Developments in the media made "go green" the slogan for action to limit the adverse effects of air pollution. Green refers to the color of chlorophyll in plants. Chlorophyll is the basis of photosynthesis that allows plants to turn the sun's energy into life energy. Human action destroys plants and replaces healthy ecosystems with concrete and asphalt. Another slogan that emerged was "save planet earth." Humans will not save the planet. The task for humans is to stop destroying the environments that sustain themselves. If we fail, the planet will do just fine without humans.
General Accounting Office (GAO) cited a German study that estimated theenvironmental impact of electric vehicles with two distinct energymixes: one comprised of only 49% coal-fired electricity, and onecomprised solely of coal-fired electricity .
Gas cars cost people on average thirty-six cents for every mile they drive, but people that drive hybrid cars only spend ten cents for every mile they drive (“Electric”).
A study from the NaturalResources Defense Council and Environmental Defense Fund indicates thatthe replacement of all internal combustion engine vehicles withelectric vehicles in the Los Angeles Basin may cause reductions ofbetween 37% and 99% in all categories of transportation relatedpollutants except for sulfur oxides .
Jesse Ausubel directs the Program for the HumanEnvironment at The Rockefeller University in New York City, whereIddo Wernick is a research associate. Ausubel drafted the 1983National Research Council report, "Toward an InternationalGeosphere-Biosphere Program: A Study of Global Change," the documentwhich originated the IGBP and first employed the term "global change" inreference to environment. David Victor leads the program oncompliance with international environmental commitments at theInternational Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) inLaxenburg, Austria.
This was a little disingenuous—necessity passing as principle. The car companies can’t do full autonomy yet, so they do it piece by piece. Every decade or so, they introduce another bit of automation, another task gently lifted from the captain’s hands: power steering in the nineteen-fifties, cruise control as a standard feature in the seventies, antilock brakes in the eighties, electronic stability control in the nineties, the first self-parking cars in the two-thousands. The latest models can detect lane lines and steer themselves to stay within them. They can keep a steady distance from the car ahead, braking to a stop if necessary. They have night vision, blind-spot detection, and stereo cameras that can identify pedestrians. Yet the over-all approach hasn’t changed. As Levandowski puts it, “They want to make cars that make drivers better. We want to make cars that are better than drivers.”
Tesla Motors’ current efforts focus on making third generation Model X car more affordable and on building the “Gigafactory” to mass-produce lithium ion batteries for its electric vehicles. The company is also facing backlash from some state governments due to its direct sales model that circumvents car dealerships.
Angel Samartino (MBA ’10) is the founder and CEO of Ozone Drive, a cleantech startup dedicated to accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles by allowing individuals to experience the thrill of driving an EV through a 100% electric car-sharing service. Follow their crowdfunding campaign here!
Cities can reduce vehicular traffic by more than 30% over the next 3 to 5 years by improving public transportation. Commuter trains are a model of urban access for suburban residents who drive their cars short distances, park in terminal lots and ride the train into town. Cities can create car free zones and develop park-like corridors that would allow movement through the city by walking, cycling and limited use of small, light electric vehicles in vehicle corridors specially designed to be safe and efficient.
Cloete summarized the limitations of electric vehicle use:" My general concern with electric cars is that they will end up with a very low value to hype ratio compared to other pathways towards a sustainable future. Cars have always been able to stir emotions and electric cars can further augment this natural emotional response with all the emotion involved in the green movement. Given our massive 21st century sustainability challenge of quadrupling the size of the global economy without killing our planet, we simply cannot afford misplaced electric vehicle hype on such a large scale. Compared to gasoline-powered cars, the only unquestionable direct advantages of electric cars are a reduced dependence on oil and lower tailpipe emissions in cities. It is often stated that electric cars are cheaper to fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gasses than regular cars, but this is not generally true. The actual fuel costs of future technologically mature electric cars will be similar to that of gasoline cars. An optimistic estimate for the potential advantages that 100% electric cars can bring to the global economy is about $386/year per car. For perspective, this is about one-third of the cost disadvantage calculated earlier for a future mass market electric car with an 80 kWh battery pack costing $100/kWh. It is, therefore, clear that, on a global scale, the potential positive impact of electric cars is marginal at best. Alternative technological pathways also exist through which this positive impact can arguably be achieved in a cheaper and much more practical manner. (Electric Cars: Massive Hype, Limited Value. July 25, 2016 by Schalk Cloete.)
What Can I do? Drive Less Both local and global pollution would be reduced if each car-driving person pledged to use their car 30% less starting immediately. This is a responsible, individual contribution to a global problem. At least 30% of vehicle use is optional - either recreational or lazy driving when walking, cycling or public transit would be a better choice.
Electric Cars are on the road, under development and promise to become vehicles of choice for urban transportation. Tesla is the best known electric car company that is addressing the need for local battery manufacturing and is building charging stations that are essential for long distance travel in their cars. The new cars represent advances in technology that link computers, electric motors and batteries into systems that drive well, self-regulate, and require little maintenance. The main components are modules that are removed to be refurbished in specialized factories and recycled. One limitation is battery technology. Batteries are heavy, wear out quickly with repeated recharging and require expensive, rather scarce materials such as lithium. Another more severe limitation is obtaining electricity from a non-polluting power source. Even if all the technical problems of building reliable electric cars were solved, there remains a daunting list of infrastructure problems yet to be solved. While electric cars produce little air pollution, generating electricity continues to be a major source of air pollution. If an electric car is recharged with electricity produced by a coal-burning generator, there is no net benefit to the atmosphere. A real solution for car technology would reduce air pollution beginning at source materials and would continue through the use cycle of the vehicle. While is it feasible to use fossil fuels in generation plants with all the latest techniques of emission control and C02 recycling, these plants are uncommon . Before more people plug in electric vehicles, a new infrastructure of non-polluting, affordable electricity production will have to be built.
Hydrogen The ultimate cars burn hydrogen in fuel cells, but despite working prototypes, a hydrogen fuel infrastructure is a distant fantasy. One problem is the low energy density of liquefied hydrogen that requires larger tanks than the equivalent gasoline tank. Another problem is that producing hydrogen requires a large amount of energy. In Canada, there are opportunities to dam more rivers and produce electricity with falling water, a non polluting, renewable energy resource. A science fiction fantasy might include a novel way of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen with less energy consumed but no-one has invented a novel solution. Even if new non-polluting energy sources are developed, hydrogen storage and distribution requires investment in a very expensive infrastructure.