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Motor Vehicles and Carbon Emissions - A General Overview

The motor vehicles that operate in the world today account for a significant percentage of carbon emissions released by man. Of course, the U.S. accounts for half of all global warming linked to cars worldwide. In 2004 carbon dioxide emissions from personal vehicles in the United States equaled 314 million metric tons. That’s a significant number. The U.S. is responsible for half of all the emissions and pollution from cars in the world!

The are many reasons why our cars and trucks are responsible for a major portion of air pollution. In America we are known for having our big SUV’s monster trucks, gas guzzling sports cars, etc. We consume an incredible amount of fuel, and up until recently we haven’t done much to curb our consumption.

In 2004 U.S. cars and light trucks drove 2.6 trillion miles. Which is the equivalent of 10 MILLION TRIPS from the earth to the moon! The average fuel economy of those cars were 19.6 miles per gallon (now fuel economy has gone up to the low 20s). The gasoline in our cars has about 5.3 pounds of carbon per gallon. Annually we are each responsible for putting 1.5 tons of carbon in the air from the exhaust from the fuel in our cars and trucks.

From our cars and trucks we are raising the temperature of the atmosphere, killing animals, causing cancer, respiratory problems, and a lot more. Thankfully things are starting to turn around (slowly).

Originally a few companies decided to introduce electric cars to a small segment of the market back in the early 90s. These cars had a short run and in total, the numbers of cars sold was tiny. The majority of these cars looked ugly/weak, had no power, cost a ton, and had a horrible driving range. It was argued that the car companies which released electric cars at the time were doing it more for publicity than to actual produce a good product it wished to sell. Car companies knew that oil was still in and the small niche of people who wanted cleaner cars didn’t represent a major portion of the market of car buyers, by any means. So a few companies put out their electric cars in small numbers (50-100k) ended the electric car models, and that was it.

Not much else happened in terms of advancement as a whole industry for clean cars in the 90s. There were technological improvements of course, but no company saw the “Green Car” market as being profitable so they had no reason to produce a car with a high fuel economy.

In The early 2000s things began to change. Oil prices went up through the roof (now oil prices are just unbelievable) and many more average people started realizing just how important it is to curb and reduce emissions, stop pollution, and hopefully save the earth.

Let’s move on to what has changed the market. We are presented with the Toyota Prius. This car has a fuel economy of about 45 miles per gallon, one of the highest fuel economy vehicles you can buy for a standard sedan. This car is a hybrid. It efficiently consumes gasoline and uses electricity generated by the motor to also move the vehicle. This combination of using electricity and gasoline to power a car is a lot more efficient than using gasoline to run a car alone.

There are now many cars on the market that come in Hybrid Models, and Hybrid Exclusive Models. In fact, by Christmas this year Cadillac is releasing a hybrid Escalade SUV. The Escalade is known for complete luxury and horrible fuel economy. The hybrid Escalade will offer about 22 miles per gallon, compared to the 12 - 14 miles per gallon previous model.

Besides personal automobiles, Volvo has begun testing Hybrid Garbage Trucks. These trucks run on Diesel Engines (Which is a lot cleaner than they used to be) and Lithium-ion battery packs. The trucks use electric motors to power them when they accelerate up to 12mph. After that, the diesel motors kick in. These trucks are expected to have 30% less carbon emissions than their non-hybrid equivalents and may be put out in full production if trials go well this year.

Electric cars were also seen as weak too. Technology now offers us Lithium-ion batteries that can store huge amounts of power. Thus, there are specialized companies developing electric cars that were unimaginable just a decade ago.

There’s a company called Tesla Motors based in California, that is designing a sports car called the “Tesla Roadster”. This car looks amazing and has the power of a sports car. It can go over 200 miles on a single 3 hours charge, and it can accelerate from 0 to 60mph in about 4 seconds. The car costs an arm and a leg but major advancements from sports cars like these usually find their way into the common consumer marketplace. It’s also at least 1/4th the price to charge the electric car than to pay the price of gas for an equivalent fuel consuming model.

We have discussed electric motors, hybrid motor cars and trucks, and now I’m presenting you with the final design that will increase fuel economy to cars and trucks that should ultimately help reduce emissions put in the atmosphere by a major amount.

Companies (Ford, Toyota, GM to name a few) are developing hybrid electric cars. Which combine all three sources of power to increase the fuel economy of cars to 100-200 miles per gallon / charge. The car works by running on gasoline (smaller fuel tanks as well), it gets charged, and it also stores and uses energy produced from a hybrid drive system. All three systems work together to compliment each other and offer a huge driving range for the vehicle. 1000 Miles Per charge/fill up are what the manufacturers are aiming for. These cars and crossovers will be released in about 2 years and should make their way into trucks in about 6 years.

In conclusion, motor vehicles have been a huge source of pollution for America and the world for the last hundred years. The major car companies and governments are finally starting to see profits and necessity in curbing emission limits and delivering consumers better solutions. Eventually gasoline will be cut out of the equation but for now hybrid and hybrid electric engines will gain traction.


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