The Importance of Eco Friendly Cars in Our Future

There have been many revolutions in the engineering of passenger vehicles. First, in the late 1800’s came the automobile. Less than twenty years later, the first consumer car, the Model T was put into production. Over time, engineers kept improving cars and made them faster, safer, and better for the environment. Just a decade ago, cars that operate just as well as traditional fuel burning models began hitting markets around the globe. Every year these cars keep getting better, and it looks like they are the future of transportation.

Green On the Streets and in Your Wallet

The appeal of an eco friendly vehicle is pretty obvious, when you take a look at how much money owners save on fuel costs. According to a report from Business Insider Americans in some states spend an average of over $1,300 per year on fuel alone.

Internationally, many countries such as Canada have introduced extra taxes on fuel inefficient vehicles. Some countries, including Norway, Germany, and France have all proposed banning the sale of new gas powered vehicles. It seems that many countries see the harm that burning fuel causes to the environment, and are willing to push consumers to more efficient and clean transportation options, such as gas or electric powered cars. The use of these as power sources has garnered criticism as to whether or not natural gas is a reliable renewable resource, but natural gas been proven to be just as renewable and green as electric hybrids of today.

Studies have proven that “greener” vehicles do not just save consumers in taxes and fuel though. Electric cars can save owners quite a bit of money over time in maintenance. Since electric vehicles tend to need less engine maintenance, the cost of repairs and upkeep drop drastically.

Safer Roads and Better Fuel Efficiency

Today the roads are full of electric cars. While they certainly are the future, every driver is surely interested in what comes next. With driverless cars increasingly entering highways around the world, it would seem that the future of efficiency is with automated driving.

According to an article in Forbes, driverless vehicles could reduce fuel consumption in passenger vehicles by as much as 44 percent and 18 percent for trucks. That is an enormous impact for the environment. This reduction is due in part to the amount of time the cars are in use. With driverless cars, commuters could share vehicles and each passenger vehicle would spend less time idle, depreciating in value and wasting resources.

Self driving cars are already incredibly safe, and that is in part because they are programmed to strictly follow all traffic laws. According to a CNN report 90% of traffic accidents are caused by human error. These accidents could be reduced by fuel efficient driverless vehicles.

Making Your Current Ride More Efficient

Not all of us can afford to pony up the cash for a new electric vehicle, but that does not mean you can’t be more environmentally friendly with your current car or truck. There are plenty of ways to help make your vehicle and commute efficient. One simple way to reduce your use of fossil fuels is to minimize trips and idle time. If you sit in a drive through or traffic regularly, turn off your vehicle. The Environmental Defense Fund suggests turning off your vehicle if you idle for more than 10 seconds at a time.

Performing maintenance at scheduled intervals also keeps your vehicle in great condition, which helps it stay at its peak efficiency. Replacing spark plugs, keeping clean air filters in your car, and airing up tires to the manufacturer’s specified pressure can all improve your vehicles overall performance.

Lastly, driving fast consumes more fuel. Following the speed limit and posted directions, avoiding fast braking and acceleration, and using cruise control on the highway can help save on gas.

The Role of Biofuel in Low-Carbon Transport

Biofuels offer a solution to climate change that shouldn’t go ignored. In fact, the amount of biofuel used in transport has to increase by a factor of seven in order to prevent climate catastrophe, a recent report on 1.5C warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states. The report also places biofuels in the same league of importance as electric vehicles when it comes to replacing unsustainable fossil fuels by 2050.

Biofuels are increasingly being used to power vehicles around the world

Electric cars: benefits and limitations

A typical gas-powered car emits roughly one pound of carbon dioxide per mile traveled. On the other hand, electric cars release zero tailpipe emissions. However, light-duty passenger vehicles represent only 50% of the energy demand in the transportation sector worldwide.

Heavy road vehicles and air, sea, and rail transport make up the rest — electrification of this remaining 50% would be an expensive task. Additionally, demand for transport is expected to increase in the future. Vehicles will need to use even less energy by 2050 to ensure the global transport sector’s total energy demand rises no higher than current levels (100 exajoules).

Biofuel: a necessary solution

Several sustainable, carbon-neutral synthetic fuels are currently in developmental and demonstration stages. For example, synfuels can be produced from carbon dioxide and water via low-carbon electricity. However, this also requires cheap and low-carbon power systems (similar to the ones already running in Quebec and Iceland).

Biodiesel

In 2013, Audi was the first automaker to establish an electrofuel plant — it cost €20M and produces 3.2 MW of synthetic methane from 6 MW of electricity. Additionally, synthetic biofuels can be made from woody residues and crop wastes, which has a lighter environmental footprint than biofuels made from agricultural crops.

Examples of eco-friendly cars

While biofuels continue to be developed, there are plenty of electric cars on the market right now — all of which can help us reduce our individual carbon footprints. For example, the Hyundai Kona Electric is an impressive electric car. This vehicle offers sleek exterior styling, plenty of modern tech features, and has an impressive range of 258 miles in between charges. The price starts at $36,950. Alternatively, the Nissan LEAF is another eco-friendly model priced from $29,990. It’s powered by an 80kW electric motor and runs for 100 miles per charge.

Electric cars and synthetic biofuels are both valuable technological changes. Focusing on developing both of these sustainable options should take utmost priority in the fight against climate change.