There are lots of eco friendly cars out there! Or at least many that promote themselves as eco friendly! What is the real story behind the marketing propaganda? What is the best way to go green with your transportation?
Chevrolet Volt concept car photo credit David Defoe
If you are a person who generally drives in the city and experiences lots of low speed and/or stop and go traffic, a hybrid car may be a great choice for you.
There are several cars like this currently available powered by a combination of electricity & gasoline in the making.
Chevrolet Volt 2011 fuel 230 mpg hybrid car- photo credit Visnu Pitianuvath
Domestic car manufacturers such as Ford and General Motors produce a variety of eco friendly cars. General Motors currently has a new hybrid electric car called the VOLT. I am looking forward to going for a test drive in this one! It's on my wish list for sure!
It runs on electricity stored in it batteries for up to 40 miles and then a gasoline powered efficient engine is used to convert gas into electricity. You just plug it into an electrical outlet to recharge.
A hybrid electric vehicle runs using a combination of an internal gasoline combustion engine and an electric motor powered by batteries.
The electric motor is used to power the car at slow speeds, and the gasoline powered engine takes over when the speed or acceleration rate exceeds the capability of the electric motor. The gas powered engine will also be used when the batteries are too low to power the car.
This combination allows you to reduce gasoline fuel consumption and to reduce toxic emissions.
Hybrids can boast better "low end torque" than comparable conventional vehicles—meaning that the gasoline-electric drive will actually deliver better acceleration at low speeds.
When correctly built and used hybrid vehicles are among a select few innovations that can provide dramatically increased fuel economy and lowered levels of smog-forming and cancer causing emissions, as well as great road performance.
Hybrid cars can be excellent eco friendly cars - but be careful - they are not all the same!
Mercedes E Cell photo credit Leticia The Tech Savvy Mama
You need to be careful to look beyond the marketing. Be sure to research carefully as not all cars labelled "Hybrid" are necessarily eco friendly cars!
Beware of cars that are not very fuel efficient but are marketed as eco-friendly simply because they use some hybrid technology.
To be truly a green car you must reduce fossil fuel requirements and increase fuel efficiency.
1) Electric Powered Motor that assists the gas powered engine in acceleration - along with a reduction in size and/or increased fuel effiency of the gasoline engine.
2) Shuts off engine when vehicle is stopped (eg at traffics lights or in stop and go traffic)
3) Uses the electric motor to help in braking - the electric motor is used to help stop the car while braking and in doing so captures and stores more energy in the batteries for use later in moving the car forward.
4) Able to drive on electric power only. Not all cars labelled "hybrid" will actually do this.
Check out the new completely electric driven cars such as the Nissan Leaf!
To find out more about hybrid cars check out this website on hybrid cars . They have a cool comparison tool to help you select a hybrid car that is best for your needs.
Remember, when choosing a hybrid, regardless of the technology used, the best way to evaluate its environmental impact is by looking at its fuel economy and emissions.
Smart Car photo credit Leticia The Tech Savy Mama
Don't automatically trust an automaker when they label cars as hybrids or as eco friendly cars. Be sure to actually check and compare the emissions and fuel economy. Make sure the car you choose runs cleaner and more efficiently than its conventional counterparts !
There is a lot of money in eco friendly cars - and therefore a lot of motivation to market cars as green or eco -- be wary!
You may soon be seeing more of these new cars!
Nissan Leaf - photo credit Leticia the Tech Savy Mama
Actually electric cars are not really new. The first cars built were electric cars! Have you ever seen photos or movies featuring the motor cars made by Henry Ford? These cars were electric. Electric cars run cleanly using a motor powered by electricity stored in batteries.
Old electric cars did not have the capacity to go very fast or drive very far. When relatively cheap gasoline became available and the combustion engine was becoming popular, the trend to travel by car took off. Cars powered by gasoline could go far and fast, at a low cost.
Back then no one really thought about pollution, and the concept of global warming was decades away
Gasoline powered cars provided freedom of travel to the everyday person.
Now we are reconsidering electric cars. A major issue with electric cars is the batteries. So far no one has been able to reduce the battery size and weight enough to be able to create a pure electric car that can travel todays distances without the need for frequent (and slow!) recharging.
At the moment pure electric cars have a range under 200 miles.
When running on electricity there are no harmful tailpipe emissions!
The eco friendliness of all electric cars depends so much upon how the electricity is made.
If your home electricity is generated from solar, wind or biofuels - then your electric car will be very eco friendly!
If your the electricity in your home is generated through burning of fossil fuels or nuclear energy - then you need to ask yourself if your electric car is really very eco-friendly - or if the polluting source of its fuel is just hidden!
If you want to drive an electric car because you care about the environment, then take a stand on improving the eco friendliness of electric power sources!
I must admit I am a huge Willie Nelson fan (yes I even had a weird crush on him at one point!), so when I heard he was supporting biodiesel I took even more notice of this technology.
Old Willie aside, biodiesel is a fuel that has huge promise but it seems to be struggling with its introduction into our transportation system.
Biodiesel is a fuel made from natural sources such as animal fats or vegetable oils including corn, canola and soy oil.
Bio diesel is produced by a chemical process called transesterification. The end product is very similar to ordinary diesel so most diesel vehicle engines require no modification to run on biodiesel - the exception are engines specifically made for very high grade diesel.
Biodiesel is clean burning and renewable. By using biodiesel vehicle emissions can be reduced by as much as 80%!
In addition the raw materials for biodiesel can be grown locally and support the local economy.
The wide spread use of biodiesel is still a thing of the future. Its introduction has had some hiccups.
You may remember when biodiesel first came to be used in vehicles, it seemed like it was the green answer to our prayers.
Farmers loved it because they finally had a crop they could grow for good money!
Several auto manufacturers began to market biodiesel cars and trucks. Biodiesel fueling stations began to spring up here and there.
The big money for a crop planted to produce biodiesel began to attract many farmers. Farm land was repurposed from food crops into biodiesel crops. As a result, some food prices began to increase. Fingers began to point to biodiesel as a contributor to world hunger.
Some people also began to question if biodiesel actually reduced emissions!
When you looked the emissions the biodiesel vehicle produced itself the answer was yes - biodiesel fuel produces less toxic emissions than conventional diesel.
But when you took the whole production cycle into account and also looked at the emisions produced by the farm machinery and equipment during the growing of the crop, and the damage from the fertilizers and herbicides and pesticides used to grow them - the picture was not as rosy!
And then the issue of fueling stations - they seemed to be few and far between - not so user friendly.
But biodiesel is actually a fabulous fuel to use and is a wonderful potential contributor to an environmentally friendly transportation future. There are a still a few "but's" that need to be sorted out however.
If farmers utilize biodiesel in the operation of their machinery rather than conventional diesel, the environmental impact of the fgrowth and harvesting process would be much less. This along with the use of organic fertilizers would improve the eco friendliness of the whole process.
As biodiesel catches on biodiesel fueling stations are now becoming more and more accessible - especially in the west.
Biodiesel can actually be produced using vegetable oils and fats that are left over from other industries for instance - the fast food industry produces an enormous amount of fat that is just thrown out.
There is also a large amount of attention being given to using weeds and other sources of vegetable oil that will not take away from the food supply.
As these issues are being ironed out, auto manufacturers are creating a wide variety of biodiesel trucks for purchase.
If you need to operate a large truck or SUV and are considering conventional diesel - take a look at the option of biodiesel.
Many mainstream gas stations sell fuel that is made up of some portion of ethanol.
Most car engines today can use gasoline with a specified percentage of ethanol.
Ethanol is an alcohol made from natural sources including sugar cane, potatoes and maize.
Ethanol seems to be widely available in most service stations and you can easily buy gas with certain percentages of ethanol in it.
As the presursors for ethanol use farm land and crops previouly used for food, the same issues exist for ethanol as for biodiesel.
Many scientists say that the hydrogen cell powered vehicle is one of the most eco friendly cars on the drawing board.
How do hydrogen cells work?
First a little elementary chemistry - remember water is H20.
Electricity (ideally generated from generated by solar panels and wind turbines) is used to split out the hydrogen atoms from the oxygen atoms in water.
The hydrogen is then reacted with with oxygen in the fuel cell, to run the electric motor.
Issues around this promising future fuel are that while it will be clean burning and non polluting, the fuel itself is heavy and requires an infrastructure of hydrogen fueling stations.
Hydrogen cell eco friendly cars are not a practical choice now obviously, but could be in the future as long as the process uses green electricity sources to produce the hydrogen and refuel stations are plentiful.
I am hoping that further research and progress is made in this area as I for one would love to see hydrogen cell eco friendly cars on the market!
By driving eco friendly cars we can make a huge positive change in the environment.
We desperately need governments to sponsor the cost of development and research and usage of eco friendly cars!
Scientists and car manufacturers definitely have the skills and knowledge to and deliver more affordable truly eco friendly cars --but there is no market for them at the high production prices curently required -- they would cost too much without some sort of government support and subsidy!
Ask your government to help ! Instead of subsidizing oil based products, encourage support and subsidization of eco friendly alternatives.
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