Friday, April 15, 2011

The Best “Green” Car Technology...?

Honda, who has been a leader in “green” car technology for the past decade is working on continuing to develop their latest project, the Honda Civic GX. This Civic is unique in the fact that it runs on natural gas. This technology 1st caught my eye when I saw a GX driving around the campus of UCLA. In my quest for more information I ran across this article. So that you don’t have to read the article, I’ll give you the guts. Why they think this car is the best “green” car:
  • At 250 miles on a tank of natural gas it can go father than electric cars. It basically destroys the other cars on the market as it relates to miles. The Nissan Leaf can only go up to 138 miles on a charge and the GM Volt can only go 20-50! (cough...weak) until switching over to gasoline power.
  • Costing only about $1-$2 per gallon, the Civic is cheaper to fill up than a gasoline hybrid (~$4.00/gal) and comes about even with an electric (~$4 a charge, but your charging twice or more often than if you were filling up with natural gas. )
  • Also switching to natural gas allows us to become less dependent on oil! Yay!
  • To top it off, natural gas produces “...about 30 percent less carbon dioxide and 70 to 90 percent less smog-forming particulates than gasoline.”
So, you’re now being offered a car that can go as far as a normal combustion engine car, preform as well, and produces significantly less greenhouse gases. Plus you don’t have to plug it in every night and it cost less to fill up. Dreams do come true! Sounds promising right?!...Discovery Channel, shame on you! Maybe you should stick to producing more episodes of Gold Rush instead.
I’ve secretly seen every episode...and loved it!
I’m kidding Discovery!, it’s not all your fault. Natural gas has long been trying to promote itself as a “clean fuel”. I, as well as some others tend to disagree that natural gas emissions are any better than oil based gasoline emissions. Without getting into debate on weather global warming exists or not, lets just agree that man does produce a lot of greenhouse gases and at the moment our ozone seems to be depleting fast.* While the carbon dioxide emissions from combustible engines are the most commonly known damaging greenhouse gas, less commonly know yet extremely harmful, or even more harmful is methane gas. Methane is 20 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping in heat and is reported by the EPA as the most destructive greenhouse gas to our ozone. So what’s the largest emission from harvesting and burning natural gas?....You guessed it, Methane! So we must question how “green” is a car that releases what the EPA considers the most destructive greenhouse gas on the planet? Also, let us not forget, natural gas is a non-renewable resource, so the prices could potentially go up just as oil prices are adjusted now. You say, “Fine Mr. Author, this new Natural Gas car may not be the bee’s knees, but we don't need it, we have all those other options.” Well, I’ll look past the fact that you just said bee’s knees and take a look at our other options. Let’s see if those are any better.

The Hybrid- Half electric half gas. Think Toyota Prius.
  • Pros: More miles on a tank of gas plus less emissions.
  • Cons: While you do get more miles out of a tank of gas, you are still putting out the same amount of emissions into the atmosphere, just slower. We are now just cooking low and slow instead of on high. (Yum, Aliens love tender human meat.) Lets not forget hybrids use a lot of environmentally taxing batteries that have environmentally damaging chemicals and metals in them that last about 6-9 years and then go to a landfill or maybe make it to a foreign recycling center.
And since they charge themselves by running, we would still be dependant on oil to run them.
Which means we should just go to 100% electric!
  • Pros: They don't require any oil and emit no greenhouse gases....but wait, do they?
  • Cons: Electricity is still produced primarily by burning coal in the US (45%). With the introduction of more electric vehicles, the US will have to burn more coal to produce more electricity creating even more harmful carbon dioxide emissions and taxing our already weak electrical grid. Coal burning also produces particulates, another factor of global warming. So although directly electric cars may seem nice, the way in which we produce that electricity is just as bad, if not worse, for our ozone. Don’t forget, electric cars still have those pesky little large banks of batteries as well.

Flex Fuel is just a ridiculous idea, I’m not sure how it ever became popular. Flex fuel is basically technology that runs cars from ethanol primarily made out of corn. Between fertilization, transportation, and processing you end up using more petroleum than the ethanol can offset. Not to mention we would have to plow down more forests to plant more corn. Bye bye carbon dioxide converting trees. And it could raise the price of our food! Some estimates say 95% of our food intake has some type of corn based substance in it.Think of all the things you eat made out of corn. Juice and soda-corn syrup, breads-corn starch, meats-corn fed animals, even veggies are sometimes coated with a corn based wax!

OK, let us look at a renewable resource then, the almighty Sun! Solar powered cars are pretty much out of any race, current solar cell technology is just not efficient enough to produce the amount of power needed to run an engine as big as a common car. Although we could all start living somewhere where it’s constantly sunny and start driving around in these.

I would love to see solar power take off and "shine." The Sun has an enormous amount of energy that is just wasted away everyday, if we could figure out how to harvest the Sun’s awesomeness, solar could become a bright light in an otherwise dark arena.

The front runner right now has to be hydrogen fuel cell technology. Honda, (Hello again Honda) also has developed this type of technology. The Honda FXC Clarity basically runs on hydrogen, which is one of the most common elements on earth and produces only water as a byproduct.
“I’ll never be dehydrated again.”
Although this is, in my opinion, by far the best option, this technology still has its downfalls, it still uses batteries (albeit smaller and longer lived) to store energy and as you may know, hydrogen is extremely combustible. ie, those movie scenes where two cars crash and there is a huge unrealistic explosion, those could become a reality. Yes, some of these cars are driving on the roads as we speak. Be aware!

Also, if we modeled hydrogen refuel stations the same way we have gas stations, with large storage tanks, we would be basically planting small hydrogen bombs all around cities. Yup, it’s happened.

I find it amazing that we can make cellphones that are basically mini computers and put people into space, yet we can’t seem to find the right blend of technology to make a car that doesn't create a large amount of pollution.

What do you think? What’s the best “green” car technology? Would you pick one of these mentioned above over another differently than I did? Do you like action movies with car explosions? Comment below!

*Whether correlation equals causation between man made green house gases and ozone depletion is still an ongoing debate.

1 comment:

E. Thomas said...

I like anything to fuel my car except gasoline. I don't really mind if it's electricity, because we can make electricity from a lot of sources including nuclear fission and alternating magnetic fields (like the roads in Minority Report).