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Sustainable Alternative Vehicles, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

It is no secret that the environment for which we are dependent is on a steady decline. A vast amount of damage has been done prior to our realization that the resources we utilize on a daily basis are destroying the environment. Slowly businesses, organizations, and people are moving towards an eco-friendly production that will not require individual luxuries to be sacrificed, but still protect our earth. A big violator in the environmental crimes is that of the automobile. Finding sustainable alternative vehicles will not only save individuals money, it will help in preserving the environment, one car at a time.

One of the most common forms of alternative transportation on the market today is a hybrid vehicle. Included in the top sustainable models are Honda Fit, Toyota, Prius, and the Nissan Altima, to name a few. Virtually every manufacturer has a car, truck, or sports utility that is environmentally conscious. Research and technological advances are allowing manufacturers to improve continually in their alternative vehicle designs. It is important to consider that even though a vehicle is marketed under an environmentally friendly classification, it does not mean that there is not still a certain amount of damage still, as a result of that vehicles use.

A big advantage to electric cars and hybrids is that there are zero emissions, meaning no air pollution. This is a very big factor in the environmental battle for sustaining alternative vehicles. It is also economically friendly for the consumer. Many models can produce twice the mileage of a traditional car. With gas prices rising on the regular, those types of savings can add up.

As a consumer, one cannot ignore the fact that there are still negative impacts that result from hybrid cars, despite the manufacturer’s best efforts. Consider the effects of gas and the lead associated with them. “Eliminating tetraethyl lead (TEL) from U.S’ gasoline will reduce the blood-lead level in children” (Leve, Hendrickson, & McMichael 1995) Hybrid and electric cars still produce lead which affects the ozone and the environment. The skepticism that goes along with such negative impact on an alternative vehicle will continue to prevent the mass population from investing in these eco-friendly automobiles.

In recent years, economists and planners have developed various techniques for more comprehensive impact analysis, including monetization (measuring in monetary units) of nonmarket impacts such as congestion, crash and environmental costs, and multi-criteria analysis using various scoring and weighting systems (Litman, 2002 and 2004). The hybrid car may reduce emissions by 10% but increase travel and congestion increases by 3%. The purpose of being 10% more environmentally friendly is then reduced greatly by the increased use. There are other factors such as less parking available, more time in commuting due to excess traffic, and higher chances of an accident. These are all factors that need to be considered when weighing the pros and cons of hybrid vehicle. When considering vehicle waste, it is important to remember that the potential damage changes every year. As we evolve, so does our ability to address the excess waste and make necessary chance to eliminate it. Automobiles are responsible for emitting one-fourth of U.S’ greenhouse gases which threaten our global climatic stability and agriculture. They also create an estimated 7 billion pounds of unrecycled scrap and waste every year. That is extremely alarming data facilitated with the amount of damage those vehicles are responsible for. “The largest industry in the world, automotive transportation, is already well along the way to a Factor Four or greater breakthrough in resource productivity.” As hybrids being environmentally friend cars, are being manufactured, the cost is continually decreasing and the benefit increasing. If the vehicle is more expensive and has no real value to the environment, that meaning a largely notable benefit it seems absurd for any consumer to take it seriously or invest extra money in it.

“Natural Capitalism describes a future in which business and environmental interests increasingly overlap, and in which businesses can better satisfy their customers’ needs, increase profits, and help solve environmental problems all at the same time.” (Hawkens, Lovins, & Lovins 1999) By definition alone, it is explaining the focus of most businesses, especially in the automotive field.

The government has been encouraging environmentally friendly changes, going green, in almost every facet of life. Finding ways to cut cost and eliminate the damages being done to our atmosphere. In 2005, President George Bush signed The Energy Policy Act. The act granted $3,400 tax credit for most hybrid cars, and $4,000 for compressed natural gas automobiles. There was also a $7,500 credit available for plug-in or electric cars. Under The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, these credits are still available. Outside of the government providing tax credits, there are also many state level incentives as well to encourage the purchase and use of hybrid, electric, and solar powered alternative transportations. Barack Obama has also committed to spending 150 billion over the next ten years to develop alternate energy.

There are alternative vehicles besides just hybrids. Electric cars and solar cars are both positive examples. Queensland Transport staff conducted a study an on solar powered UltraCommuter. This vehicle rendered quite promising results. In their studies, they showed the solar power that these vehicles ran off of, was more than adequate for their needs. However, the mass majority of the studies were done on trips 20k or less, which is not necessarily reflective of an average commute. This provides a lot of questions as to the reliability and alternative options if the solar power car is not able to be charged for whatever reason.

When considering a solar powered vehicle as an alternative means of transportation, there are specific components that have to be factored in with energy consumption of an electric vehicle. These include, braking losses, tractive energy requirements, battery losses, and electric drive train loss. A 2.5m2 solar array will also supplement the energy necessary for normal driving needs. This will be able to power the vehicle for 13000km of travel or approximately 90% of the average annual travel, of a passenger vehicle.

Solar powered vehicles, even if their presence in the market is 1%, the annual reduction in greenhouses gases would still reach 64,000 tonnes of CO2 each year. (Survey of Motor Vehicle Use 2001) This solar powered vehicle will be able to reach the 91% mark in the reduction of CO2 emissions, which is well below what electric vehicles produce. The UltraCommuter has the ability to reduce greenhouse gas emission in the private transportation sector. The amount of savings that a solar powered vehicle produces makes it a marketable option for alternative vehicles.

According to the US Department of Energy, hybrids and alternative forms of vehicles offer substantial savings on fuel and other emissions. The 2010 Honda Civic Hybrid is made to get 45mpg highway and 40mpg in city. This offers a 38% highway and 20% city savings over the traditional Civic. In additions, PHEV’s use between 40-60% less petroleum than traditional automotives. Depending how long the vehicle is driven on electricity only, there are also substantial fuel savings too.

Taking into consideration the United States has more than sixty percent of their petroleum imported, which the transportation sector uses two-thirds, there could be a large governmental savings as well. Seventy-six percent of the energy used in on-road transportation is consumed by typical passenger vehicles. Considering the environmental changes made to improve fuel efficiency, HEV’s typically cost $.05-$.07 per mile for operating. The traditional vehicle cost double that. The PHEV, cost $.02-$.04 per mile for operation, which is an even greater savings than the HEV’s, and represents under a fourth of the cost for operation than a traditional automobile.

Considering all factors involved, there are notable changes for the environment with the alternative vehicles on the market today. With typical Hybrids, there are enough potential savings for the consumer, in cost of operation, to make it an option, but not enough of an environmental savings to consider that to be a factor. Electric and solar powered vehicles are shown to have a much better effect on the environment, but they are not as easily available, therefore affecting the price. There are a lot of factors that can be improved upon as technology advances to make these vehicles consumer friendly as well. Regardless of which option one chooses, it is important to remember that sustainable alternative vehicles are good options to help preserve the environment for which we live without having to sacrifice the luxuries that we have grown accustom to.

Reference:

Hawkens, Paul, Amory Lovins, & L. Hunter Lovins. (1999)  Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution.  Hachette Digital Inc. 

Hadley, Stanton W. & Alexandra Tsvetkova.  (2008)  Potential Impacts of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles on Regional Power Generation.  Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Esty, Daniel C. & Andrew S, Winston.  (2006) Green to Gold:  How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategies to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage.  Yale University Press.

Littman, Todd. (2004), Transportation Cost and Benefit Analysis; Techniques, Estimates and Implications. Victoria Transport Policy Institute.  Retreived from www.vtip.org/tca

Walker, Simpson G., M. Greaves, D. Finn, & B. Guymer.   The Ultracommuter:  A Viable and Desirable Solar-Powered Commuter Vehicle.  The University of Queensland.

Lave, Lester B.; Chris T. Hendrickson; Francis Clay McMichael.  (1995)  Environmental Implications of Electric Cars.  Science Volume 268.

Hybrid Car Tax Credits: Incentives Fade into Memory.  (2011)  Retrieved from http://www.hybridcars.com/federal-incentives.html

U.S. Department of Energy – Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.  Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center.  Retrieved from http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/vehicles/electric_benefits.html?print

Barack Obama on Renewable Energy.  (2008)  Retreived from http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/barack-obama-renewable-energy/

Survey of Motor Vehicle Use. (2001)  Autrailian Bureau of Statisitcs, Canberra.

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