By Joseph Turner
At the heart of sustainability is meeting the needs of today without destroying your children’s ability to meet the needs of tomorrow. Society as a whole is changing rapidly, partly due to oil, the black stuff that is becoming increasingly unaffordable. Therefore let us explore the idea of green or eco-friendly cars. There is some promising green technology being introduced to the market. The best at the moment, in my opinion, is electric vehicles. They do have their own problems granted, like the mountain of used batteries, but they are winning the race in terms of volumes of sales.
Hybrid cars – Prius plug and go
The concept of this hybrid seems sound; basically, when I get home from work, if I remember that is, I plug my car in. Then when I come out in the morning, the rather small battery will power my car for the first twenty-one to twenty-four kilometres. After that, the car will switch to hybrid mode and deliver a tidy 30 km/l. I like the concept, the only thing I am thinking though, as I look at the distance it goes purely on electric is, it’s rather low. I would rather have a car that delivered 26 km/l and ran for thirty kilometres initially when working only on battery, since most of the journeys I make are short. Furthermore, it’s quite hard to find a plug point to charge it at in our cities right now.
Electric cars suffer from many of the same problems as the plug and go, they need to be charged regularly and for an extended period, however I do suspect by 2020, between one and three percent of the population will be driving them. Hopefully the price will have come down a bit as well. One Japanese grocery company is already using electricity to power it’s trucks, saving it a fortune in transportation costs. The main barrier to this is the lack of infrastructure and charging points available both outside homes and in cities. I actually think it is poor form, and the government should introduce legislation forcing new buildings to have outdoor plug points. This will pave the way for companies to introduce their electric cars, current examples include The Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Volt, the G-Wiz and the i-MiEV. In 2011, GM sold 7,671 Chevy Volts and Nissan sold 9,674 Leafs. This makes a total of 17,354 electric cars sold by Nissan and GM, in the U.S.A. With MotorTrend reporting that GM’s total car sales for 2011 were 2,503,820 vehicles, just over 0.25% of GM’s car sales were electric cars in 2011. In India, on the other hand, Reva (currently owned by Mahindra) is the only range of electric cars that have found widespread use, but its penetration in the Indian market is much lower than the penetration of electric vehicles abroad.
Air powered cars
I am actually surprisingly passionate about air powered cars, as I feel they would better suited to longer journeys. However, they have major floors and the technology has a long way to go. They are already making waves, or rather a chilly blast in India. MDI, the company responsible for the product has signed a contract with Tata motors, they are now at the second stage of development, which according to Tata motors website entails “the two companies are working together to complete detailed development of the technology and required technical processes to industrialise a market ready product application over the coming years.”
Hydrogen powered cars
These are still in the development-stage, and the first company to commit to making them is Honda. They aim to be selling them in the thousands by 2020. Essentially the idea is when hydrogen and oxygen combine, you get water and energy, which is exactly what these vehicles spew up, no nasty emissions, just good old H20. We actually have a production date for these as well, 2015, but if you can’t wait till then and are the size of an ant, you can buy mini versions on ebay here.
So, there you have it. The next decade will probably be the most exciting for eco-friendly cars driven by alternate fuels. My hope is that there will be a place for them all, in this new greener world. After all, isn’t it more sustainable if we are all driving round in different cars, using different fuels?