As experts continue to argue about whether or not there is real evidence to support the arguments concerning global warming, and as petrol reserves continue to be depleted and economies around the world feel the chill of an unprecedented economic crisis, the call for green vehicles is becoming stronger and more and more mainstream. Individuals, governments and car manufacturers alike are pushing for more environmentally friendly cars, trucks and motors bikes and we are seeing an increasing number of hybrid vehicles and electric cars launched onto our domestic motor market. But is it all just lip service? Just how “green” are all these new vehicles?
Diesel Vehicles – It’s taken a while, but diesel cars are finally becoming fashionable due to the belief that more diesel-fuelled vehicles on our roads will mean a reduction in greenhouse gases. Advocates of diesel point to its fuel efficiency, stating that diesel vehicles give more mileage from a full tank than equivalent petrol powered ones. This may be true, but diesel also contains a higher level of carbon than petrol and it is carbon emissions that are supposedly exacerbating environmental problems. When all things are considered it seems that diesel vehicles are a slightly better option than petrol-fueled ones, but not a long-term pollution solution.
Hybrid Vehicles – Hybrid electric vehicles are getting a lot of media coverage at the moment with green cars like the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid hailed as examples of the way the motor industry is heading. Certainly, hybrid vehicles have an encouraging track record when it comes to cutting emissions and helping to save our planet. Though there are many kinds of hybrid vehicle, the dominant form is powered by a combination of a regular petrol engine and an electric motor, or motors. The vehicles duel nature means that they produce less carbon emissions than a regular car with the added bonus of saving the motorist money due to their higher fuel economy. Again, the hybrid car is not perfect; there are still environmental costs involved in driving one. However, they are definitely a step in the right direction.
Electric Vehicles – Once considered a bit of a joke, and apparently little championed by the motor industry itself (check out the movie Who Killed the Electric Car?) the past 2 years have seen a renaissance in electric cars with them being heralded as the green vehicles of the future. The success of makes such as the Reva G Wiz in the urban centres of the UK and France has seen the promise of more electric vehicles from automobile manufacturers the world over, including companies who supply large sections of the Australian car market like Toyota and Mitsubishi. Electric vehicles require no direct fossil fuel input, running instead on a generator or, most usually, on batteries. Clearly, plugging your car into a power point in the garage at night and then driving off in it in the morning, rather than heading over to the petrol station once a week and filling up its tank with petrol or diesel is a huge step towards lowering greenhouse missions.
However, there are still a few stumbling blocks to be overcome if the electric vehicle is to replace regular petrol powered cars on our streets. Firstly, electric vehicles tend to need recharging on a fairly regular basis and often for an extended period of time, which means that electric cars might be an eco friendly vehicle for the stop-start, short distance commuting of a city, but are not really up to longer hauls yet. Secondly, though they are undoubtedly far more environmentally friendly than either diesel or hybrid vehicles to date, they still come at an environmental cost. Let us not forget that electricity comes from power stations and more power stations produce their energy by burning fossil fuels than from any green alternative. A truly green vehicle would carry its own low emission generator and most of those are still on the drawing board.
Also, on the whole, the electric vehicle is still not quite as sexy as some of it’s fuel-guzzling rivals and sadly, looks, torque and roar are fairly important to many people when they are choosing their next car.