Electric Vehicles for a Sustainable Future

With rising concerns over global warming, individuals and governments all around the world are becoming conscious of their carbon footprints. Internal Combustion vehicles are one of the biggest contributors to pollution and according to the Environmental Protection Agency; a car emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. The need for an alternative to the traditional fossil fuel car has never been more fundamental to the progress of our planet. One such promising alternative that is being heavily spoken about is the electric vehicle. It has the potential to result in a green transportation system as electric vehicles require just electricity to run. 

Electric Vehicle

From the point of view of sustainability an electric car has no tailpipe emission of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), safeguarding us from air pollution that may cause respiratory diseases along with global warming. Using electricity is a much more sustainable method as the requirement of fossil fuel for a really large sector gets eliminated. Additionally, as electric vehicles lack several regular car parts, when disposed - electric vehicles cause relatively lesser pollution and oil leak contamination is eliminated. With the presence of green transportation, other industries too will be motivated to take sustainable steps as using renewable energies for daily activities will not seem so unattainable anymore. 

Electric vehicles have several other benefits. The most obvious of which is that fuel costs surpass the costs of electricity by a huge margin, resulting in long term savings. Structurally, the vehicle lacks a combustion engine as it does not run on fuel and hence, makes no noise assisting in reduction of noise pollution and providing a better driving experience. They are also deemed safer due to the lack of flammable material present, which will result in fewer fire related accidents. Furthermore, some electric vehicles may also have a low center of gravity, depending on where the batteries are placed and the size of the engine, making it less likely to flip over. Due to the lack of integral moving car parts, electric vehicles are also relatively low maintenance as no oil changes and new fuel filters are required.

A common issue for the sustainability of electric vehicles is that the point source – the electric grid – may use coal to generate the energy, hence, still releasing emissions into the atmosphere. To eliminate this issue charging stations must be installed with solar panels instead of being connected to an electric grid to provide cleaner energy. Batteries are another highlighted issue as lithium mining causes land degradation and severe water pollution, harming ecosystems. With the increase in electric car, the demand for lithium will rise causing a negative impact on the environment. To reduce the impact of this, lithium mining could be heavily regulated and environmental regulation could be put in place. Batteries used in these vehicles could also be recycled constantly. 

While several challenges persist in the future success of electric vehicles, in order to increase the popularity and convenience of this technology governments must undertake certain steps. Building infrastructure is key to the success of electric vehicles. Charging stations must be available at convenient locations all over cities and highways. Governments must also invest in clean energy sources and build clean grids to ensure low emissions. Incentives such as discounted taxes upon purchase of electric vehicles could be used to motivate citizens to buy these vehicles. 

Additive Manufacturing – The Future

Additive manufacturing (AM) was invented in the mid-1980s in Japan, after which it soon became well-known for rapid prototyping all over the world. Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a technology that builds objects by adding material layer by layer. Materials used in this method can range from plastics, metals, ceramics, and cement amongst many others. Today, it is being utilized in several industries – Aerospace, Healthcare, Automotive, Construction, and Manufacturing – to produce final product parts. This method has become more tangible in recent years and is the future for engineers and the manufacturing industry. 

Bringing additive manufacturing into mainstream manufacturing bulk manufacturing will shockingly reduce production costs while simultaneously improving the quality of the product. Unlike traditional methods of manufacturing, additive manufacturing does not require the building of molds or any special machinery, a single Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software file is the only pre-production element necessary.

A single additive manufacturing machine is capable of working with different materials to produce a vast array of products, hence reducing investment costs greatly. Labor costs are relatively low as there is no requirement for assembling as the product is made as a single part. The quality of the product is much superior, as materials such as carbon fibers and titanium can be integrated easily into the product. The entire process of making a finished product has no human interference, hence eliminating the possibility of any human error that may occur during a traditional manufacturing process and also increasing the rate of production by several folds.

3D Printed Parts

Traditionally, a manufacturer’s production ability would decide the structural design of the product. But with the introduction of 3D Printing Services, the power is in the hands of engineers and they have total liberty to design as they envision the product. Customization of products based on the customers’ needs at lower costs is a much more plausible concept with 3D Printing. Professionals in the healthcare industry are looking to create replacement parts and bones specific to their patient's needs for a higher success rate and reduced infections. This technology is also proving to be a game-changer for the aerospace industry as lighter but more durable parts can be made. In space astronauts and engineers use 3D printing to print crucial parts in case of emergencies.  Another impeccable feature of additive manufacturing technology is that modifications and adjustments to the product design can be made at any moment without increasing costs or slowing down the production process. 

The environment also benefits greatly from this process. Due to the lack of raw materials needed to mold or color the product, there is a significant drop in the waste generated. Often machines also release toxic waste while producing products, which are then eliminated into fresh-water bodies and oceans causing water pollution. Some products made by traditional machines also require burring and heating, which release toxins into the air. With the use of 3D Printing, no materials are wasted and no form of pollution is caused. 

3D Printed Part

There are several challenges to the scaling of 3D Printing to become the new ordinary form of production. There needs to be more research and development to be done in this area to improve upon materials, and efficiency and reduce initial setup costs. Engineers need to be more open to experimenting and educating themselves about additive manufacturing, and countries need to improve their digital framework to ensure the success of this promising method. Several hurdles stand in the way of the success of this manufacturing method, but it is capable of being the next industrial revolution that will benefit consumers, business owners, and the environment alike. 

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