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Green Revolution: Electric Vehicles

7 minutes

(Describer) In an animation, different colored icons include a car, a house, a model for hydrogen, and an arrow that looks like lightning. In another one, a woman connects cables. As she laughs and smiles, title: Green Revolution, with Lisa Van Pay PhD (Scientist).

(Describer) Other icons: car minus gas pump plus battery equals question mark.

(Describer) Title: Electric Vehicles.

(Describer) Photos include large batteries and a car. Titles:

(male announcer)

(Describer) A red sports car is driven.

(Describer) A silver car is driven.

(Van Pay) How about something with lower emissions that's environmentally friendly?

(announcer) Faster, sleeker, and greener. Meet today's new breed of electric car.

(Describer) The screen fills with static and a silent movie title appears: Meanwhile, back in the early 20th century...

(Van Pay) Electric vehicles have existed for decades, as long as cars with internal combustion engines. A big problem early electric cars faced then is still with us--

(Describer) Another question mark.

hauling enough stored energy to get where you need to go. Most cars carry fuel, but electric cars depend on a battery. Think about a rechargeable battery. When you get it, it's dead.

(Describer) In an animation...

The ions and electrons inside are comfortable, located where they want. You change the situation by charging it. Electricity makes the battery's lithium ions move from one part to another by changing which material the lithium is attracted to. This is like pushing a boulder up a hill or pulling back a mousetrap arm, except electricity is doing the work. These systems now have potential energy waiting to be released. The electrons must move across the external circuit to get to their destination. Only lithium ions can move through the electrode. When the electrons move, the lithium ions move too, to where they started. We can use this back and forth, charging and discharging the battery, for quite awhile, but not forever.

(Describer) Title: Building a Better Battery. Austin, Texas.

Researchers are working to develop batteries that have plenty of power, short charge time, long life, and improved safety. My project focuses more on making safer batteries.

(Describer) Katherine Stroukoff, Graduate Student, UT – Austin:

Everybody knows lithium ion batteries are powerful, and that's what makes them desirable for cameras and cell phones. When you make a powerful battery that's big enough to power a car, it's dangerous, and the components inside have the potential to catch fire or explode even.

(Describer) A car explodes in an old film.


Most lithium ion batteries contain a great deal of cobalt, but this material contains no cobalt.

(female) Cobalt is a heavy metal and unhealthy.

(Describer) A guitarist plays metal. Title: Cobalt!

It's environmentally toxic and dangerous for people.

(Lisa) That's what you work on, different materials that make up batteries? Exactly. Exactly.

(Describer) Title: going electric, looking good.

(Van Pay) At MIT, engineers have replaced the gasoline engine in this sports car with an electric motor. This is our Porsche 914 electric vehicle.

(Describer) An older silver convertible.

It's run by pure battery electric power, and uses an electric motor to drive.

(Describer) Mike Nawrot – MIT Electric Vehicle Team:

This car is better than gasoline cars because it runs off pure electricity, zero emissions, meaning it's cleaner and more environmentally friendly. An electric car is simple. A battery powers the motor. An electric motor turns the wheels. A charger recharges the batteries. That's basically all there is.

(Van Pay) Instead of stopping for gas after driving all day, you plug in your car at home like your cell phone. But you're charging your car with electricity from our national power grid. That grid is fed by energy sources that aren't so clean. Electric vehicles are still lower in emissions and more efficient energy users than combustion-powered cars.

(Describer) Title: driving toward a cleaner world. Driving the car...

We got the equivalent of 164 miles per gallon.

(Describer) Dan Lauber – Electrical Engineer, MIT. Walking around the car...

For average driving, between the city and the highway, you'd expect about 100 miles for one charge. Depending how you drive, you can get much more or less. With the built-in charger, it takes 12 hours, so it would charge overnight.

(Describer) Title: whoah.

(Van Pay) I have to leave my car plugged in 12 hours before it's fully charged? Isn't there a faster way?

(Describer) Nawrot:

(Nawrot) We're exploring rapid recharge as an option, as opposed to charging overnight. The idea is to charge overnight like other electric cars, but also charge it in 10 minutes for a long-distance trip. Return home after driving 50 miles, charge until full, and drive the next day. But if you go on a long-distance trip from New York to Boston, you can drive 200 miles, stop for 10 minutes, recharge, and continue.

(Van Pay) Rapid recharge isn't the only quick-charge option. One company is going a different route entirely-- battery switching stations to return you to driving in less time than filling your gas tank. Let's talk speed and performance. How do electric vehicles compare with other cars? This Porsche, unlike the original Porsche, has a little less horsepower, but has a lot more torque.

(Describer) Title: Torque: the force that makes things turn.

It can go from 0 to 40 rather quickly, but from 0 to 60, it's slower. It's top speed is still 100 miles an hour. There's no real limit. The electric Porsche would probably beat the regular Porsche off the line.

(Van Pay) Huh! Not bad.

(Describer) Toy cars are raced on a plastic track.

As environmental concerns and rising fossil fuels prices continue, we're going to see electric cars hitting the road in different models and sizes. Thanks to improving technologies, someday all our cars might be sleek, shiny, and electric. As we shift more to renewable energy sources, driving to the mall will get cleaner and greener. You shouldn't have to compromise your conscience for cool.

(Describer) Lisa walks away against the background of the red sports car. Icons appear: car minus gas pump plus battery equals a car with an electric plug coming out of the back.

(Describer) Titles: Produced by Lisa Van Pay, Maria Zacharias, Lisa-Joy Zgorski.

Funding to purchase and make this educational production accessible was provided by the U.S. Department of Education:

PH: 1-800-USA-LEARN (V) or WEB:

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Host Lisa Van Pay visits the scientists and engineers working to make the electric car of the future a reality today. One of the toughest parts is storing enough potential energy in the battery. Graduate student Katharine Stroukoff from the University of Texas-Austin explains how her research may help build a better battery, while Mike Nawrot and Dan Lauber, members of the MIT electric vehicle team, describe the advantages of their fully electric Porsche 914.

Media Details

Runtime: 7 minutes

Green Revolution
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7 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
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