Car emissions: what is being done?

Owning a vehicle is a huge responsibly and great joy for millions of people.

Model T FordWhen Ford created the Model T, he had no idea how far cars would come. As the world industrialized and progressed, cars got bigger, better, stronger, but they also began producing more emissions. Emissions, among other things, are contributing to pollution and also have a hand in global warming as well as the hole in the ozone layer. Because of the increased use of vehicles, issues caused by these emissions have gotten worse. More people and companies are beginning to take notice of the issues they are causing, and many more of them are starting to take steps to prevent and repair the damages that have been done.

Electric Cars

One major breakthrough that is being developed to reduce car emissions and the pollution/damage they cause are electric cars. Electric cars are being developed to run on battery power, as well as other more environmental friendly ways. Many companies, such as VW have introduced their prototypes for a more efficient electric car. Few electric cars exist, but they all need work done to make them worthwhile and sustainable. Many early prototypes only reached up to 45 mph, and many also had issues with staying charged for long periods of time, as well as lack of space like diesel and gasoline cars have. Electric cars, once refined and developed to suit the modern world’s growing needs, will be a huge step in combating emissions and the issues that come along with them.

Reduction And Alternatives

While many manufacturers are working on environmentally friendly vehicle options, there are a few already available, and have been available for decades. By using your car only for long distances, or only a few days a week, you can help cut down on the amount of pollution that goes into the environment. By walking, biking, or even taking public transportation, you can reduce your environmental foot print by an alarming amount. This is especially true for people who live in bustling cities, where cars are not needed, but are rather that of a luxury. The less you use your vehicle, the better off the environment is. Even by eliminating 2 days of use a week, you can make a substantial difference. Many towns and cities across the country have a day where public transportation is completely free, to promote the use of public transport over the use of personal vehicles. Always walk or bike when possible, and try taking public transportation more often. You’ll not only save money, but you’ll be helping the environment as well.

The Importance Of Change

Many people feel that there are no issues with the environment because they can’t see or feel it on their own. This is an unfortunate and dangerous assumption that is leading to the destruction of our only environment. It’s very important to find alternatives and to develop environmentally friendly vehicles, and for more than one reason. The oil under the ground took 200 million years to form into the state it’s in, the state in which we use it daily to fuel our cars, homes and more. The use of vehicles consumes a very large portion of this oil. In the past 200 years, humanity has used up more than half of this natural supply, and if oil consumption continues at the current rate, we will run out within the next 40 years. Even more frightening is the fact that tail pipe emissions from cars and trucks account for a third of the pollution in The United States. These facts are alarming, and are just a few reasons why the development of alternative fuel resources, environmentally friendly cars, and cutting back on using such vehicles is very important.

Vehicles are a necessity for many people, especially those who live in rural areas with poor public transportation. However, one should always cut back on using emission producing vehicles as much as they can. It’s also important to support bills and legislation that will help the environment, as well as supporting cars that run on alternative fuels. We only have one earth to live on, with one environment, and if the current rate of pollution continues as it is, we may not have this earth for much longer.

Environmental effect of car emissions

Smog from vehicle emissionsThe greatest challenge confronting many people in the world today is how to tackle car emissions.

It has negative consequences to the environment and detrimental to the human health. When car runs, different types of gases are emitted from it. Perhaps the most dangerous gas coming out of it and emitted directly to the environment is carbon dioxide and the greenhouse gas. Apart from these, there are several other particles emitted from there, and many of these are not good because they were carcinogens. All these affect negatively on the environment, and they can affect human health.

When the alarm was raised in the 1970s about the consequences of emissions to the environment, the US government acted fast by putting in place the 1970 Clean Air Act. There is improvement in the quality of gases released to the environment today compared to what it was in the 1970s. The air quality is indeed better than what it used to be. Lead emissions to the environment have increased tremendously.

The major concern of car emissions was its effect on the environment. Research has shown that it can affect the environment in different ways. Vehicles emit greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. This is responsible for the global warming and depletion of the ozone layer. Apart from that, such emissions could distort the food chains when it finds its way into the soil as well as water surface. This is not good for the human and animal health, as it can affect certain organs such as respiratory, reproductive, as well as the immune system.

When it affects the ozone layer, it would be catastrophic, because the ozone layer is responsible for protecting lives on earth. It means that lives on earth would be greatly endangered.

Scientists have responded to the challenges of emissions by producing emission fewer cars. The best of such cars is the electric cars.

Electric cars were started more than one hundred years ago. Interests to this type of car were renewed because of the environmental benefits. Apart from reducing the quantity of gases emitted to the environment, it was discovered that electric cars are better, because they are quieter than those cars with internal combustion engines. Furthermore, such cars do not release tailpipe pollutants to the environment. It emits little or no quantities of greenhouse gases.

However, there are advantages of using this type of car, the major challenge of mass production includes the high cost and uneven availability of recharging infrastructure. However, there is greater improvement, as there are different models of electric cars on the road today. As at September, there are at least 620,000 light duties electric passenger cars in different parts of the country. Globally, it is estimated that about 1 million plug in electric cars are sold. This is a good development. It is envisaged that the figure would continue to go up.

The future is indeed bright for electric cars. Apart from those models on the market, more are expected to hit the market in the next couple of years. Mercedes alone has announced different models of such cars in a few years to come.

In the same way, over a few years automated cars have entered the market. The problem with driverless cars is now legal than technical. In a few years, there would be more of such cars on the road. Tesla is leading the pack as far as driverless cars are concerned. It is certain that the complete elimination of car emissions is a matter of time.

Environmental benefits of electric cars

Plugin Electric Vehicles (PEVs) have significant environmental benefits compared to conventional gasoline and diesel powered cars. The PEVs have become a major boost in trying to avert climate changes caused by gasoline and diesel vehicles while going beyond that by saving the fuel economy.

These hybrid PEVs offer a perfect alternative to the problem of carbon emissions and air pollution. Some of the environmental benefits of PEVs include:

  1. Reducing Greenhouse Gases Emission

Most greenhouse gas emissions come from car tailpipe emissions which account for about a third of the total greenhouse gases. Plugin cars significantly reduce the amount of tailpipe emissions per mile than any other type of cars. Even those that are partially powered by gasoline have very low emissions and are more environmental friendly than gasoline cars. The amount of emissions reduced by Plug-in vehicles is also dependent on the source of electricity used to power it. The life-cycle emission is low when the source of electricity is a low-polluting energy source. For example, if the source of electricity for PEVs is a coal-fired plant-and coal is known to produce greenhouse gases-then the net emission will still be lower compared to conventional cars. If the source of recharge electricity is a renewable source, then there will be zero greenhouse gas emission.

  1. Better Fuel Economy

Hybrid Electric Vehicles have a much better fuel economy with low fuel costs than conventional cars. This is also majorly because of the low cost of electricity for recharging the electric vehicles which is measured in kilowatts per hour for every 100 miles. It is estimated that light duty electric cars only consume 25-40 kilowatts-hour to drive for a 100 miles. As for medium and heavy duty PEVs, the amount of energy consumed is relative to the load it carries and the duty cycle. They however have a very strong advantage compared to other vehicles.

  1. Provides Energy Security

Every now and then we have energy crisis in various parts of the world with fuel prices spiking and its supply diminishing. To help curb energy problems in the future, electric cars will provide an escape route and a more sustainable way of transport. Almost three-quarters of all imported fuel is consumed by vehicles and other modes of transport. Using plug-in and hybrid cars can reduce the over reliance on imported fuels and therefore promote energy security.

  1. Clean and Clear Air

Since hybrid cars have no emissions apart from those which are partially powered by gasoline with also very low emissions, they play a significant role in reducing air pollution. They practically have no smoke coming out of their tailpipes and this helps in promoting cleaner air which is also clear and safe.

  1. Promotes Renewable Energy

Plug-in cars would reduce carbon emissions by up to a third, of which is produced by the transport sector. This would mean that over 80 million gasoline powered vehicles would be replaced by electric cars which would in turn be charged using the national grid instead of coal-fired plants. Electric cars would also promote the use of electricity from renewable sources such as solar and hydro-electric power.

However, with all the mouth-watering benefits of plug-in cars, there is a downside look to it. These are some of the disadvantages and limitations of electric cars

  1. They are very expensive- this makes is difficult to own one costing at $30,000 to $40,000. Many people would therefore go for a mid-sized gasoline powered car.
  2. They have a limited range- most PEVs have a range of 80-100 miles and require quite some time to fully recharge. This creates unnecessary range anxiety and worry if you are traveling for a long distance
  3. Limited car choice- the auto brands for electric cars is quite limited and offers you a choice between 20 or so models to choose from. This is exact opposite of conventional cars with many models, styles and brands to select from.

Hybrid electric cars have more positive scores to look at and have become the new alternative to the energy crisis. By replacing the conventional cars, we shall be looking at a new and more sustainable future free from pollution.

Fun ways to save money on fuel

Ask around right now and there are few people who aren’t aiming to save money on fuel. Fuel prices are high, high, high and don’t seem likely to go down significantly at any point in the foreseeable future. So what can you do to save fuel? There are plenty of sensible things you can do (which are listed at the bottom of this article) but here are some of the fun things:

  1. Car share. The chances are you go to work and see the same people on the road, at the same time as you pretty much every day. There’s no reason whatsoever, apart from possibly shyness and stubbornness that you’re not travelling together. OK, in the real world there’ll be days where that car share mightn’t work out, but even if you did it 20% of the time, that would make a difference. There are plenty of ways to track down car share opportunities; you can look online, you can place ads on notice boards and you can simply ask around.
  2. Walk, run or bike. How many of us reach Sunday evening and say, “right, next week I’m going to the gym and am going to cut out x, y and z?”. If your work is within walking, running or biking distance, you can kill two birds with one stone here. Assuming there are shower facilities at your place of work and somewhere to store your bike, then this option is well worth thinking about
  3. Take public transport. Depending on where you live, public transport might be a whole lot more fun than you imagine. A friend of mine lives on a rural bus route and only started taking the bus into the city a few months ago. Already she’s heavily involved in ‘bus culture’. They bake cakes for each other and even had a night out together to celebrate one of the passengers 50th birthday! While not all public transport will be so convivial, if you never try it, you’ll never know.
  4. Set up your own shared transport system. If there isn’t an organised car share network that suits your needs, you could perhaps start one up? It needn’t be hugely time consuming and you might be surprised at how many nice people you meet.

Here are some of the other (more sensible) things you can do:

  • Only drive when you have to. This sounds obvious, but how often do you hop into the car without even thinking? Stopping to think about other solutions is the first step.
  • Make sure your car is well maintained. Well-maintained cars use less fuel; and that’s a fact.
  • Sniff out cheap fuel offers. Supermarkets in particular often have fuel offers and sniffing them out and making a point of planning your ‘fill-up’ for offer days could make a huge difference to your annual spend.
  • Fill up to the max. Travelling to and from the filling station to buy £20 worth of fuel three times a week makes no sense whatsoever, because you’re using fuel to get there. What you need to do is plan your finances so your cashflow can support a full tank on a regular basis.
  • Think of investing in a hybrid vehicle. There’s no getting away from the fact that a hybrid car will save you a fortune on fuel. While you’ll have the capital outlay at the start, you’ll certainly save in the long run. While we’re not suggesting you change car just to save fuel, but if you’re thinking of changing car anyway, now is a great time to be thinking about investing in a hybrid.

What is a hybrid car?

hybrid carHybrid cars were thought of as a futuristic thing that would never happen only a few years ago, but already we are seeing more and more of them on the roads.

The word hybrid essentially has two distinct meanings. Not surprisingly, both meanings are related. The first meaning refers to its biological association whereby it is the term used to describe the offspring of two plants or animals of different species. An example of this would be a mule, which is a hybrid of a donkey and a horse. Its more general meaning is in things, words or objects and again is the term used to describe things that are made by combining two different elements to create a mix. This could refer to an object, a word or indeed a vehicle made with two different power sources eg. fuel and electricity.

The main benefits of hybrid cars are that they are extremely efficient from a fuel point of view and emit much less CO2 than their fuel counterparts. Introduced initially to the mass market in the years 1999-2000, the notion of (part) electric cars has taken a while to catch on, but suddenly, there seems to be significantly growing interest in this style of vehicle.

As we explained above, a hybrid vehicle is simply a vehicle that is manufactured with the ability to use more than one form of energy to make it move. Typically, this combination involves a fuel tank, an electric motor and a battery pack. It’s important not to confuse hybrid cars with electric cars because they are completely different. At the moment, while diesel hybrid cars are available, the cost of producing a diesel hybrid is currently prohibitive, so the option is petrol and electric with a battery pack.

There are various types of hybrid vehicle currently available and these include motor-generator; stop-start, parallel hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric drive, all of which function slightly differently, but rely on a combination of fuel power and electric power to drive the car. Car manufacturers across the board are keen to exploit their potential share of the hybrid car market and are seeking to launch models that appeal to different segments of the market. And if you think that hybrid cars are all small, with little power, it’s time to think again. When Porsche launched its Cayenne hybrid, with its 3.0 litre, V6 Engine, it became crystal clear that hybrids weren’t intended only for the school run or for tootling along to a Saga meeting.

In the UK alone, there are a whole host of hybrid models available in petrol options and some diesel options are starting to appear. Currently, the most popular model is the Toyota Prius hybrid, with Honda also featuring in the top five list. Volkswagen and Porsche, not surprisingly want a share of the action and as already outlined, are making it clear that the hybrid market isn’t just for people who want economy and environmental results at all costs.

So where do we go from here? The next big thing is tipped to be the plug-in hybrid that will take fuel even further out of the equation. Presumably the infrastructure has quite a way to go before that becomes possible, but like all things, it could be here before we know it.

Clean vehicles – the way forward

low emission vehicleExactly who invented the first car is a subject of severe debate, but one thing is for sure is that there was huge excitement that went with the car when it became available to the mass market.

This level of excitement has rarely been equaled in recent history. When the car became accessible and affordable to the man (or woman) on the street, lives were changed forever. Families were suddenly able to travel independently, to explore areas that were previously out of their reach; taking trips to the seaside, the countryside and generally extending their minds and their experiences. But not everything associated with the car was positive.

A society that was accustomed to walking or biking short distances suddenly sat behind the wheel to travel those short distances. Small, specialist shops that populated and animated our high streets were slowly replaced by big, impersonal out of town supermarkets and shopping centres that we visited in droves by car. The high street started to close down and this trend has continued, with insult being added to injury by online shopping (which is a completely separate subject).

The car also became a status symbol, not just a way of getting from A to B. People were judged on the basis of the four wheels they owned and drove. Obesity rose because kids no longer walked or biked to school, but much more than all that, we were all involuntarily forced into inhaling the emissions of all these vehicles on the road.

The emissions that come from cars and lorries on our roads affect all of us and can lead to respiratory issues, cardiovascular symptoms and cancers. There is significant evidence to suggest that people who live near major roads are more likely to suffer from these illnesses than people who live further away from significant traffic. The main issues are associated with Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon Monoxide, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Fine Particular Matter and Ground-level Ozone, all of which have a detrimental effect on health.

Nitrogen Oxides are known to attack the lungs and irritate the respiratory system generally. Carbon Monoxide on the other hand (in quantity) hampers the blood’s ability to carry oxygen around the body. VOCs, which are present in a whole host of modern-day products vary in toxicity, but contain certain substances that are cancer causing when they are in the atmosphere in any great amount. When it comes to Fine Particulate Matter, its very nature means that it can be inhaled deep into the lungs and will aggravate any already present respiratory or cardiovascular problems as well as having the potential to be carcinogenic.

It’s easy to see from this list that although we typically can’t see any of these things with the naked eye, they have the potential to affect us, to affect our children and if the situation doesn’t change, their children and their children’s children too. It is for all of these reasons, not to mention the cost of fuel, that clean vehicles simply have to be the way forward and something we can’t ignore.