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Cars & Trucks

Viable Automotive Technologies

by Tomio Mack, Writer,

In a world where our transportation needs are surrounding oil, the effects of our dependency have put us on to the cusp of change. The simple fact of the matter is people will not abandon their cars. Our current fuels are by no means green and our resources for going green are limited. We are in a new position now where the gasoline at the pumps has climbed past $4 per gallon and fuel efficiency is a priority. But, how do we manage our power needs by caring for the current needs but also creating technologies which will be a viable alternative?

• Hybrid cars are the most fuel efficient cars on the road today and blend the use of an electric motor and gasoline engine. This lengthens the time in between fill-ups, but gasoline still must be purchased to run a hybrid. The introduction of plug-in hybrids could hit the market soon. The option to plug your car into a standard wall outlet creates a hybrid system where the electric motor is used more than the engine.

• The issue of a fully electric car being a viable technology has shown promise and limitation. The issue with electric cars is the fact that the battery is the largest limiting factor. Electric cars simply do not have the range of gasoline powered cars. On top of that, the charge time puts the driver down for a few hours while the car is recharging which makes them somewhat impractical. What if the limiting factor was eliminated and an electric car was created without the use of batteries?To stay green, a resource for electrical energy would be to install solar cells on the roof of the house to take the power for the plug-in vehicle completely off the grid. The ideal situation would be to have the transportation capability but not have to pay for gasoline. There are some fuel technologies in the developmental stages which could one day replace the replace the fuel pumps we see at the gas station and the need for plug-ins.

• Hydrogen fuel cells are a technology that separates hydrogen atoms as a fuel to create an electrical current. Fuel cells are being used in experimental cars to test the practicality and viability of the fuel cell technology. The best part about the hydrogen fuel cell is that atoms are separated and nothing is burned. Once the hydrogen atoms are separated, they are met with oxygen to create water as the by-product. The issue with fuel cells is the source of hydrogen. The resources for green energy are plentiful in our atmosphere and, but hydrogen usually comes attached to polluting carbon atoms. This brings up the question of whether hydrogen fuel cells can be more damaging to the environment in the long run. So far, billions have been invested in developing this technology. If scientists can find a way to separate the hydrogen from the carbon atom, fuel cells could be a viable technology for future automotive applications.
• ZENN cars, a Canadian company, has created an electric car that does not use batteries. Instead, ultra or super capacitors are used to store a charge and provide power for an electric motor. The best part about the super capacitors is the fact that they have an expected range of about 250 miles, but can be recharged in about five minutes. The competing technologies will keep emerging until the most affordable, practical and efficient experimental technology becomes a tangible reality.

Hybrid Vehicles: How They Compare?

by Elisabeth Bailey, Writer,

Of all the vehicles marketed as "green" in today's automotive market, hybrid vehicles are both the easiest to find and the most affordable. So what are they exactly, and how do they rate?

To begin with, the term "hybrid" refers to a vehicle that uses both gasoline and electric engines. Hybrid vehicles are far less polluting that those using gasoline-only --each unused gallon of gas prevents the emission of 19 pounds of carbon dioxide. Most hybrids are even more efficient in city driving than on the highway, as they use electricity for stops and starts.

There are federal and state tax incentives designed to subsidize the additional sticker price of hybrid models. Even with these advantages the top-rated hybrids currently take about five years to pay for their "green" premium in fuel economy.

Here's a quick look at the most popular hybrids on the market:

• Toyota Prius This car is considered a "full hybrid", meaning it uses a 1.5-liter gasoline engine in conjunction with an electric motor. The vehicle automatically switches between the two systems or uses both, as warranted. In road tests this vehicle averages an excellent 44 mpg.
• Honda Civic The Civic is a "power assist hybrid." In essence, this means that the electric motor functions as a large starter motor and sees less use than the electric motor in the Prius. A highly rated vehicle, the Civic hybrid averages 37 mpg.

• Nissan Altima Nissan licensed Toyota's hybrid system for this vehicle--it's the same technology as the Prius. At 32 mpg, however, it compares poorly to its counterpart.

• Lexus GS450h This is the first rear-wheel-drive hybrid sedan on the US market. Although a full hybrid, the GS450h only gets about 23 mpg--just 1 mpg better than the non-hybrid BMW 535i .

• Toyota Camry Larger than the Prius, the luxurious Camry hybrid is a good pick for a family car. It tests at a respectable 34 mpg. Overall, the Prius is the most efficient in its class. It's also the most popular with buyers who identify themselves as strongly concerned with the environment. As fuel costs continue to rise, hybrid vehicles are increasing in popularity with consumers across the board. Why not try testing a hybrid vehicle today? People that own them say they love them!

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