Sample Computer Science Research Paper on Electric Cars and Environment

Electric Cars and Environment


The role of information technology is to facilitate the development of solutions to the problems that face humanity on earth. The emission of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has ben considered as one of the leading causes of climate change. Excess use of fossil fuel in the production of energy necessary in running machinery such has motor vehicles has necessitude the need to develop electric cars a way of improving on environmental protection and conservation. The main objective of this research paper is to demonstrate how the development of electric cars can enhance environmental protection and conservation.

Automobile pollution and the threat of global warming

According to the 2012 statistics of carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere, automobile engines were considered the greatest emitters of the greenhouse as in 2012 accounting for 21% of all emissions in the United States. Global warming which is primarily caused by combustion of coal oil and gas threatens the world population. This is because, when emitted into the atmosphere, carbon dioxide causes heat retention within the atmosphere hence resulting into rising temperature and heating of the earth overtime.

In different regions of the United States, wild fire seasons have become longer and severe as more people live in vulnerable areas and this makes their homes and property susceptible to destruction. Such serious impact global warming has become inevitable necessitating policy makers and innovators to develop techniques and technologies that can ensure a reduction in the levels of carbon dioxide emissions in to the atmosphere. Through technological innovations such as the development of electric cars, it would be relatively easier to ensure that the transport sector, which is a major contributor of greenhouse gases, is involved in the preservation of the worst impact of global warming (Ridlington et al 11).

Electric cars and the reduction of pollution dependence on fossil fuel energy

Electric cars are modeled in different forms, but they share the feature of using electrify instead of fuel energy in their operations. This is considered crucial in the emission of greenhouse gases and the elimination of gasoline as a source of energy. Electric cars have the ability to complete an entire trip through exclusive use of electric power. This is unlike hybrid cars that need the operation of an internal combustion engine to facilitate driving a short distance (Ridlington et al 13).

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV)

This model of electric cars operates through an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. This means that for successful operation, PHEVs can be plugged into an external power source to charge an internal battery. When fully charged, the battery can power the car over a given distance. Chevy Volt is an example of PHEV (Ridlington et al 11). This car has a 38-mile electric range when the battery is fully charged. An additional type of PHEV is the Ford C-Max Energy, which has a 21-mile electric range. For an extension on the range beyond the specified distance, PHEVs engage the internal combustion engines. The benefits of this technology with regard to environmental conservation is that even in areas considered to be using polluted electrify generating power plants, PHEVs have a relatively lower emission rate compared to the amount emitted by cars solely powered by fossil fuels.

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs)

Unlike PHEVs, BEVs do not have an internal combustion engine. Instead, they are involved in exclusive use of battery power. This means that these cars can only take trips within the range of their battery power before making stops to recharge. Nisan Leaf is an example of a BEV model. This car has an estimated range of 84 miles. There is a larger version of this car called the Tesla model, which has an estimated range of up to 265 miles (Ridlington et al 12). BEVs are considered more beneficial than their PHEVs because they operate on battery electricity that does not have direct emissions considering that their operations do not necessitate the consumption of any fossil fuel energy. From an environmental perspective, BEVs are cleaner compared to an average fossil fuel powered engine (Ridlington et al 12).

Efficiency of electric cars compared to conventional fossil fuel cars in relation to the environment

In electric cars such as the BEV models, there is an assumption that about 50% of their battery modules must be replaced at least once during the lifetime of the car. The sensitivity of this partial replacement of batteries in BEVs can be tested by calculating energy intensity and emission intensity. This is done by assuming different circumstances in which either a battery will have to be replaced or where it will not have to be replaced (Aguirre et al 16-17).

Table1.0 battery life cycle of electric cars

It is notable that the battery technology used in BEVs is in constant evolution in terms of improving on its level of efficiency. Inasmuch as there exists and assumption that approximately half of the BEV batteries will have to be replaced once in the lifetime of a BEV (Hajian et al 1). This assumption will not hold true in the future of electric cars considering that less replacement will be required. Furthermore, the realization that BEV battery will be improved to cover a wider range and last for a longer period can be considered as an essential motivator for members of the public to engage in the purchase of the vehicle (Hajian et al 1). Through constant improvement on the technology of battery life for electric cars, it will be easier to arrive to the conclusion that an increase e in the battery lifetime range would make battery replacement unnecessary hence improving the efficiency of BEVs in relation to the production of fewer emissions compared to fossil fuel energy. Inasmuch as battery efficiency is important in the over a life cycle emission, the charging and use face of BEV batteries has a greater impact on the lifecycle emissions of the batteries (Aguirre et al 17).  

From an economic perspective, PHEVs can be considered as attractive alternative for commuters. This is because it is installed with a battery that runs approximately 21 miles. In societies such as the United States, the average fossil fuel consumption is 11. 8 liters for every 100 kilometers, assuming that for the average commuter, 20 miles is the average distance travelled daily, and the average cost of fuel is $0.8 per liter with the average cost on each commuter at $3 per day (Hajian et al 2). This when compared to a PHEV battery capable of storing energy worth 8 kilowatts and able to travel 20 miles, fossil fuel energy is relatively expensive. This is because, with an efficiency of about 90% for the charging system and the cost of electricity as at 2007 in the united states was $6.7 cents/kwh, the approximate electric cost for the owner is at $0.6 per day. Economically, with the price of $0.8 for gasoline, the price of electricity would be approximately $350 MWh to ensure that the use of gas was as economical as electricity (Hajian et al 2).

When compared to conventional cars powered by fossil fuel energy, the use of battery and electric power make BEVs and PHEVs more efficient in energy conservation and environmental protection with regard to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The pollution impact of fossil fuel powered emissions can be compared with those of electric cars, which do not produce tailpipe pollution, through a measure of lifecycle emissions (Hajian et al 4). These emissions include pollution resulting from vehicle production, production, and transportation of fuel, and pollution emitted when fuel is being used. For instance, life cycle global warming pollution released form a fossil fuel powered vehicle is inclusive of all pollution resulting from the production, refining, and transportation of fossil fuel and tailpipe pollution emitted from engine combustion in the cars. Inasmuch as an electric car does not produce any pollution when drawing electricity from the battery to operate the engine, its life cycle pollution is inclusive of the global warming pollution that is released from the power plants that produce electric energy (Aguirre et al 19).

According to research studies by varieties of government agencies and academic institutions, there exists an assumption that electric cars have a relatively lower life cycle emissions compared to the conventional fossil fuel powered cars even when the vehicles are charged with a grid characterized by coal-fired power plants. This can be used in arriving to the conclusion that driving an electric car, whether BEV of PHEV, produces less pollution compared to an average fossil fuel powered vehicle. For electric vehicles, their level of emission with regard to environmental pollution is dependent on their source of electric energy (Grunig et al, 32).

The process of driving an electric vehicle is often similar to driving a gasoline powered conventional car. It is notable that well designed electric cars can travel at a speed similar to conventional gasoline powered vehicles while providing similar performance capabilities. Despite the similarities, the engines of some of the electric vehicles are designed to automatically shut off when stopped at a red traffic light or when braking as an energy conservation strategy (UNEP 19). This can be relatively disturbing to drivers in the initial stages. Electric vehicles are in the long run convenient in serving the needs of the customers because what these vehicles give up in range, they compensate in refueling convenience. This is because drivers of electric cars can refuel their vehicles by plugging it into special recharging outlets in their homes (UNEP 19). The effectiveness and the efficiency of the recharging process is however dependent on the voltage of the charging station, the prevailing environmental conditions such as an ambient temperature, the remaining electric energy in storage and the type of battery pack. From a general perspective, the process can take several hours, but continuous improvement in technological innovation of electric cars has enabled the development of car batteries that can be recharged more quickly and that have the ability of retaining more electric energy. Inasmuch as electric cars may be significantly expensive compared to the conventional gasoline powered vehicles, they are more efficient in terms of environmental protection and the protection of the drivers from possible health hazards resulting from fossil fuel energy. In addition, these vehicles are designed to efficiently meet the average power requirement on the cars considering that onboard batteries handle the surge requirements of power (UNEP 20).

Technical consideration of electric cars

Inasmuch as PHEVs are not fully electric vehicles because they are installed with a fuel combustion engine, they are playing an essential role in the promotion of environmental protection and conservation considering that an increase in their fleet from a global perspective is considered as a movement to the eventual embracing of electric vehicles in the transport sector. The advantage of PHEVs over BEVs is that they do not require any major infrastructural changes such as special fueling stations of electric grid modification. From a general perspective, BEVs and PHEVs outperform conventional cars with regard to fuel consumption and emission of pollutants (UNEP 19). However, the level of BEV and PHEV performance and the resulting cost saving initiatives are largely dependent on their application, which is inclusive of the types of trips, the degree of service and maintenance, fuel and electric price, and the availability of optimal fuel and electric quality (Aguirre et al 18).

Basics of electric car technology

A conventional gasoline powered car has a mechanical drive train, which is inclusive of a fuel tank, gearbox, combustion engine, and a transmitter to the wheels. Electric cars such as PHEVs have two drive trains, which are the electric and the mechanical one. The mechanical drive train is similar to that of the gasoline-powered cars, while the electric drive includes an electric motor, a battery, and power electronic for controls. The electric drive in PHEVs is similar to that of BEVs, which only have an electric drive. In PHEVs, these drives can be interconnected to ensure that they share certain components such as transmission and the gearbox. The current PHEV models of electric cars use gear boxes but the technological innovations in this sector will necessitate the development of a single gear transmission considering that the configuration of PHEVs electric drive train has the ability has the ability of handling a variety of loads and speeds without losing its efficacy (UNEP 19).

Figure 1.0 Basic outline of mechanical versus electric drive trains.

In terms of their degree of hybridization, PHEVs are designed to deal with energy losses using different types of technological innovations, which have been developed to harness and utilize lost energy (UNEP 20). For instance, PHEVs are designed to minimize emissions and energy loss by automatically shutting down combustion engines and the electric circuit during idling or long stopovers. Both BEVs and PHEVs have the ability of recuperating energy lost from regenerative braking. Furthermore, PHEVs also have the ability to use the battery energy in assisting the combustion engines as a strategy of downsizing the engines. In the process of enhancing their hybridization, PHEVs also have the ability ensuring that combustion engines run at their maximum load in situations where the engine efficiency is maximized (UNEP 21). The technology of enlarging the battery pack and recharging capacity with energy from a wall plug has been essential in improving the mile range and performance of PHEVs and BEVs is essential in the reduction of fossil fuel energy consumption. This is because in BEVs fuel consumption will be completely replaced by electric energy while in PHEVs fuel consumption will be partly replaced by electric consumption. It is notable that in PHEVs fuel consumption is highly dependent on the distance driven after electric recharge and the capacity of the batteries installed in these cars (UNEP 22).

Inasmuch as plugging in facilitates the reduction of pollution by vehicles at the tailpipe, it may also be a contributor to an increase in levels of greenhouse gas emissions at the power plants. Such emissions are strongly dependent on the fuel burned and the electrical efficiency. The emissions from recharging BEVs and PHEVs are dependent on the electricity generated in a specific country and the time the electric cars are charged considering that some fuels are more likely to be burned in off-peak night hours. However, in situations where electric cars are recharged with power generated from renewable energy sources such as wind energy and solar power are potential for low to zero greenhouse gas emissions from electric cars (UNEP 23).

A BEV driver is expected to achieve a 100% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions while a PHEV driver is expected to realize at least 15% reduction in the total carbon dioxide emission compared to a driver of a conventional fossil fuel powered car. Furthermore, for PHEVs charged in areas where the electric grid is powered from sources with low carbon dioxide emissions, there will be a reduction in the levels of emissions hence a reduction in the creation of smog and ozone. Spare battery power in PHEVs and BEVs plugged in cane also serve an essential role in the distribution of the compact power supply whenever necessary. In this system, the stored battery power can flow back to the grid through the wall plug. This can serve a local emergency energy supply considering that it can be practical in areas experiencing unreliable power supply (Aguirre et al 18).

The benefits of electric vehicles over the conventional fossil fuel powered cars are dependent on how the car is driven in normal conditions. The advantages of recuperating braking energy and reducing energy loses when the engine is idle make electric vehicles better alternatives with regard to environmental conservation and protection (UNEP 23).

As the popularity of electric cars continues to increase in the society, they will begin offering the electric grid with a modular and a widely dispersed significant volume of storage capacity for electric energy. This will ensure that they contribute to the ability to integrate higher amounts of solar and wind energy into a country’s electric system. Currently in the United States, elastic production has been matched with daily consumption, which means that while there are large plants running at different times, others are switched on and off to match the variations in demand. Electric cars and their batteries have the ability to provide additional benefits by feeding stored power back to the grid in times of high demand for electricity (UNEP 23).

Challenges facing electric cars with regard to environmental protection

Battery disposal has ben considered d as a major impediment to the objective of electric cars to enhance environmental conservation. This is because of the possibility of metal leakage in the environment in their afterlife (UNEP 23). Inasmuch as most batteries can be recycled, there has been a growing concern that a minimal percentage of poisonous metals constitution these batteries such as cadmium and lead have a high possibility of leaking into the environment and affecting the ecosystem and human health. Despite these challenges, recent technological innovations in the development of batteries have eradicated the use of lead acid and nickel cadmium batteries. The most recent version of car batteries, Lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride, have no serious threats to the environment. The technology was based on the need for an efficient technique of recycling system of batteries (UNEP 23).

The price of BEVs and PHEVs is higher compared to that of gasoline-powered vehicles. This is because of the technological complexities involved in the design and manufacture of electric cars. However, the lower fuel consumption of PHEVs and the life cycle cost of buying and owning an electric car can be equal or even lower than buying a gasoline-powered vehicle. This is because when purchasing an electric vehicle, the life cycle cost is not only inclusive of the purchasing and maintained cost (Ridlington et al 22). 


Excess use of fossil fuel in the production of energy necessary in running machinery such has motor vehicles has necessitude the need to develop electric cars a way of improving on environmental protection and conservation. Electric cars are modeled in different forms, but they share the feature of using electrify instead of fuel energy in their operations. This is considered crucial in the emission of greenhouse gases and the elimination of gasoline as a source of energy. It is notable that the battery technology used in and PHEVs and BEVs are in constant evolution in terms of improving on its level of efficiency.

Works cited

Aguirre, Kimberly., Eisenhardt, Luke., Lim, Christian., Nelson, Brittany., Norring, Alex.,

Slowik, Peter & Tu, Nancy. Lifecycle Analysis Comparison of a Battery Electric Vehicle and a Conventional Gasoline Vehicle. California Air Resources Board, 2012

Grunig, Max., Witte, Marc., Marcellino, Dominic., Selig, Jordan and van Essen, Huib. An

Overview of Electric Vehicles on the Market and in Development. ICF International, 2011. 

Hajian, Mahdi., Zereipour, Hamidreza and Rosehart, W.D. Environmental Benefits of Plug-in

Hybrid Electric Vehicles: The Case of Alberta. IEEE

Ridlington, Elizabeth. Frontire Group, Madsen, Travis and Environment America Research &

Policy Center. Driving Cleaner: More Electric Vehicles Means Less Pollution. Environment America Research & Policy Center, 2014   

United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Hybrid Electric Vehicles: An Overview of

Current Technology and Its Application in Developing and Transitional Countries.  United Nations Environment Programme, 2009