Are The Cars Powered by Alternative Energy Our Future?
Environmental concerns about pollution of fossil fuel combustion and high prices for oil are the main reasons for development of cars powered by alternative energy sources
Cleaner alternative fuels have been discussed for many years but recent revelations about peak oil production add a new urgency to the issue.
Peak oil is the term used to describe an oil field that has reached the peak of its productivity and is on the decline. The potential for peak oil has been found to be increasing globally as millions of barrels of crude oil are moved from the earth every day.
Oil production is simply not sustainable over the long term. Petroleum is a finite product that was created over million of years and is being removed for human consumption at a rate far exceeding what was estimated a generation or two ago.
It is estimated there are one billion vehicles on the roads today and only 47 million cars using advanced technology and alternative fuel have been sold.
Alternative cars are not just one type of new technology. Research is ongoing and widespread to find the best type of alternative cars using energy that is non-polluting and sustainable. In addition, cars must be manufactured that are affordable in order to generate sales.
One type is the flexible-fuel vehicle which combines standard combustion using gasoline with battery or other renewable power source. Brazil leads the world in sales of the vehicles and is followed by the United States, Canada, and Sweden.
In Brazil, alternative energy motorcycles have been increasingly popular with consumers in the past two years and account for one million sales.
Natural gas is listed as a plentiful natural resource though it is not renewable. Many scientists believe natural gas powered vehicles are the way forward for transportation and over 12 million of those are currently in use.
Ethanol has been promoted both as a singular power source but, more often, as an additive to gasoline to reduce emissions. In the U.S. ethanol is routinely added to gasoline today but there are many detractors who claim the ethanol is a political animal more than a useful energy option for cars.
Ethanol is renewable but uses a high proportion of corn and grain in its production and those foods may not be produced worldwide in a quality that will feed the population and provide fuel, too.
There are also experts who claim the ethanol added to gasoline causes damage to automobile systems and reduces the life of the vehicle. If true, this provides an environmental problem elsewhere in disposal of old cars and power used to produce replacement vehicles.
Hybrid electric cars are gaining popularity in the U.S. For a time, these were not practical options for the vast U.S. land mass. Now they are favored due to the discount you can receive on an automobile insurance quote as well as their fuel efficiency.
Our cities and suburbs were not designed for efficient transportation and often large expanses of space must be covered to go from one end of a city to another or to commute to work from the suburbs.
In less populated states, there are often many miles to cover just to get from one town to another. Improved battery technology and the hybrid nature of many electric cars sold today have led to about 3 ½ million of the cars being sold in the U.S. This number may be somewhat misleading.
In recent years, the federal government attempted to boost the sales of alternative cars by offering large tax rebates for people who bought the vehicles.
The way the offer was written was not clear and in the end was discovered to apply to golf carts as well as to cars meant for road travel.
It is unknown how many of the electric cars purchased to take advantage of the government subsidy were in reality handy golf carts for sportsmen and retirees.
The size of the subsidy provided enough money that an expensive four passenger golf cart could be obtained for free by consumers. As often happens with government programs, by the time the problem was recognized the vehicles had already been sold and the rebates collected by buyers.
Low speed and low power "neighborhood" electric cars have been the best sellers in this category. In sprawling subdivisions across the country, the lifestyle is more than a series of individual homes.
There are schools, shopping areas and entertainment venues and these subdivisions occupy large pieces of land. The small electric cars are perfect for neighborhood travel over short distances where speed and power are not a concern.
This is not a bad use for electric cars as waste of fossil fuels in such areas was quite high. Using a plug-in electric vehicle to take children to school, run errands and go shopping reduces emissions and gas usage.
At the same time, the family would also need a larger fossil fuel powered car when leaving the neighborhood so the alternative cars used in this way were additional rather than replacement travel options.
Hybrid or Electric
Hybrid cars use an energy storage system such as a battery to boost fossil fuel energy. Hybrid engines are smaller and a few even use the car's motion to generate additional power.
Car companies are racing to produce as many styles of cars (powered by alternative energy) as they can and this is especially true in the area of hybrids. From a tiny, run-around city vehicle to sports cars, hybrid cars are increasing in power and in style.
It's commonly accepted that some time in the future all vehicles will be hybrid engines. Currently, the options available are limited but as research continues, the options will become broader and the public's acceptance of these vehicles will only increase.
Very Alternative Cars
There have been designs for human powered cars though you might think that's the basic design of a simple bicycle. Steam powered cars and hydrogen cars show potential but have the drawback of safety concerns that must be overcome.
Human waste and even sawdust have been discussed as potential energy sources for human transportation though the technology is at the earliest stage.
Other potential cars might be powered by nuclear energy, water or wood. The options are wide open and the research is proceeding rapidly with new developments frequently announced before the process has been fully vetted.
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