Category Archives: Technology

The SR-71 Blackbird: A Story of Remarkable Innovation

Artist's illustration of the SR-71 aircraft
Computer-generated 3D illustration of the Strategic Reconnaissance Aircraft SR-71 Blackbird. Photo: iStock

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is one of history’s most iconic spy planes. Also known as the “Black Widow” for its unique appearance, this aircraft still stands as an impressive feat of aeronautical engineering. In fact, it holds many speed and altitude records that have yet to be broken, and there is much more than meets the eye with this plane…

The Origins of the SR-71 

U2 Spy Plane in the air
U2 Spy Plane. Photo: Wikipedia/USAF Public Domain

Before this immortal aircraft was developed, the United States relied on the famous U2 spycraft for its Cold War reconnaissance. On May 1, 1960, a U2 was spotted deep inside Russian territory, but the US was not concerned as they believed that this aircraft was impenetrable to Soviet air defenses due to its high-altitude flight. They were wrong. 

A Soviet V-750 surface-to-air missile shot down the spy plane. The pilot, Francis Gary Powers, who took off from a secret US airbase in Pakistan, parachuted to the ground safely but was immediately captured by Soviet authorities and taken prisoner. 

He was later released after a mutual prisoner swap between the United States and Russia; however, it was quite clear that something else had to be done if the US wanted (and needed) to continue its reconnaissance over Russia and other foreign lands without the concern of the aircraft being shot down.

Corona Spy Satellite

Corona spy satellite illustration
Illustration of the Corona Spy Satellite. Photo: Wikipedia/National Reconnaissance Office, Public Domain

The United States began an ambitious project for U2’s successor. The Corona spy satellite program was one of the first. It proved amazingly successful in August of 1960 after it was able to photograph many parts of Soviet territory.

What’s even more amazing was that the pictures that the plane took was sent back to earth and successfully salvaged, resulting in an abundance of intelligence well needed as this cold war intensified. The Corona program ended in 1972.

A-12 Spy Plane

A-12 Prototype Spy Plane in the Air
A-12 Prototype. Photo: By U.S.Air Force – Defense Visual Information Center (DVIC)

The CIA contracted Lockheed to develop a new plane that would surpass the U2’s functionalities in every way. The Lockheed A-12  was born.

This prototype spawned some variants. The YF-12A Interceptor, which was designed to replace the F-106 Delta Dart Interceptor/ fighter, and the SR-71 Blackbird, designed not as a fighter jet, but as a high-speed reconnaissance aircraft.

The YF-12A was built and tested but the Air Force decided to go for the F-111 fighter/bomber; however, the SR-71 was commissioned and 32 Blackbirds were eventually built.

The SR-71 was outfitted with all the advanced concepts from its A-12 parent, as well as the necessary devices (cameras and supporting equipment) for its intelligence mission to fly over foreign territory (namely the Soviet Union). This plane was able to fly much higher than the U2 and it flew  four times faster. To this day, no aircraft has surpassed the speed of the SR-71 Blackbird.

Enter Skunk Works

Assembly line of the SR-71 Blackbird at Skunk Works
Assembly line of the SR-71 Blackbird at Skunk Works. Photo: Wikipedia Public Domain

This top secret R&D group within Lockheed Corporation began during WWII to research advanced fighter aircraft, but its true meaning did not materialize until after the U2 was shot down.

As mentioned, it was evident that a more sophisticated aircraft that would be able to avoid Soviet planes and missiles, as well as being less vulnerable to radar signatures was required, or to put it another way, this new prototype had to be faster, higher, and stealthier than any other aircraft currently in existence at the time. The Skunk Works design team was tasked with creating this advanced aircraft. 

Development of the SR-71

Pratt & Whitney Engine for the SR-71
The Pratt & Whitney J58 engine powered the SR-71 Blackbird. Photo: iStock

The design that Skunk Works had come up with was a radical break from conventional aircraft design. This plane would have a long, curved nose that would house a long-range camera and a shorter curved section behind that would house the pilot.

The idea behind this design was that it would significantly reduce the plane’s radar cross-section. Most of the aircraft’s volume would be behind the center of gravity, making the aircraft “lighter” from the perspective of radar. This would reduce the aircraft’s weight and make it fly even faster.

The plane would also be designed to minimize airflow, reducing drag and increasing speed. And all of this would be done with a plane that could carry almost 10,000 pounds of fuel and up to 10,000 pounds of payload. 

Its futuristic profile made it difficult to detect on radar. Even the black paint used, full of radar-absorbing iron, helped hide it’s existence from the Russian’s radar defenses. Due to the plane’s unique design, some engineers viewed it more of a spaceship than an aircraft. 

The mineral titanium was one of the main reasons for the SR-71’s success. This metal is almost as strong as steel, but lightweight enough not to allow the plane to fly and maneuver very well. Titanium is also able to withstand the enormous temperatures when flying at 2,200 mph (3,540 kph). 

And all this was done before digital functionality became commonplace.

Titanium and the Soviet Union

Photo of titanium
Titanium in Alloy Form. Photo: iStock

Despite the fact that titanium is the ninth most common element in the earth’s crust, it’s resources are lacking in the United States. And ironically, of all the places where this mineral is abundant is in the Russian territories, so the United States created dummy companies to hide who was actually the purchasing of this needed mineral.

The result was that the US succeeded in importing titanium from right under the nose of the the Soviets, and used it build a an aircraft that would eventually fly over their land and spy on them. How ironic!

Specifications of the SR-71 Blackbird

Inside SR-71
Cockpit of the SR-71. The display is all analog. Photo: iStock

This aircraft was truly an extraordinary feat of engineering, and it had many specifications that would go on to set records and even become standards for future planes.

It had a crew of one and could fly at Mach 3.2 (2,455 MPH) at a height of 85,000 feet. That is almost halfway into the Earth’s stratosphere, and with a fuel capacity of 36,000 pounds, and it could fly for over 2,500 miles without having to refuel. 

Because it was designed to fly at very high altitudes, the SR-71 was pressurized, allowing the pilot to fly without a spacesuit. While flying at those altitudes, the plane would also be able to fly through weather that other aircraft could not fly in. 

How Fast is the SR-71?

Computer generated 3D illustration with the American Reconnaissance Aircraft SR-71
Computer generated illustration of the SR-71 Reconnaissance Aircraft SR-71. Photo: iStock

As mentioned this aircraft could fly at Mach 3.2. That’s faster than a bullet! Because the plane was streamlined, it was able to fly at those speeds without creating dangerously high pressures on the airframe. And this meant that the aircraft was able to maintain its altitude without using a lot of fuel to keep itself aloft.

This was a massive advantage for the SR-71, as it would let the aircraft fly for hours before needing to refuel. The speed record was set by retired Air Force colonel Bob Gilliland, who flew it from New York to London in 64 minutes, smashing the previous record. This equates to an average speed of 2,189 mph, which is still faster than any aircraft in service today.

Other Innovations by the Blackbird

As if breaking speed and altitude records weren’t impressive enough, the SR-71 also pioneered many other technologies that are still in use today. Here are some examples.

    • The SR-71 used a special fuel to cool itself, which is now used in many modern engines.
    • It had a special paint that didn’t reflect visible light or infrared light, making it incredibly stealthy.
    • The plane’s cockpit was also extremely advanced, with a heads-up display that projected critical information directly onto the windshield.
    • The navigation system was revolutionary, using Doppler beacons to accurately calculate the plane’s position.
    • The plane’s way of communicating with ground control stations was unlike anything used before. It had a special method of transmitting information as bursts of radio waves that could be received by a single ground station at a time. This was necessary because the aircraft had no way of knowing which ground station it was closest to.
    • The plane had a special method of using the airflow over the aircraft to cool its engines, which was necessary to prevent them from overheating at the plane’s high speeds.

Conclusion

The SR-71 Blackbird was one of the most advanced aircraft ever created. It pushed the boundaries of aeronautical engineering, and even in the modern digital age, it is still a very impressive machine.

This supersonic aeronautic advancement was extremely efficient and could travel long distances at supersonic speeds while carrying heavy payloads.  It was also extremely stealthy, making it a difficult target to see and track.

Despite having been decommissioned in the 1990s, the SR-71 still holds much impressive speed and altitude records. It truly is one of the most impressive aircraft ever created and deserves its place as a legend in aviation history.

 

5 Buildings that Use Cantilever Architecture

Citicorp Tower looking up
Citicorp Tower, NYC. Photo: Wikimedia CC
Citicorp Tower cantilevers
Citicorp Tower cantilevers. Photo: Wikimedia CC

In the 19th century, with the advent of structural steel, engineers began using cantilevers to construct taller buildings. This type of architecture is primarily used when there isn’t enough space on one side of a structure for its foundation. Engineers have to build the foundation out from one side and then use beams that extended from it to support the weight. 

This construction style is eye-catching and certainly more daring than other methods of building. It also requires serious engineering skills, as well as a detailed understanding of how much weight the beams can bear without giving way. Indeed, the correct structural engineering is imperative as just a small miscalculation in the production of steel and concrete can result in catastrophe.

‍If you live in a big city, you might have noticed that more buildings are being built with these overhangs. This is especially true for cities where space is at a premium, such as New York City.  In this article, we are going to take office building construction to a whole new level – the use of cantilevers!

The Rotterdam Tower

De_Rotterdam Tower showing cantilevered construction
Photo: WikiPedia-CC

This intriguing building is located in the Netherlands and is part of the Erasmus Bridge Complex. It is a mixed-use building that houses offices, a hotel, and apartments. The building has a cantilever design, which is why the residents can enjoy a gorgeous view of the river

The architects designed the building so that it extends out over the river and almost touches the bridge. They also designed it so that it is taller on one side. The weight of this building is distributed between its central core and its cantilever, which is why it can be so tall without the ground beneath it being affected.

Statoil Regional and International Offices

Statoil is an energy producer in Norway and the 57th largest company in the world. Norwegian architects A-Lab designed a 117,000-square-meter commercial building complex that fits into the picturesque shoreline of Fornebu in perfect harmony.

Additionally, this architectural expression injects new energy into the nearby park and commercial area and was a key challenge in their design. Of course, it is the overhangs that make the building stand out. They stretch up to 100 feet in many directions.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel is considered one of the most impressive hotels in the world. It is a massive construction project that began in 2003 and was completed in 2011. The project was a collaboration between the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and the Singapore government, and was built on the site of a former shipyard. The hotel has three 55-story towers. but in addition these buildings, it has a sky park that is cantilevered over all three towers.

Designed by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie,  the hotel has 2,500 rooms and a lobby that crosses the entire three buildings just like the sky park above.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel Sinagpore

Marina Bay Sands Hotel by architect Moshe Safdie. Photo by Julien de Salaberry on Unsplash

The Shifting Sands of Singapore 

One of the most unusual aspects of the construction of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel was that the builders had to constantly monitor the ground and adjust the foundations as the ground shifted. This is common in areas where there is a lot of water, such as Hong Kong and the Netherlands. However, it is unusual for the ground to shift to the same extent in an area that does not experience major flooding.

One theory is that the government has been dredging sand from the bay for years in order to extend the shoreline, which may have caused the ground to subside. Another theory is that the weather changed and the region experienced a period of unusually heavy rain. Whatever the cause, the shifting sands proved to be a major challenge to construction of the hotel.

Building the Hotel

One of the most interesting aspects of the construction of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel was that builders used an unusual design that allowed them to build upwards while keeping the foundations stable

This was necessary because Singapore is built on a floodplain, and it is impossible to build foundations below ground level. The builders designed the foundation so that the bottom of the hotel would be built on a metal mesh, which would be anchored to the ground. The metal mesh would keep the foundation stable, while allowing sand and water to flow freely through it. The metal foundation is built in modular sections, which can be raised and lowered as necessary. The builders also used a system of shuttles to transport construction materials to the upper floors of the hotel, as well as the rooftop.

Lessons Learned from MBS’s Construction

As we have seen, the construction of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel was a challenge. It is rare for the ground to shift so dramatically in an area where there is no flooding, and it is even more unusual for builders to build on top of a metal foundation. Although this construction project was unique, it still provides some important lessons for other builders.

The first is that challenges are an inevitable part of construction, and there are always a number of factors that have to be taken into account. The second is that challenges should not be seen as a reason to abandon the project. When building on the water, the builders of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel had to be flexible, and ready to make adjustments at any time. If they had been too rigid, they may not have been able to proceed with the project at all.

One Vanderbilt – New York City

Vanderbilt Office Building under construction
Vanderbilt Office Building under construction. Photo: SS

With space so much at a premium in this city, the only way to build is to go up, and even then, it might not be enough to encompass the amount of office space that the developers envisioned for the Vanderbilt tower.

Located across from Grand Central Terminal, it is the fourth tallest building in NYC, rising 1,401 feet above the ground. On the south and west sides, it is cantilevered over Vanderbilt Ave. and 42nd Street respectively, and this overhang starts at only approximately 50 feet up and then supports the rest of the superstructure. There is an observatory at the top, which is the 5th observatory in Manhattan. 

Other skyscrapers with noticeable cantilevered construction in New York include Central Park Tower and the Citicorp Headquarters, displayed above. 

Frank Gehry’s Chiat/Day Building

Binoculars Building, Los Angeles
Binoculars Building, Los Angeles, CA. Photo: Wikimedia CC

This building is a former office building in Los Angeles, California that was converted into a mixed-use building. It is now home to a variety of businesses, as well as the famous advertising agency Chiat/Day.

Designed by notable architect Frank Gehry, this building with a cantilever on one side so that it could house all of the businesses. They designed the cantilever so that it wouldn’t cause damage to the building’s foundations.

The building’s cantilever also allowed designers to create an interesting façade. They were able to extend the second floor out so that it creates a terrace, which is accessible from the sidewalk.

Summing Up

The cantilever is an interesting architectural feature that many people likely do not think about as they walk under these overhangs, but it is a complex engineering solution that isn’t suitable for every project; however, in these examples, it works brilliantly.

While they may be pretty to look at, they also serve a critical  function, which makes them a necessity. While the specific structural design of each cantilever will vary depending on the building type, design, and geographic location, the overall concept is the same.

 

 

James Webb Telescope – What is it?

Carina Nebula
NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula Star-forming region from James Webb. Photo: NASA Public Domain

A Giant Feat for Mankind

By far, the most extraordinary images from outer space that have ever been received have come from the James Webb telescope. As the successor to the famous Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb is the most powerful space observatory ever built, with far more potential than anything that has come before it.

Launched on Christmas Day, 2021 on the Ariane 5 rocket, this giant observatory, the size of a tennis court, is currently in L2 Orbit, located 1.5 million miles from Earth, sending extraordinary images of objects from as back into time as when the big bang started -13.7 years ago. 

To understand why this matters so much to humanity, we first have to understand what the JWST is not. It is not a souped-up version of the Hubble; nor is it an alternative to Hubble — something different but still essentially the same.

Instead, the JWST represents a completely new paradigm in design and function for a space-based optical telescope. In other words: It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before.

How Does the JWST Differ from Hubble?

James Webb Telescope
JWST in space near Earth. James Webb telescope far galaxies and planets explore. Photo: iStock

The two telescopes, while both space-based observatories are very different in two significant categories.

    • Mirror size
    • Light spectrum

Size Does Matter!

There is a major difference between the JWST mirrors and the Hubble’s mirrors in size. As discussed further in the article, the bigger the mirror, the further back into space we can see.

James Webb Telescope mirrors compared to Hubble's mirrors
James Webb Telescope mirrors compared to Hubble’s mirrors. Photo: Nasa.gov

As a result, this amazing observatory is also about 10 times more powerful than Hubble, with a much wider field of view — and, therefore, able to observe more objects.

Electromatic (Light) Spectrum

The JWST is designed to observe light in infrared wavelengths. Being able to see objects not usually visible by humans, whereas Hubble primarily observes visible and ultraviolet light. 

This is significant because only a very small percentage of the universe’s atoms emit visible light, while almost all atoms emit infrared light. As such, the JWST — in conjunction with other telescopes that are observed in other wavelengths allows us to view a much bigger chunk of the universe than Hubble ever could.

In addition to infrared, the JWST also has a small segment that observes a type of ultraviolet light that is inaccessible to Hubble.

Why is the JWST Important?

The JWST is a completely different kind of telescope that exploits a different approach to astronomy and will, therefore, produce many different results.

With its ability to detect light from the first stars that ever formed in the universe and the first galaxies that ever formed after the Big Bang, it will, for the first time, give us a comprehensive picture of the evolution of the cosmos. 

The JWST will also allow us to look for the earliest signs of life beyond our planet and, as such, represents a major step on humanity’s path toward enlightenment, as well as a greater understanding of who, what, and where we are.

The Telescope Assembly

The observatory is primarily composed of three components:

    •  Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM)
    • The Spacecraft Element
    • The Optical Telescope Element (OTE)

Integrated Science Instrument Module

This is where the infrared components are. It contains the infrared camera and the spectrograph (device which separates incoming light by its wavelength (frequency).

 

James Webb Infrared Component
James Webb Infrared System. Photo: NASA

The Fine Guidance Sensor/ Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph is used to pinpoint the locations that the JWSP will look at.

The Optical Telescope Element (OTE)

This is where the mirrors are contained. The mirrors are the most significant part of the telescope. Simply put, the larger the mirror, the further back in space we can see and with greater detail,  More specifically, the size of the mirror is directly proportional to the sensitivity (detail) that the telescope can display. The larger it is, the more detail is will show.

This amazing high-tech instrument consists of hexagonal-shaped mirror segments that measure over 4.2 feet across and weighs approximately 88 pounds. It has 18 primary segments that work in symmetry together to produce one large 21.3-foot mirror.

The mirrors are made of ultra-lightweight beryllium, which was chosen due to their thermal and mechanical properties at cryogenic (low) temperatures, as well as beryllium’s weight which made it a lot easier to lift it into space.

James Webb mirror assembly
James Webb mirror assembly. Each segment has a thin gold coating chosen for its ability to reflect infrared light. The largest feature is the five-layer 80 feet long and 30 feet wide sun shield that dissipates heat from the sun more than a million times. Photo: NASA

“The James Webb Space Telescope will be the premier astronomical observatory of the next decade,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This first-mirror installation milestone symbolizes all the new and specialized technology that was developed to enable the observatory to study the first stars and galaxies, examine the formation of stellar systems and planetary formation, provide answers to the evolution of our own solar system, and make the next big steps in the search for life beyond Earth on exoplanets.”

Amazingly, the mirrors will fold in order to fit into the spacecraft and then unfold when ejected into outer space.

“After a tremendous amount of work by an incredibly dedicated team across the country, it is very exciting to start the primary mirror segment installation process,” said Lee Feinberg, James Webb Space Telescope optical telescope element manager at Goddard. “This starts the final assembly phase of the telescope.”

Bill Ochs, James Webb Space Telescope project manager said “There have many significant achievements for Webb over the past year, but the installation of the first flight mirror is special. This installation not only represents another step towards the magnificent discoveries to come from Webb but also the culmination of many years of effort by an outstanding dedicated team of engineers and scientists.”

The Spacecraft Element

Something must power this system and the spacecraft element is what does it. Is supplies the rocket thrusters, propulsion system, communications and all the electrical power needed to make this run as a well oiled machine.

Where are We Now?

SMACS 0723A galaxy cluster. Furthers image recorded from James Webb telescope
Deepest Infrared Image of the Universe Ever Taken. Photo: NASA Public Domain 

We will leave you with this. Galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, which contains thousands of galaxies is 4.6 billion light years away.

That means that we are looking at it the way it looked 4.6 billion years ago. Scientists have a lot of work ahead of them and who knows what they’ll find?

Space Shuttle Columbia History

Rocket Garden Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral, Florida – March 2, 2010: The Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center. Eight milestone launch vehicles from KSC’s history are displayed. Photo: iStock

With the advent of NASA’s new planned trips to the moon and Mars and Elon Musk jumping in with his successful Space-X program, we’d thought it would be a good time to look back at how we got to this point and what better way to begin but with the Space Shuttle program. (Yes, we can go back further to the Saturn V and the manned moon trips but we will in a separate article because such a major achievement deserves its own space (put intended 😃)

Space Shuttle Overview

Space Shuttle Columbia from its 16th flight landing at Kennedy Space Center
Space Shuttle Columbia from its 16th flight landing at Kennedy Space Center Photo: Wikimedia Public Domain

The space shuttle Columbia was the first of the shuttle crafts to be launched and ultimately became a feat of engineering excellence. It was the most complex machine ever built to bring humans to and from space, and which has successfully expanded the era of space exploration. It lead to two decades of an unsurpassed legacy of achievement.

The difference between the shuttle program and previous rockets that went into space was that these aircraft were designed to be used over and over again. Columbia completed 28 missions over a 22-year span.

In the Beginning

The Columbia Space Shuttle was named after a sailing vessel that operated out of Boston in 1792 and explored the mouth of the Columbia River. One 975 in Palmdale, California, was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in 1979.

There were many problems with this orbiter initially and this ultimately resulted in a delay in its first launch, but finally, on April 12, 1981, the shuttle took off and completed its Orbital Flight Test Program missions, which was the 20th anniversary of the first spaceflight and first manned human spaceflight in history known as Vostok 1.

Columbia orbited the Earth 36 times, commanded by John Young, a Gemini and Apollo program veteran, before landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. 

The Mission

Columbia was used for research with Spacelab and it was the only flight of Spacehab‘s Research Double Module. It was also used to deploy the Chandra observatory, a space telescope.

Columbia’s last successful mission was to service the Hubble Space Telescope launched in 2002 and was its 27th flight. Its next mission, STS-107, saw a loss of the orbiter when it disintegrated during reentry into the atmosphere and killed all seven of its crew.

February 1, 2003

NASA Columbia Crew
The STS-107 crew includes, from the left, Mission Specialist David Brown, Commander Rick Husband, Mission Specialists Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, and Michael Anderson, Pilot William McCool, and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon. (NASA photo. via Wikipedia)

After a successful mission in space, the seven members of the Columbia began their return for reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, but something was about to go terribly wrong.

On this date, February 1, 2003, a small section of insulating foam broke off the shuttle. At first thought, one would think that this would not be a major problem, but when it comes to space flight and all the engineering complexities that come with it, one small defect can lead to disaster, and sadly, that is exactly what happened.

After months of investigation, it was determined that the reason for the foam breaking away from the Shuttle was due to a failure of a pressure seal located on the right side of the rocket booster.

This was the second disaster where we lost astronauts during space shuttle flights. The first was during a Challenger mission on January 28, 1986. This author distinctly remembers watching the take-off of the Challenger and then hearing a large expulsion. Everyone knew at that moment in time, that something was wrong.

The Result

The benefits that humankind has gained from these shuttle flights were enormous. There were missions directly involved in launching and servicing the Hubble Space Telescope, docking with the Russian space station Mir, as well as performing scientific experiments that have ultimately benefited all of us.

In 2011, President Bush retired the Shuttle orbiter fleet and the 30-year Space Shuttle program in favor of the new Constellation program, but there were many costs and delays with this program and subsequently, it was canceled by President Obama in favor of using private companies to service the International Space Station. From then on, U.S. crews accessed the ISS via the Russian Soyuz spacecraft until a U.S. crew vehicle was ready

Today, we are experiencing achievements never before considered a reality within our lifetime. From the amazing photos from the James Well telescope to our planned missions to the moon and Mars, we have to credit those who came before these missions who deserve all the credit, lest we forget the ones who ultimately gave it all for the benefit of humankind!

 

 

EV FAQs and Figures

Note: This article is about fully electric vehicles. Not hybrids. 

How Much Do EVs Cost?  

Electrical vehicles can run from $30,000 on the low end to over $100,000 on the high end, with Tesla being the major seller of EVs, with 1,917,450 vehicles sold since it was first manufactured. Elon Musk who owns Tesla brought in a revenue of $53.8 billion for the year 2021. Aside from Tesler, other manufacturers that make electric vehicles are BMW, Nissan, Chevrolet, Ford, Volkswagen and Kia. 

What are the Advantages of Owning an Electric Car?

Of course, the main reason for owning an EV is the savings you get by not having to gas up your car. Additionally, EVs don’t have a composition engine so there are fewer parts to become defective during your ownership. EVs are said to help with the environment and climate as well and they run very quietly.

What are the Disadvantages of Owning an Electric Car?

The initial expense of purchasing an EV is what keeps many away who would otherwise buy one. Then there is the cost of having a 220-240 volt connection installed into your electrical home circuit box, which can run from $600 to $1000. 

If you live in an apartment, you may run into an additional issue if the building or development you are in does not have an EV station available, but more and more buildings are having EVs installed, as well as shopping malls, public garages, and of course, many car dealerships.

Do EVs Need Oil Changes?

Conventional cars with gas engines need maintenance. The oil is used to keep the pistons running smoothly in the chamber of the engine.  An oil change is usually done every six months or 3,000 miles. Since there is no gas engine that runs the vehicle, no oil change is needed.

How Long Does It Take to Charge an EV?

That depends upon the charger you are using. Currently, there are two types available. A Level-1 charger that connects to any 110-volt outlet. This can take over six hours to fully charge an EV’s battery.

Then there is a Level-2 charger. Charging of this type usually takes about three-four hours to reach full charge.

In the near future, Level-3, called high-speed chargers, will cut this charging time in half or more.

Does Fully Charging Mean It Charges Up to 100%?

No, all EV battery manufacturers agree that these batteries should not be charged to 100% because it will cause degradation of the battery in the long run. Charging to 80% is the recommended charging level and is usually set as the default for most EVs.

You can override this setting if you are planning a long trip but it is not recommended to keep it at the 100% charge level continuously.

So when we say we are fully charging our EV, it means that we have charged up to the 80% mark.

How Many Miles Can I Get on a Full Charge?

Most EVs in the lower cost range get about 230 miles on a full charge. Some of the higher ones, such as the Tesla Model S can get up to 394 miles when the batter is at full capacity. On the other hand, a Kia Niro, a great EV with excellent reviews will get about 253 miles on a full charge. And the 2023 Chevy Silverado will have a 200 kWh battery that can take you a good 400 miles before recharging.

Can I Go on Long Rides With My EV?

Yes, but it is highly suggested that you plan your trip with charging along the way as your main priority. Check the highway’s rest areas to see if they have charging stations along the way, but be aware that if you do have to charge your EV during your trip, you may have to stay a while, possibly a good three to four hours. 

Of course, you don’t have to fully charge your car. If you could just add another 100-150 miles, that would cut down the time spent waiting. 

Either way, plan ahead so that you can find places to go while the car is charging. Some of these locations may have a restaurant where you have a long dinner or some towns may have charging ports on the street with many stores you can traverse through.

Then there is the hotel. Call ahead to find out if they have EV portals and if not, where is the closest one.

In the near future, more and more charging stations will be added along the highways and private locations such as housing and hotels. As part of his Build Back Better plan, President Biden has allocated $5 billion to increase the US infrastructure with over 500,000 new EV portals, and that doesn’t include the additions by private enterprises.

How Much Does It Cost to Charge an EV from Your House? 

Your electric utility can give you the best answer for this, but in general, it can cost between 14 cents to 20 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).

So for example, if your EV has a 65 kWh battery, to fully charge it would cost 65 * .20, which is $13. That would mean that you would be spending $13 to go about 253 miles. That’s not too shabby! 

How Much Does It Cost to Charge an EV Outside of Your House?

Electric Vehicle being charged in a garage
Photo by Michael Fousert on Unsplash

The cost to charge your EV depends upon a number of factors, but in general, expect to pay between $20 – $30 for a full charge, which is much better than a conventional gas car expense, since you can add a good 200 – 300 miles back to the battery. Try getting 200 miles for $30 on a conventional car!

Plan Ahead!

If you are going to purchase an EV, plan out your expenses first against what it would cost for a gas car. Then plan out what you plan to do with the car. Will you be using it for local driving or going to work every day or is your main purpose to go on long trips? At this current time, we would recommend that you purchase your EV for local driving or work. Whatever you choose, enjoy your ride!

What Components Make Up EV Batteries?

Photo iStock, Credit: Golden Sikorka

E‍V Battery Overview

In our previous article, we discussed the advantages of owning an electric vehicle. Now, let’s delve further into the component of an EV – its battery.

Electric vehicle batteries consist of several subcomponents that work together to store and discharge electricity. These individual sections are also known as cell components or cell materials. The parts combine to form the complete battery and each has its own unique properties and function.

When considering the various types of electric car batteries, it’s important. Knowing how they function can help you make a more informed decision when purchasing a new electric car, hybrid, or extended-range electric vehicle (EREV) battery.

What are the Components of EV Batteries?

Before we review these components, we need to make sure we understand what an electrode is.

An electrode is a conductor which is a negatively charged (anode) or a positively charged (cathode) material. You can read more about electrodes here.

The different elements of an electric car battery include the following:

  • Anode – The anode is the negative electrode of the battery. It’s made from a metallic oxide material, such as nickel oxide or iron oxide. Anodes are highly porous, allowing for the movement of electrons.
  • Cathode – The cathode is the positive electrode of the battery. It’s made from graphite, a porous material with high electrical conductivity.
  • Separator – The separator is a thin, porous material that sits between the anode and the cathode. Its purpose is to keep the electrodes from touching each other. This is important to prevent overheating, which could result in the battery catching fire.
  • Electrolyte – The electrolyte is a liquid that serves as a conductor of an electric charge. The electrolyte helps move electrons from the anode to the cathode.
  • Container – The container or housing holds all of the components of the battery in place. It’s made from a corrosion-resistant material, such as stainless steel.
  • Cooling System – The cooling system ensures that the battery does not overheat. This can happen if the battery is overcharged and the temperature of the battery rises.

Battery Cells

Illustration of a battery cell
Photo: Wikimedia CC

The most important component of the battery is the cell, which is often made from lithium-ion or lead-acid materials. The cell is composed of active materials, electrolytes, and electrodes that are used to store and discharge electricity. The electrode is a conductor that helps to move electrons from one electrode to the other.

The most common electrodes used to make the anode and cathode are lithium and lead. Batteries can be composed of one cell or many cells connected together. Single-cell batteries are the most common type of electric car battery. Multicell batteries are used in larger-scale storage, such as solar systems or large-scale energy storage systems.

Electronic Parts

The electronic parts of an EV battery include the battery management system (BMS), the charge controller, and the voltage regulator. The BMS is basically an electric circuit that’s used to monitor the health of the battery by measuring voltage levels, charging/discharging rates, and temperature.

The BMS can also help to prevent overcharging and over-discharging of the battery. The charge controller is used to charge the battery. It helps to balance the amount of energy used to charge the battery and the amount of energy generated from the grid or solar panel.

The charge controller also measures the amount of current flowing into and out of the battery during charging. The voltage regulator is used to balance the voltage levels of the battery during charging and discharging.

Lead-Acid Batteries

Lead-acid batteries are the oldest type of battery used in electric cars. They are very cheap to produce and are easy to maintain. However, they are not as efficient as other battery types. They also contain toxic materials, such as sulfuric acid.

These types of batteries are typically used in large-scale grid energy storage systems, such as in a commercial or industrial setting. Lead-acid batteries come in both flooded and sealed types, with the flooded type being the most common. Flooded lead-acid batteries are filled with a liquid electrolyte. They are commonly used in electric vehicle systems.

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium is very popular because of the ease with which it can release its electron, which makes it ideal for the electrons to flow between the anode and cathode.

Lithium-ion batteries are very efficient, have a long lifespan, and are capable of being fully charged in less than one hour. They are less expensive than nickel-metal hydride batteries and are used in a wide range of consumer electronics. Currently, hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and electric vehicles used lithium-ion batteries.

Where Do the Materials that Make Up a lithium-ion Battery Come From?

Generally speaking, there are five minerals that are considered essential for Li-ion batteries:

The locations where these materials are mined can originate in many different parts of the world, with China being the major exporter of graphite, which is the most important mineral that comprises the anode for these batteries

Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries

Nickel-metal hydride batteries are also used in electric cars in both hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles. They are cheaper than lithium-ion batteries and are easier to recycle. 

Conclusion

There are many different types of electric car batteries, each with its own unique properties and functions. When considering the various types of batteries, it’s important to understand what makes up these different battery types.

Understanding how they function can help you make a more informed decision when purchasing a new electric car battery or an extended-range electric vehicle battery.

When looking for new batteries, make sure to understand their warranties and how they are manufactured to ensure you get the best product possible. 

Quantum Computing: The Origin and Its Applications Explained

Illustration of quantum light rays
Quantum computing. Close up of optical CPU process light signal.  Photo: iStock

You have definitely heard the word computing and you might have also heard the term ‘quantum’. However, it is unlikely that you have heard both of these words together.

The term ‘Quantum Computing’ hasn’t gotten the much-needed traction in the tech world as yet and those that have traversed through this subject might find it a bit confusing, to say the least. But there are experts who strongly believe that quantum computing is not just the future, but also the future of humanity, as we move ahead of the binary computer bit and venture into the world of computing located down at the subatomic level.

If you don’t have a clue what we are talking about, you are not alone. Stay with us through this article where we will discuss quantum computing in great detail—what it is—how it will change the tech world and its practical implications (both for better or worse).

But before we usher in the discussion of this potential life-changing advancement, it is necessary to discuss the platform on which its foundation is based i.e. Quantum theory. 

What is Quantum?

Illustration of the Atom
Particles of the atom: protons, electrons, and neutrons. Nucleus. Photo: iStock

Also known as quanta, in simple terms, it represents the minimum amount of energy that can be used within any physical interaction.

Using examples of particle interaction within the atom, a quantum of light would be a photon, and a quantum of electricity would be an electron. There can be no activity smaller than when these particles have an interaction.

The Potential Enabler of Quantum Computing 

The industrial revolution of the 20th century was one of the greatest milestones of modern history. From the invention of the automobile to industrial steel, elevators, and aircraft, it gave birth to a plethora of things that now define our civilization and will continue to shape the history of our future. 

Enter the 21st century and we are watching a transition from the tangible to the intangible (virtual) world; notably, computer technology, its hardware, software, and the world wide web.

Among the many incredible things that are ensuing during this technological revolution is the colossal development in physics, specifically quantum theory. We will try to keep the explanation of quantum theory as simple as possible in order to make this an interesting and informative article. 

Modern Physics

It is important to understand that the field of physics is divided into two definite branches: classical and modern. The former branch was actually established during the period of the Renaissance and continued to progress after that. Classical physics is majorly erected on the ideas put forward by Galileo and Newton. The principles are primarily focused on macroscopic (visible to the naked eye) and the solid nature of the world around us.  

Conversely, modern physics is about analyzing matter and energy at microscopic levels. The subject lies heavy on electromagnetism, the wave nature of light and matter, and the theory of duality. It is interesting to note that all these motifs of modern physics come from quantum theory.

While we are at it, it is important to clarify that quantum theory doesn’t just refer to one idea or hypothesis. It is actually a set of a number of principles. We will discuss them in a simple and brief manner and remain focused on the provisions that are relevant to quantum computing. 

    • The work of physicists Max Plank and Albert Einstein in the earliest of the 20th century theorized that energy can exist in discrete units or ‘quanta’. The hypothesis contradicts the principle of classical physics which states that energy can only exist in a continuous wave spectrum.
    • In the following years, Louis de Broglie extended the theory by suggesting that at microscopic (atomic and subatomic) levels, there is not much difference between matter particles and energy and both of them can act as either particles or waves as per the given condition. 
    • Lastly, Heisenberg proposed the theory of uncertainty, which entails that the complementary values of a subatomic particle can’t be simultaneously measured to give accurate values. 

Neil Bohr’s Interpretation of Quantum Theory: The Primal Basis of Quantum Computing

 

Illustration of a quantum computer
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

During the time period, when the stipulations of quantum theory were extensively discussed among top physicists, Neil Bohr came up with an important interpretation of the theory. He suggested that the properties or the reality of any quantum system (an environment governed by wave-particle duality) can’t be determined or specified until they are particularly found out. 

This assertion led to the development of the Principle of Superposition, which in simple words, suggests that any quantum system exists in all its possible states at the same time until one goes on to find out the exact state.

The infamous Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment is an easy way to understand this concept. The experiment entails that a cat enclosed in a box (which is supposed as a quantum system) with poison would be considered both dead and alive simultaneously until the box is opened and the cat is observed.

Use of Superposition to Develop Computer Algorithms 

Now, this is the point where the theory actually demonstrates its potential to be the basis of a new computer algorithm. In order to understand the quantum-based algorithm, it is essential to understand how contemporary/conventional computing systems work. 

Whether it’s a handheld gadget or a supercomputer working in the server room of Google, at the core of it, every computing device works on the binary language. In conventional computing systems, every bit of information can exist in one of either two states: 0 or 1 (hence ‘binary’). 

On the other hand, when we talk about quantum algorithms, they are actually inspired by the idea that any particle-wave system can exist in multiple states at any given time (Principle of Superposition).

This means when data is stored in a quantum system, it can be stored in more than two states. This supposition makes quantum bits (also referred to as ‘Qubits’) more powerful and expensive than conventional computing bits.

Standard Binary Computing Vs. Quantum Computing 

Seamless pattern with abstract binary code, digital matrix background
4 rows of 8 bits = 4 rows of bytes. Photo: iStock

The fact that a quantum bit can exist in multiple states gives quantum computing an uncontested edge over conventional binary computing. With the help of a simple example, we will try to demonstrate how superior quantum computing could be in comparison to its classical counterpart. 

For example, picture a cylindrical rod, and each end of the rod is a bit, which is either a  1 or 0. That’s it! When one side is a 1, then the other side must be a 0. There is no in-between here. 

On the other hand, the quantum bit exists in every possible state simultaneously. This means every point on the surface of the cylindrical rod denotes the quantum bit. 

The above explanation exhibits in a really simple manner that quantum bits can hold an unprecedented amount of information and hence the computing governed by this type of algorithm can exceed or super-exceed the processing of any classical computing machine. 

Apart from storing more information than classical computers, quantum computing can also implement the principle of entanglement.  In simple words, this principle will enable every quantum bit to be processed separately even without getting drifted away from each other. This feature will also enhance the processing capability of a quantum computer manifold. 

Beneficial Uses of Quantum Computing

The supreme processing capabilities of quantum computing make them an ideal machine to carry out many tasks where conventional computers lag behind.

Science and Life Sciences 

The study of complex atomic and molecular structures and reactions is no mean task. A lot of computing capacity is required to simulate such processes.

For instance, the complete simulation of a molecule as simple as hydrogen is not possible with the available conventional computing technology. So, quantum computing can play a significant role in understanding many of the concealed facts of nature and more particularly of life. Many significant chemical, physical and biological research works stalled for years can take off after the development of quantum computers. 

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning 

Artificial Intelligence Illustration AI
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Even though scientists have made significant inroads in the area of machine learning and AI with the existing computing resources, quantum computing can help in making the progress that we have always aspired for i.e. to make a machine as intelligent as human cognition. Machine learning feeds on big data. The processing of humongous databases goes into the development of any system based on machine learning. 

With the fast processing of quantum computing, even the usual AI will become more streamlined. In addition, the unrestrained computing power of quantum devices will revamp the development of artificial intelligence.

Improvement of General Optimization Procedures 

In today’s bustling life, we feel the need for optimization more than ever—whether it’s personal or commercial dealings. An individual trying to find the best commute for his day-to-day destinations or a financial entity trying to come up with different plans for its every unique customer, a good optimization can only be done when more variables are involved. 

With the addition of more variables, the number of permutations and combinations also goes up and the amount of data to be processed increases exponentially. Optimization of a financial plan might need the processing of several petabytes. Implementation of such extensive optimization in everyday activities can only be achieved with the processing powered by quantum computers.

Other Side of the Coin: The Dangers Involved with Quantum Computing 

One should not be surprised by this heading. We have seen it all through the course of history how the advent of any new technology, intended for the benefit of humankind, is followed by its misuse. And there is no exception for quantum computing. Adding insult to injury, the unrestrained processing power that can be harnessed by a quantum computer can make its exploitation more deadly. It’s important to mention here that the researchers working in the domain are well aware of the unwanted repercussions of quantum computing. 

Quantum Computing Puts Data Encryption Practices in a Great Danger 

Digitization of our everyday activities has shifted nearly every valuable piece of information into the digital form of data. From nuclear codes to personal banking information, everything now exists in the form of digitized data. For that matter, data is now considered a precious commodity. 

And as we know every precious commodity is vulnerable to vandalism, breaches, and thefts. So, in order to address this data vulnerability, computer scientists have developed encryption modules that are used to lock down the data in order to give it only authorized access. 

The encryption of data can only be neutralized with the help of a decryption key designed by the developers and stored with them. Any unauthorized party can’t get around the encryption without a technique called brute force cracking. But it is important to mention here that brute force might only work to crack simple passwords and basic encryption consisting of only a few bits. 

Let’s try to understand this with the help of numbers. 

As per the calculations done by the researchers, using a supercomputer, it could take more than a billion, billion years to crack data that is protected by what is called a 128-bit  encryption key.  In order to put things into perspective, our universe is just 13.75 billion years old. So, it is impossible for a standard 128-bit key to get cracked by the brute force algorithm, using the conventional binary coding system which has only two possible states..

But when we replace this two-state bit of computing with a quantum bit of unlimited existing states, the tables surely get turned.

The 128-bit Key that is so formidable against the brute force of classical binary supercomputers will fall flat when quantum computing is used to carry out the brute-force algorithm. No operating quantum computing machine exists as of today, but experts have estimated that a quantum supercomputer will be able to crack 128-bit encryption keys within 100 seconds. Compare that to the billon-billion years it would take a binary computer to crack the code!

Aftermath 

The aftermath of such a scenario won’t be less than any technological dystopia. Data encryption becoming ineffective will expose everything to the shenanigans of criminal elements. To understand just a fraction of this devastation, imagine that every person on the earth linked to the banking system loses access to his/her account. The mere imagination of such a situation can send chills down the spine.

Apart from that, the neutralization of data encryption can lead to cyber warfare between nation-states. Here also, rogue elements will easily be able to capitalize on the situation. A global outbreak of war in a world with the existing eight nuclear powers can end up with a dreadful outcome. All things considered, the manifestation of quantum computing can bring along many irretrievable repercussions. 

Preparation to Protect Against the Nefarious Use of Quantum Computing 

Google and IBM have successfully carried out quantum computing in a controlled environment. So, to think that quantum computers are a distant reality won’t be deemed an insightful judgment. For that matter, businesses should start preparing against the abuse of quantum computing. There is no point in waiting for formal rules and protocols to be issued. Experts working in the domain of digital security and cryptography recommend some measures to protect business data in the future from any exploitation of the quantum era. 

Conclusion 

How technology has progressed in the last few decades is clearly indicative of the fact that quantum computing is the reality of the future. So, the arrival of quantum computers is not the question of ‘if’ – it’s the question of ‘when’.

Quantum computing with all its benefits for the development of life sciences, the financial sector, and AI poses a great threat to the existing encryption system, which is central for the protection of any type of confidential data. The proper approach for any nation and business is to accept this unwanted aspect of quantum mechanics as a technological hazard and start preparing against it with the help of experts. 

With that said, it is also a blessing when used proactively for the benefit of humankind and we look forward to a better lifestyle for each of us when quantum computing becomes a reality.

Units of Power and How They are Related to Electricity

Before we learn about kilowatts and kilowatt-hours, let’s get a jump start (pun intended 😅) on what these terms mean.

The Units of Electrical Power

Note: If you are not a physics enthusiast and want to skip the physics of electrical energy, you can jump to this section.

Let’s travel into our wayback machine and go back to high school physics 101. These terms and measurements are for background purposes only. We will not be using them later on, but understanding these concepts can help you better comprehend how power (energy) is referenced in units of watts (w) and how they are calculated. Let’s do it!

Speed

The rate of time at which an object is moving along a path.
Units: Length, Time
Example: The car traveled 1 mile in 60 seconds or 1 mile/minute.
Further Reading: What is speed in physics?

Velocity

The rate of time at which an object is moving along a path in a particular direction.
Units: Length, Time, Direction. More precisely, length/time (speed) in a particular direction.
Example: The car traveled 1 mile/minute going west.
Further Reading: What is the difference between speed and velocity?

Acceleration

When we speak about acceleration, it is the rate at which the velocity changes. In other words, velocity doesn’t stay constant.
Units: Feet per second per second or feet/second squared.
Example: A plane traveling south accelerates from 550 m/h (mph) to 600 m/h over a time period of 40 seconds. It has a change in velocity from 550 m/h to 600 m/h and the time period that this occurs in 40 seconds.
Further Reading: Speed, velocity, and acceleration.

Newton

Here we add a new component – Force. When we talk about the measurements of Newtons, we are talking about an acceleration (remember, acceleration means just a change in velocity) of an object.

Illustration_on_One_Newton
By Mhermsenwhite – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70624309

One newton is the force needed to accelerate one kilogram of mass at the rate of one meter per second squared in the direction of the applied force. Simply put, this is the amount of push (force) of one kilogram of an object that weighs one kilogram at a changing velocity (acceleration) of one meter per second per second.
Units: 1 kg⋅m/s2
Example: Joe is pushing a box weighing one kg down the road at 1 m/s

Joule

Joules refer to the amount of work done. A joule is equal to the work done by a force of one newton moving one meter, so Joe has pushed the box weighing one kg down the road at 1 m/s squared for a distance of 1 meter. A joule is also referred to as energy.

Say Watt?

The number of Joules that an electrical device (e.g a lightbulb) is burning per second. Joules and watts both refer to work and equate to power, but both are interchangeable.

Here is the connection:

1 Watt = 1 Joule per second (1W = 1 J/s), so a watt is the amount of energy (in Joules) that an electrical device (such as a light) is running per second. So if a device is burning 500 watts for 60 seconds, then a Joule would equate to 500 * 60 = 30,000 J. Moving ahead, if an air conditioner is burning 1000 watts for 1 hour (60 sec * 60 min = 3600 seconds), then that equates to 1000 watts * 3600 seconds = 3,600,000 Joules (of energy that was used for that hour).

A kilowatt is equal to 1000 watts, so 1 kWh represents the amount of energy transfer that occurs over one hour from a power output of 1000 watts (i.e., joules per second). Thus 1 kWh is equal to 3,600,000 joules of energy transfer (work).

            What Does This Mean?

            It means that the work of one newton is being performed in the form of electrons that are being pushed through the wire per meter. Saying it in a simpler form, one watt is one joule of energy running a device per second.

  Just Tell Me in Plain English What a Watt is!

Transparent Light Bulb
Consider this to be a one-watt light bulb. If it was a two-watt light bulb, it would be about twice as bright. If it was a 500-watt bulb, more power is needed to provide that additional wattage; hence, more power or we can say more current or voltage is needed, and up goes your electric bill! See how it works? Photo by LED Supermarket

Glad you asked. 1 watt is equal to voltage times current: W=EI  (don’t worry, you don’t have to memorize this formula). Also known as power, a watt is a unit of power.  The more the voltage and/or current that flows through the wire, the more power (watts) is used to run the device.

Let’s Talk About Time

Devices run for a period of time, right? So we have to add this value to our watt calculations. That way, we will know how many watts are used for a certain period of time, and as we will see later, this will help us determine what it costs to run electrical devices, or more specifically, what the electric company charges us and why.

Examples: Joe turned on a one-watt lightbulb for 60 seconds, so that is equal to 60 watts.

Now Joe turned on a 250-watt lightbulb for 2 minutes, so that is equal to (250 * 0.333 hours) = 83.25 watts.

(Remember, for you physics guys, 83.25 watts is the same as saying that 4995 joules of power have been generated).

We’ll be going into this in another article, but just to enlighten you, if your electric company charges you 14.34 cents per 1000 watts used per hour (that’s what they generally charge in New York), then, using the example above, you have paid the company 14.34 cents * (per 1000 watts) * 0.25 watts * 0.0333 / hour (2 minutes) = .036 cents per hour.

If Joe ran the 250-watt bulb for 1 hour, then he would be paying 3.6 cents per hour, but if Joe ran a 1000-watt device for 1 hour, he would be paying 14.34 cents.

OK, but if Joe ran the 1000 watt bulb for 10 hours, then he would owe the energy company $143 cents or $1.43.

OK forget about Joe. What if your electric company charges you 14.34 cents per hour for a 2000-watt air conditioner? You would be paying 29 cents per hour, so if you run the air conditioner for 10 hours each day, you would be paying $2.90 every day. That’s $29.00 every 10 days or close to $100 per month.

Say 1000 Watts!

Are you getting tired of hearing of thousands of watts? This author is also, so let’s call 1000 watts – 1 kilowatt. There you go. Kilo means 1000 so 1kw is 1000 watts.

If you run a 1000-watt device for 1 hour, then the designation is 1Kwh (1 kilowatt-hour or you can say a 1-kilowatt device is running for one hour), denoted as kWh. So, 1 kilowatt is equal to 1,000 watts. If a unit consumes 60 watts hourly and runs for 60 hours, then the energy consumption rate will be 60 watts x 60 hours to equal 3,600 watts per hour, which is equal to 3.6 kWh of electricity.

Ok we know, you want to know what it cost to run your electrical devices in your home and you probably want to know about your air conditioner for starters.  Let’s just say that a typical air conditioner runs about 3 kWh per day. To calculate how much that costs you, just call your local energy company to get the correct number. For our area, Nassau County, the cost is 7 cents per kWh. If you want to know more about your air conditioner costs, check it out here.

 

 

Gas Cars Vs. EV Cars – What You Need to Know!

White Tesla Model 3 Charging at Home
Austin, Texas, 2-1-2021: Tesla Model 3 charging at home in front of a house on an L2 charger. Photo: iStock

Why Electric?

There are a number of benefits of driving an electric vehicle (EV). One is the cost savings on gas. The other is the environment. We will concentrate on the former now and will talk about the environment in a separate article.

Before we start discussing how EV costs are calculated, make sure you have read our articles on the atom, electric current  and Units of Power and How They are Related to Electricity. but if you haven’t, no worries. You can skip them and just see our final calculations below. 

Review

Here’s a brief overview for those who didn’t read the articles mentioned above.

    • Electrons are subatomic particles (one of the entities within an atom) that travel through the wire when power is applied (the wire is attached to an electrical socket). This is known as electrical current and is referred to in units of amps. More on this here.
    • Voltage is the force that pushes the electrons through the wireSimilar to turning on the pressure of a water faucet.
    • Current usually flows through a copper wire which is the conductor and the wire is covered by an insulator (rubber packaging around the wire so that the copper is not bear).
    • Resistance is the opposition to the current (electrons) that is flowing in an electrical circuit. Think of it as the friction that brushes along the side of the current.
    • A watt is the energy (power) that runs the electric device. It is a product of how much electrical current is running and how much voltage (push) is occurring. It is determined by multiplying the voltage times the current. The formula is E=IR (E=voltage, I=current, and R=resistance).
    • A kilowatt is 1000 watts (kW).
    • A kilowatt-hour (kWh) equates to 1kw that runs a device for 1 hour.

Example: If you run an air conditioner for one hour and that air conditioner uses 70 kilowatts of electricity per hour, then you have used 70 kilowatts of electrical energy for that hour. If you run the air conditioner for two hours, you would have used up 140 kilowatts of energy.

Most EVs, with the exception of the high-end luxury ones, have batteries that consist of a 60-65kWh capacity. Sparing you the formula, a battery of this size will equate to about 260 miles after a full (100%) charge.

Note: Most EVs are set to charge to 80% only. Constant charging to 100% diminishes the battery’s lifetime. 80% of a 65kWh battery equates to about 230 miles. 

How Does Kilowatts Equate to Electrical Costs?

Electrical Towers
High voltage transmission towers with red glowing wires against blue sky – Energy concept. iStock

Here’s the breakdown.

We will use a 2021, 4-cylinder Nissan Altima as our example.
Gas tank size: 16.2 galsMPG: 31 average. 

If we multiply 31 miles/gals * 16.2 gals, we can determine the total mileage that this car can run on a full tank of gas, which is 502 miles.  

As of this writing, the price for a gallon of gas is $5.00 on average across the United States. So $5.00 * 16.2 gallons (a full tank) equals $81 to fill up.

Electrical Vehicles

For EVs, we calculate units per mile instead of MPG. For this example, we will use a 2020 Kia Niro EV, which is a fully electric vehicle and contains a 65kWh battery.

As mentioned, the industry standard for charging a  65kWh EV to 80% is about 230 miles. If you have an EV, never let it go below 30%, as you may run into trouble if you are on the road and can’t find a charging station. 

Let’s review what we know so far:

    • Filling up a gas tank of a 2021 Nissan Altima will take you about 502 miles without having to fill up again.
    • The cost to fill up this car as of this writing is $81.00.
    • To charge a 2020 Kia Niro’s battery to 80%, the car can go about 230 miles without having to recharge.

Cost of Charging an EV

We need to add the cost of electrical use in the home, and for this example, we will use the costs from PSEG of Long Island (PSEGLI), New York, which powers Nassau County where the offices of Howard Fensterman are located.

Electrical power companies charge per kWh, so this is how we will proceed to determine how much it costs to charge your EV at home.

As the expression goes “If you read it on the Internet, it must be true!“.  Well, we read it on the Internet and we got electrical costs ranging from 14 cents all the way up to 22 cents/kWh.

Then we decided to do something smart. Why not call PSEGLI directly? So we did. The information we were given was adequately explained along with a booklet they sent us that breaks down all the costs.

Understanding Your Electric Bill

The specific electrical costs are determined via the location where you reside and the electric utility plan that you have. While the brochure explains how the costs are calculated, it is recommended that you refer to your specific electric bill to determine the precise amount of your electrical costs.

Below you will find the bill in part from a home in Nassau County, New York.

Portion of electrical bill for a household in Nassau County, NY
Portion of an electrical bill for a household in Nassau County, NY. Photo: SS

The Components of Calculating Electrical Costs

Note: As mentioned, we are using Nassau County, New York as our example. Other locations may vary. We recommend you contact your local electric utility company for specific pricing.

There are two components: (Refer to the brochure which explains in detail why and how they are calculated)

    • Delivery Charge: We will use the higher price listed, which is .1152 dollars or 1152 cents per kWh.
    • Supply Charge: .130715 dollars or 130715 cents per kWh.
    • Taxes (To keep things simple, we will not include the taxes paid in the calculation)

The electrical cost to charge an EV from the home is 14.227 cents (1152 cents + 130715 cents) per kWh. 14 cents rounded off.

To calculate the costs to charge a 65kWh vehicle to 100%, we do the following.

    1. Calculate the delivery charge: $.1152 * 65 kWh = $7.488
    2. Calculate the supply charge: $.130715 * 65kWh = $8.4965

The total  cost for charging a 65kW battery to full capacity from the home is about $15.9844

But, we are only charging this device (your EV) to 80% of the 65kWh, so that results in $15.9844 * .80 = $12.78758 or $13 rounded off.

To charge a 65kWh EV to 80% capacity, 230 miles, costs $13 from a home level 2 charger. 

Note: It can take up to four hours to charge an EV using a 220-volt level 2 charger.

Selective Plans

Most electric utility companies provide more than one plan that you can select for your household. Besides the default plan which provides a standard price for electric consumption throughout the day and night, there is a plan that can allow you to select lower rates at different times of the day.

This plan, called Time of Use (TOU) is available at PSEGLI and many other utility companies nationwide. Refer to our brochure as to exactly how this works.

Proportion 

We will now take this cost of $13 and compare it to filling a gas tank of a conventional car that equates to the same mileage (230 miles).

Here are the steps:

    • Divide the total mileage to charge the battery to 80% by the total mileage to fill a gas tank to get the percentage between the two: 

230 mi / 502 mi = 45%
So 230 is 45% of 502

    • Multiply this percentage by the total cost to gas up a car: 

To get the cost for a conventional car to go 230 miles, we multiply the cost to fill up the gas tank ($81.00) by 45% to match the 230 miles, and that cost would be 0.45 *$85 = $38.7. 

Using an average of today’s gas prices ($5.00 as of today), it would cost a gas car $38.7 to go 230 miles of highway driving and an EV car would cost $13 to go the same distance (230 miles) in Nassau County, New York.

That’s a savings of $25.7 for every 230 miles you drive for a typical EV in Nassau County, NY for a gas price of $5.00 per gallon.

Gas hose on a money background

Conclusion

If you are looking to save money on gas, EV cars are the way to go. Yes, these vehicles are more expensive than conventional gas cars, but at $5.00+ a gallon, you will be pleasantly surprised how much your savings can accumulate.

Finally, we leave you with this. Below is a copy of the estimated charges that accrued for the month of July 2022, from a 1,100-square-foot home that has an EV in its garage in Nassau County, NY. The family charges the car to its 80% capacity about three – four times per month. Notice that the cost in the Electronics category is only 10% of the total usage in the house. Something to think about!

Copy of estimated charges from PSEGLI for a home in Nassau County
Photo: SS

 

 

What is Voltage and Electrical Current? (A Brief Guide)

Electrical Towers
High voltage transmission towers with red glowing wires against blue sky – Energy concept. IStock.

Electrical current is the measure of electrical flow. It’s measured in amperes, or amps for short. The current refers to the number of electrons that pass by a point in an electrical conductor in one second, and it’s usually given in units as milliamps (mA) or microamps (μA). This article explains what electrical current is and how it works. Keep reading to learn more about this topic!

How Does Electrical Current Work?

Electrical current travels through a wire (conductor) to reach a device (eg. light bulb) which causes the device to enable. This traveling of electrons through the wire to the device is called a circuit. It is the pathway for an electrical current to flow from the source to the load. 

Wires showing copper cables
Copper cables are surrounded by rubber insulation. The copper wire is the pathway from the source to the load.  iStock

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are three basic parts to a circuit:

  • The “source,” or “sourcing device,” is where the electrons come from. This can be a battery, a generator, or the flow of electricity from a wall outlet. 
  • The “load,” or “dumping device,” is where the electrons go after completing the circuit. This could be a light bulb, an appliance, or some other device. 
  • The “pathway,” or “wiring,” is the middle part that brings the electrons from the sourcing device to the dumping device. The wiring is almost always made of copper, iron, or in electronic devices, a semiconductor. The current can only flow when the circuit is complete. When the circuit is broken, the current stops.

What Is Electrical Conductivity?

Electrical conductivity is the ability of a material to allow an electrical current to flow through it. The term conductivity is used to describe the extent to which a material will allow the flow of an electrical current. If a material has high conductivity, such as copper, it means that it is very good for allowing electrons to flow rather freely through the wire, while low conductivity, such as rubber will inhibit the electron flow to a greater extent, known as resistance.

The harder it is for the electrons to flow, the more resistance the material has. That’s why rubber is used to insulate the copper wire in almost all manufacturing that will transmit electric current. Rubber has a high resistance rating. 

Wood and glass are two types of materials that have a very low conductivity rating. Have you ever used wood to connect to an electrical circuit or battery? On the other end, copper is one of the most conductive materials around and that is why you see so many wires and/or cables that have copper wiring.

Besides the type of material that is used, electrical conductivity can be affected by a number of factors. For example, temperature, and the presence of contaminants like dust and water.

What is Voltage?

Turn on your water faucet about a quarter of the way and place a cup under it. Notice how fast (or slow) the water is running to fill the cup. How long did it take?

Now turn the faucet to make the water run faster. When you do this, the water fills up the cup sooner. 

This is your voltage (actually an equivalent of voltage). The faster the water comes out, the more the force or pressure of water will be used. In electricity, this means that the more the pressure, the faster the electric current will come out to power an electrical device. The bulb will light up quicker, which you won’t notice, since it happens so quickly, but that is what will happen.

Ohm’s Law

A law that states the relationship between voltage, current, and resistance in a conductor (or insulator). It states that voltage is equal to current times resistance or E=IR. So the voltage equates to the amount of current that flows through the wire but includes the amount of resistance the current is subjected to. 

Types of Electrical Current

There are two basic types of electrical current: Direct Current (DC) and Alternating Current (AC). A direct current is a constant flow of electrons that always flows in the same direction. It can flow in one direction or it can flow in both directions. It is provided by batteries, solar cells, and hydroelectric plants. Electrical current can be changed from DC to AC by using a device called a transformer. Transformers are used to change the voltage of the electricity.

Summary

Electrical current is the flow of electrons through a conductor. A complete circuit is where electrons flow from the source to the load through a pathway or wiring. Electrical current works when a circuit is complete. A circuit is a pathway for an electrical current to flow from the source to the load. There are 3 basic parts in a circuit. The source is where the electrons come from. The load is where the electrons go after completing the circuit. The pathway is the middle part that brings the electrons from the sourcing device to the dumping device.

There are two basic types of electrical current: Direct Current (DC) and Alternating Current (AC). A direct current is a constant flow of electrons that always flows in the same direction. AC current can change from DC to AC by using a device called a transformer.