You may be wondering why we must convert coal to electricity (using turbines) before using it to power electric vehicles, instead of directly using coal-derived petrol/diesel/CNG in vehicles. The answer lies in the efficiency of energy conversion. Let’s consider an example. You are in a calligraphy competition and are given 15 minutes to write your beautiful piece of calligraphy. To write the same piece of text, in another case, you are given 1 hour. Now, in which of these cases would your writing be more elegant? Clearly, the quality of the writing would be greater if you had an hour to spend on it. Just like writing, the efficiency of any process is determined by multiple factors, which ultimately and collectively decide its usefulness.
The core idea
In fuel car engines, fuel combustion is less efficient. This is due to factors like less space, less time for combustion, a limited oxygen supply and other constraints related to car mechanisms. Turbines, unlike fuel engines, have a lot more space, a larger air supply, and are stationary and optimized for the conversion of coal to electricity. Thus, they outperform engines. However, it should be kept in mind that electric engines are also not 100% efficient. Losses occur in them too, and show in the transmission of electricity, heat losses, electric motor inefficiency, etc., but the net effect is significantly better efficiency than fuel engines. In other words, increased efficiency means that the use of electric vehicles will reduce the pressure on coal production.
The other side
Electric vehicles will eventually replace the currently used petrol/diesel/CNG vehicles, so they won’t practically add to the vehicle population. The coal currently being used to produce fuel can be used to produce the electricity needed instead. The bottom line is that electric cars need electricity to run, but this electricity doesn’t need to be produced exclusively through coal. To power electric cars, renewable energy sources that produce electricity as their primary output can be used, such as solar panels, hydraulic and tidal power plants, windmills, etc. Thus, electric cars are a key part of a renewable energy future that is fast approaching (fingers crossed!).
The path ahead
Vehicles significantly contribute to air pollution(thus increasing climate change ). As the most practical solution, electric vehicles may take over in the road ahead. The extent to which electric vehicles reduce our burden and reliance on coal can only be tested by time. However, it certainly gives us hope that a green future lies ahead. With the ongoing improvements in material sciences and battery technology, electric vehicles are becoming cheaper than ever before. Also, by making solar panels cheaper and more accessible, their integrated use in countless applications might become a reality (Interested? Discover more about solar panels here). As a cheap and accessible energy source, coal may have driven the Industrial Revolution, but electricity and sustainable ideas may drive the Green Revolution ahead!