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The Mechanics of Electricity and the Importance of Electric Cars

Electricity is one of the most fundamental elements of modern society. It powers everything from lights, computers, and appliances to the International Space Station. In addition, electricity is the lifeblood of electric cars, which are an ever-increasing presence on America's roads today. Electric cars have actually been around since the 1800s and predate internal combustion engines. One of the primary reasons why electric cars are making an appearance on modern roadways is because of the need to cut back on the use of natural resources such as fossil fuels. Electric vehicles produce no pollution and are not inherently dependent upon gasoline, the price of which may skyrocket depending on market conditions. Combined with solar energy, electric vehicle technology can provide the world with a clean, sustainable solution to humanity's need to be freely mobile. Mechanics may also appreciate the relative ease of maintenance involved with electric cars.

How Does Electricity Work?

Electricity, or an electric current, is the result of electrons that are in motion. The amount of electric current depends on how many electrons are flowing across a conductive medium. An electric current is subject to resistance, which can hamper the flow of electrons. Electricity, like water, follows the path of least resistance, which means that it flows best through conductors like copper and water. Materials like air and glass are insulators, which provide resistance at sufficient levels to stop the flow of electrons entirely.

How Is Electricity Produced?

There are a variety of ways to produce electricity for human consumption, which largely fall under the categories of nuclear fission, turbines, photovoltaics, and electrochemical technology. Nuclear fission reactors power steam turbines using the heat produced by the splitting of atoms. Turbines are rotating machines that work with generators to produce electricity. Turbines, in turn, require some force to make them rotate, which can come in the form of flowing water from rivers, steam, internal combustion using fossil fuels, or wind. Many turbines use steam produced by burning coal, oil, or natural gas. Photovoltaic panels use the light from the sun to generate electricity without the use of moving parts. Electrochemical technology, most commonly in the form of batteries, stores electricity for use in things like electric cars.

What Are Some Environmentally Friendly Ways of Producing Electricity?

Solar power is one of the common methods of environmentally friendly electricity production, since it uses the sun instead of fossil fuels. In addition to not using fossil fuels to produce electricity, solar power systems have no moving parts that can quickly break. Wind power harnesses the natural power of the wind to turn turbines that power generators. Hydroelectric power works by sending a current of water flowing downward to turn a turbine and generate electricity. Another form of hydroelectric power, known as wave power, harnesses the movement of ocean waves to generate power.

How Do Electric Cars Work, and What Is Their Positive Impact on the Environment?

Electric cars work by using a battery that powers an electric motor to provide propulsion. The environmental benefits of this system manifest in the lack of an internal combustion engine. This means that an electric car does not produce harmful chemical emissions that can pollute the environment. Because it doesn't use an internal combustion engine, it also has fewer moving parts and is less complicated. This means almost no auto repair costs except for the battery itself, which can be recycled. Electric car owners will not need to use or dispose of motor oil, which is environmentally harmful, and fewer car parts will need to be manufactured, a factor that prevents more pollution.

The Dangers of Electricity

Electricity, while a potentially eco-friendly source of power, can also be hazardous. Electric shock is a common threat that humans face when working with electricity. Respiratory paralysis or cardiac arrest can occur on contact with a current of less than one ampere, and prolonged contact with an electric current can be deadly. Electricity can burn flesh where it enters or leaves the body or jolt someone and cause them to fall. Electricity may also escape from its intended path and cause nearby objects to catch on fire. An electric current is especially dangerous when it intersects with water, as a person stepping into the water will suffer a potentially fatal electric shock. This is why electrical fires should not be put out with water but rather an ABC-rated fire extinguisher.

Who Discovered Electricity?

The discovery of electricity is a journey that goes all the way back to 600 B.C., when ancient Greeks rubbed amber against hair and discovered electric sparks. The term "electricus" was coined in 1600 by William Gilbert, and the word "electricity" evolved soon after. Stephen Gray identified the concept of conductors and insulators in 1729, and in 1752, Benjamin Franklin discovered that lightning was actually a form of electricity. Otto von Guericke invented a device for creating static electricity in 1660, but in 1938, a German archeologist named Wilhem Konig discovered what may have been ancient batteries in Baghdad, Iraq, which may have been made as early as 250 B.C.

How Do We Use Electricity for Everyday Life?

Electricity not only defines modern society, but it also dictates humanity's reach across the world and beyond. It enables climate control so that humans can survive comfortably in the hottest or coldest environments and even in outer space. All computers and modern appliances depend on electricity, as do televisions and other forms of entertainment. Electricity is essential for refrigeration systems that allow for prolonged storage of perishable foods. Much of the equipment used in modern medicine, such as X-ray machines, respirators, and surgical devices, depends on electricity as well.

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