generate electricity as the water flows through them. They come in a variety of different forms such as with pumping and without pumping as well as double or triple wall structures. Many experts believe that other forms of renewable energy such as wind and solar could be used to power the pumps thereby making the system extremely efficient.

Tidal power schemes

While tidal power schemes have been in existence for hundreds of years in their simplest form, the first tidal power station was built in La Rance in France back in 1966. It is able to create 240 MW of power and while the South Korean Sihwa Lake Tidal Plant took over as the most powerful tidal plant in 2011, creating 254 MW of energy, the Rance tidal power plant is still up there with the best.

Barrage de la Rance

Barrage de la Rance

As far as the UK goes there has been enormous interest in areas such as the Shetlands and the Orkney Islands where the power of the ocean tides is extremely strong. To date the area has been used to test the most wave and tidal energy devices of any country in the world and many believe it will not be too long before the first tidal power plant is erected.

Summary

Harnessing the power of the oceans continues to prove challenging both from a mechanical point of view as well as cost and environmental impact considerations. Great progress has been made in this particular technology and the next decade or so should see an array of tidal power plants come online. As we touched on above, ocean tides are the most reliable source of renewable energy available today although the difficulty is harnessing this raw power in an efficient manner.