Road vehicles emit significant air-borne pollution, including 18% of America’s suspended particulates, 27% of the volatile organic compounds, 28% of Pb, 32% of nitrogen oxides, and 62% of CO. Vehicles also release 25% of America’s energy-related CO2, the principle greenhouse gas. World pollution numbers continue to grow even more rapidly as millions of people gain access to public and personal transportation.
Electrification of our energy economy and the rise of automotive transportation are two of the most significant technological revolutions of the twentieth century. Exemplifying this massive change in the lifestyle due to growth in fossil energy supplies.
From negligible energy markets in the 1900, electrical generation now accounts for 34% of the primary energy consumption in the United States, while transportation consumes 27% of the energy supply. Increased fossil fuel use has financed energy expansions: coal and natural gas provide more than 65% of the energy used to generate the nation’s electricity, while refined crude oil fuels virtually all the 250 million vehicles now cruising the U.S. roadways. Renewable energy, however, provides less than 2% of the energy used in either market.
The electricity and transportation energy revolution of the 1900s has affected several different and large non-overlapping markets. Electricity is used extensively in the commercial, industrial and residential sectors, but it barely supplies an iota of energy to the transportation markets. On the other hand oil contributes only 3% of the energy input for electricity.
Oil usage for the purpose of transportation contributes to merely 3% of the energy input for electricity. Oil use for transportation is large and growing. More than two-thirds of the oil consumption in the United States is used for transportation purposes, mostly for cars, trucks, and buses.
With aircraft attributing to 14% of the oil consumption, ships and locomotives consume the remaining 5%. Since the United States relies on oil imports, the oil use for transportation sector has surpassed total domestic oil production every year since 1986.
The present rate of reliance and consumption of fossil fuels for electrification or transportation is 100,000 times faster than the rate at which they are being created by natural forces. As the readily exploited fuels continue to be consumed, the fossil fuels are becoming more costly and difficult to extract.
In order to transform the demands on the development of energy systems based on renewable resources, it is important to find an alternative to fossil fuels. Little progress has been made in using electricity generated from a centralized power grid for transportation purposes. In 1900, the number of electric cars outnumbered the gasoline cars by almost a factor of two.
In addition to being less polluting, the electric cars in 1900 were silent machines. As favorites of the
urban social elite, the electric cars were the cars of choice as they did not require the difficult and rather dangerous handcrank starters. This led to the development of electric vehicles (EVs) by more than 100EV manufacturers.
However, the weight of these vehicles, long recharging time, and poor durability of electric barriers reduced the ability of electric cars to gain a long-term market presence. One pound of gasoline contained a chemical energy equivalent of 100 pounds of Pb-acid batteries.
Refueling the car with gasoline required only minutes, supplies of gasoline seemed to be limitless, and the long distance delivery of goods and passengers was relatively cheap and easy. This led to the virtual disappearance of electric cars by 1920.