Environmentally Friendly Cars and Transportation
We all want to reduce our carbon footprint, but it’s not always possible to give up a vehicle to do it. Often work, school, and family are simply too far or too out-of-the-way to get to by foot, public transportation, or bicycle. Thankfully, there are options that allow us to keep our wheels while doing less damage to the environment.
Types of Environmentally Friendly Cars
New vehicles are coming out on a regular basis, and there aren’t all the same old gas and diesel powered vehicles. There are now a variety of road-ready electric vehicles, hybrids, alternative fuel powered cars, and even some solar vehicle prototypes.
Electric and Fuel Cell Powered
These vehicles are run with an electric engine that acts as the fuel source. No gasoline is required. They are quiet to run, create no emissions while you are driving, and are much cheaper to fuel. However, they do still have limitations, such as a 50 to 300 mile range before requiring a recharge. In addition, recharging these vehicles takes several hours as opposed to a few minutes at the pump. Depending on your lifestyle and driving habits, recharging could be as simple as plugging in at night while you sleep, or as complicated as desperate searches for somewhere to recharge on long journeys.
To learn more about these vehicles, visit:
- US Department of Energy: All-electric vehicles
- Drive Clean: What are the different types of plug-in electric vehicles?
- Union of Concerned Scientists: How do battery electric vehicles work?
Hybrids incorporate the electric engine of the above vehicles but also incorporate either gasoline or diesel fuel. This provides options for fuel sources and takes away many of the disadvantages of a purely electric vehicles, while reducing the costs of fuel-only vehicles. The downside is that the fossil fuels that these automobiles use still produce emissions that are harmful for health and the environment.
For more information, visit:
- Consumer Energy Center: Hybrid vehicles
- Health Research Funding: Pros and cons of hybrid cars
- University of Hawaii: Hybrid cars
This mostly renewable fuel (commonly known as E85, meaning it contains 85% ethanol) has an agricultural source rather than being a limited resource. It is also less polluting than gas. However, fuel may not always be easy to find and it has a higher price tag than gasoline or diesel.
To read more about it, visit:
- Energy.gov: Flexible fuel vehicle basics
- US Energy Information Administration: How much ethanol is in gasoline, and how does it affect fuel economy?
- University of Illinois: Ethanol use in motor vehicles
This fuel is biodegradable, ready to use, and requires no engine modification. It can be created using previously used oils, making it a great method of recycling. However, it does have its drawbacks. Biodiesel can be expensive and tends to clog filters which can lead to costly vehicle repairs.
For more info, visit:
- Biodiesel: Biodiesel basics
- Oregon State University: Sustainable Energy Initiative – Biodiesel
- University of Idaho: What is biodiesel?
Another good option, natural gas is one of the cheaper choices. It is more affordable than gasoline and clean running which can translate to a healthier environment and less frequent repairs. The downside? It’s hard to find places to fuel up a vehicle.
To learn more, see:
- US Department of Energy: Natural gas vehicles
- Penn State: Natural gas vehicle basics
- Popular Mechanics: Should you convert your car to natural gas?
Hydrogen has no harmful emissions, it is fuel efficient, and it tops that all off by being renewable as well. However, even it is not perfect. Hydrogen is hard to store and is not always readily available.
To learn more, read:
- Berkeley: Chemists find a better way to pack natural gas into fuel tanks
- How Stuff Works: How hydrogen cars work
- Oak Ridge National Laboratory: Multiple roads to the hydrogen car
Experimental Solar Powered
The next great thing might be the solar powered car, but we are not there quite yet. The current ones are still experimental, and some are downright inconvenient. It turns out it is difficult to get in enough solar panels and still have room for the driver.
For more ideas, see:
- Missouri S&T Solar Car Team: Our cars
- Georgia Tech: New solar car concept shines at electronics, car shows
Advantages and Disadvantages of Environmentally Friendly Cars
To sum it up:
- Environmentally friendly cars are great for the environment, they reduce harmful pollutants, and in many cases, they are even fun to drive.
- They can be more expensive to begin with, but will often save on overall fuel costs.
- Alternative fuel sources are not always easy to find, but as more of these vehicles hit the road, more fueling stations will begin to offer what they need to stay on the road.
To learn more, visit:
- USDA: Alternative fuels and alternative fuel vehicles
- Ipl2: Alternative energy and hybrid vehicles
- Estrella Mountain Community College: Trip reduction – alternative fuel vehicles
Tips to Make Any Car More Green
Sometimes we just aren’t ready to take the plunge or go out and buy a new car. After all, vehicles take energy and resources to manufacture, and that should be a consideration as well. However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot make your current car more green in the meantime.
Here are some tips you can try:
- Use cruise control
- Avoid aggressive driving (it burns through fuel)
- Don’t use the air conditioning as often
- Get regular tire checks
- Remove unnecessary items in the trunk to lighten the load
- Keep up on regular repairs
For more ideas, visit:
- Care Care: Steps to a greener car
- North Carolina Department of Transportation: Drive green
- Brynmawr College: Gas saving tips
Environmentally Friendly Options Beyond Your Vehicle
Are you considering giving up the driver’s seat? Other options abound:
- Relocate to be closer to work
- Take the bus or train
- Ride a bicycle on nice days
- Walk when you can
- Consolidate trips so that you don’t need to take as many
- Find more things and events to do locally
- Buy locally! Food that has come from faraway places has a carbon footprint of its own
- Staycation. You don’t have to leave home to relax
Would you still like to know more? Visit the resources below.