For centuries, humans have endeavored to enhance their quality of life that brought them from the Stone Age to this contemporary era of information technology. The automobile industry is an indication of humans’ development, as the construction of a horseless vehicle was the foremost step in this series almost 150 years ago followed by the production of a gasoline vehicle by Charles Duryea in the year 1892 in the USA that changed the perspective of automobiles globally (Peckham, 2005).
Since the last century, the automobile industry has shown rapid progress, and nowadays, cars have become a necessity of every home, and,= such demand has put the automobile industry in the ranking of billion-dollar industries around the globe.
Some of the experts have recognized the role of the automobile industry as the most contributive sector that has changed the lifestyle of humans, as it has provided a sense of independence and authority to travel around the world (Peckham, 2005). While allowing leisure and convenience, it has resulted in a few adverse effects as well that have been very detrimental to the environment, and subsequently, the human society.
In particular, environmental pollution is one of the most flawed perspectives of automobiles that are causing health effects as well. Several studies have indicated that automobiles have now become the top contributors of air pollutants around the globe, and such an adverse impact on the environment has inclined some experts to carry out researches and experiments on the effects of automobiles on the environment (Kay, 2001).
To identify the problems associated with gasoline cars both to human health and the environment; and will endeavor to propose solutions that can be used to curb such negative issues besides offering sustainable motoring.
Automobiles and the Environment
Experts have specified that until now, hydrocarbons have been the most dangerous contaminants from the automobiles (HEP, 2006). These pollutants, in particular, cause pollution by emitting nitrogen oxides into the environment. Recent studies by HEP (2006) have indicated that such hydrocarbons are the major cause of depletion of the ozone layer that results in overheating of the planet because the ultraviolet rays from the sun reach directly at the surface of the earth.
The global warming phenomenon is a direct consequence of the accumulation of chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere. The huge number of heart, lung, and skin diseases that are on the rise today is because of air pollution by these compounds. Cancer is another terminal disease that has resulted from environmental pollution by automobiles and other machines using gasoline.
Narrowing down to the manufacturing industry of gasoline and diesel vehicles, one finds a flurry of activities run by huge machinery that uses fossil fuel, the emission of which causes unprecedented pollution to the environment. Noise pollution is also a major type of pollution that results from the movement of automobiles besides air pollution. In urban settings, for example, automobiles are the topmost contributors to noise pollution in the environment, four times louder than an AC that is detrimental to human health.
Few experts have noted that the production and the huge demands for automobiles have inclined governments to redesign the natural landscape for creating roads that have had another impact on the environment (Kay, 2001). In other words, the success of the automobile industry is itself a significant cause of environmental deterioration, especially in urban settlements.
Statistics have shown that gasoline automobiles and trucks use more than 25% of the world’s total petroleum. In Canada, approximately thirteen million automobiles are roaming in different parts of the country. Such huge ownership of cars and oil consumption by gasoline vehicles has resulted in crucial environmental issues (Seavey, 2006). This gross environmental neglect has seen experts and stakeholders of the automobile industry attempt to identify alternative solutions to the adverse impact of gasoline automobiles on the global environment.
Hybrid Cars and Green Environment
Specifically, advancements in the automobile industry have enabled manufacturers to build hybrid, electric, solar, and hydrogen cars that are running without gasoline, and are indicating greener prospects for the automobile industry. Besides, some of the other substitutes are methanol, compressed natural gas, et cetera. A few studies have indicated that several alternative vehicles are still depending on gasoline for their ignition (Vance, 2008). However, the production of such vehicles, especially electric vehicles, will still be efficient enough to reduce gasoline consumption by 25% that will be significant in reducing adverse effects on the environment (Hawaleshka, 2002).
According to Rogers (2006), a hybrid car that combines both gasoline and electricity to power its engine can be anecdotal to the environmental pollution that pure gasoline cars cause. He says that these cars are already in the market at affordable prices.
Given that fossil fuel as a source of energy is exhaustible, it means that in the future, it will be no more, and therefore, if alternative renewable sources are not explored then the man will get back to the horse-driven cart. Fortunately, these alternative sources have been discovered and are doing pretty well compared with fossil fuel. The fossil fuel is fraught with harmful gases that pollute the environment, whereas these alternatives such as electricity, hydrogen, solar, et cetera are clean, hence retaining the greenness of the environment.
Rogers further elucidates (2006) how these cars can be used effectively and efficiently to cut costs on fuel. He begins by admitting that gasoline produces more power per pound that does electricity of the same quantity. Actually, “it takes about 1,000 pounds of batteries to store as much energy as 1 gallon (7 pounds) of gasoline.” (Rogers, 2006, p. 11). Given this disparity, he says that it is prudent to drive a hybrid car on gasoline on a highway or on a hilly terrain where a lot of power is needed to push the car, and use electric powered engine while little energy is needed.
In so doing, one uses little gasoline and subsequently cuts costs on fuel, for electricity is often cheaper and does not dent one’s pocket. Moreover, by switching from electric to gasoline transmissions, the environmental pollution by fossil fuel that originates from gasoline engines is reduced drastically. This, in turn, helps a great deal in conserving the environment.
Cynics of the electric or hybrid vehicles have argued that production of such vehicles emits a high amount of lead in the environment, which is another way of polluting the environment, and that in the coming years, these vehicles will be polluting the environment in the same manner as gasoline cars (Today’s Science, 1995). Ethanol, for example, is very dangerous both for human health and for the engine.
A high concentration of ethanol in a gasoline engine results in the emission of carbon monoxide, which is a very toxic gas, besides other hazardous air pollutants such as acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. The latter are respiratory toxicants, and they contribute to ground-level ozone formation. Nevertheless, a hybrid car does not use gasoline all through when it is in motion. The intervals of electricity for transmission save the excess emission of dangerous pollutants in the environment. It cannot be disputed, however, that gasoline has pernicious gases that are emitted at the tailpipe, but this does not put hybrid cars and conventional cars at the same level.
Advocates of hybrid automobiles have responded with the arguments that technology has been very efficient in enabling the automobile industry to build vehicles that are more compatible with the environment, and they are optimistic that further advancements will result in more efficient gasoline vehicles (Caruba, 2001).
For example, it is common knowledge for automobile manufacturers that gasoline engines produce lethal tailpipe emissions and, therefore, they have endeavored to reduce the risk of the emission by trapping these pollutants leaving only carbon dioxide to be released. Previously, it was not known that carbon dioxide could be as pernicious to the environment as it is today, otherwise, it could also be trapped before getting to the tailpipe.
Besides using dirty hydrogen fuels or gasoline to ignite electric cars, compressed natural gas has so far been the most affordable and effective solution as an alternative to gasoline for the automobile industry (Anonymous, 2007). In the USA and Canada, approximately 0.1 million cars are already CNG that has indicated cleaner emissions. Automobile manufacturers are cleaning up their processes, dedicating special attention to the reduction of emissions. They also ensure that industrial waste is recovered for further processing, and a greater amount of budget proportion is allocated to the development of other sources of fuel other than gasoline and ethanol.
The emphasis is also made on recycling where new technologies are developed for the facilitation of the use of recycled materials. Vehicles are also designed with materials that can be recycled. According to Mildenberger & Khare (1999), European and U.S. automobile manufacturers have collaborated to establish a recycling infrastructure for better handling of end-of-life vehicles. Moreover, automakers have started putting explicit fuel economy targets for their cars and have further set environmental standards for their service stations.
On the other hand, electric or hydrogen cars are expensive, thus keeping their production in a gradual process, unlike vehicles compatible with natural gas (Kriz, 2009). The most critical challenge bedeviling the development of hydrogen or electric car concerns the infrastructure for fuel transmission and storage. The reason being, currently there are very few hydrogens dispensing hydrogenating motors though experts say this is the only solution. Put simply, such a radical change in the transportation sector would require investments of billions of dollars, thus making the whole project an exorbitant venture.
After a discussion on the diverse alternative solutions to the automobile industry, future researches are the only option that will allow experts to evaluate the compatibility of different vehicles with the global environment. However, it is expected that further advancements in information technology will play a significant and influential role in providing efficient solutions to create sustainable products for the environment.
The creation of hybrid cars is one such revolutionizing technology. Although it is not possible to completely abandon gasoline to power cars, hybrid technology allows for the use of less of it until a permanent solution that avoids gasoline altogether is found. As mentioned earlier, hybrid cars combine both electric and gasoline to power the engine. This combination can take two forms: parallel and series hybrid.
In a parallel hybrid, “a fuel tank supplies gasoline to the engine, but it also has batteries supplying power to an electric motor” (Rogers, 2006). The electric motor and a gasoline engine and, in parallel hybrid cause the transmission simultaneously, thus making the wheels rotate. That is the gasoline engine does not power the car directly in this kind of hybrid.
Apart from the creation of electric or hydrogen vehicles, governments must take steps to provide awareness to the people that will be beneficial in reducing oil consumption at the individual level. Rogers (2006) has extensively discussed how hybrid cars can be efficiently used to reduce fuel consumption and enhance a clean environment. Hybrid car significantly increases the mileage and, at the same time, reduces tailpipe emissions of a gasoline-powered engine while overcoming the limitations of a purely electric car. Hybrid cars substantially save gasoline if driven the way it is meant to be driven. The use of little amount to cover a high mileage means making economical savings and cost of running a hybrid car cheaper compared to conventional gasoline cars.
To get the best out of a hybrid car, Rogers (2006) enumerates driving habits that must be adhered to. Driving slower reduces the aerodynamic drag on the vehicle, unlike when it is driven faster. Reducing the speed of a hybrid car while driving, therefore, increases its mileage. Maintenance of constant speed is also another efficient way of driving a hybrid car. Every time the car is accelerated, it consumes energy, some of which go to waste when it decelerates.
The efficient use of gasoline is, thus achieved by maintaining a constant speed of the hybrid car. Lastly, avoidance of abrupt braking also helps conserve energy. When a hybrid car is stopped, “the electric motor assumes the role of a generator and takes some of the energy out of the car while slowing it down” (Rogers, 2006). Giving it more time will make it recover more energy than when instant brakes are applied.
No doubt, automobiles will always remain an important and essential part of human society and technological advancements will only provide more choices to individuals, and this war will continue between leisure, convenience, and the environment. Furthermore, likely, car ownership will also increase in the coming years, and it is hoped that such huge demand will come along with environmental solutions.
The future of hybrid cars as the best alternative for gasoline cars is bright given the introduction of SUVs in the market. However, some refinements need to be done to hybrid cars to make them more powerful than their gasoline-powered counterparts. Currently, hybrid cars are small and not powerful, and when driving one feels as though it is a miniature machine. The first generation of hybrid SUVs are perhaps powerful, but cannot match gasoline SUVs.
Moreover, their costs are too high for middle-income earners to afford. It is hoped that new technologies will enhance the power of hybrid cars and maintain its fuel efficiency and environmental friendliness. Researchers at the University of Southern California, for example, are currently working on a solar-powered hybrid vehicle that will be almost 100% free from harmful emissions (Rogers, 2006).
The paper set out to identify the problems associated with gasoline cars both to human health and the environment; and has endeavored to propose solutions that can be used to curb such negative issues besides offering sustainable motoring. Fossil fuel from which gasoline that powers the engine of cars originate is fraught with these lethal compounds and are often products of tailpipe emissions.
Given the exhaustibility of fossil fuel, its usage as a source of energy cannot be sustained for ages to come, thus, leaving automakers with little option but to find other renewable sources of energy. Consequently, electricity, solar, and hydrogen have been experimented on as potential replacements of fossil fuel, taking into account environmental safety. Hybrid cars that combine gasoline and electric energy to power its engine resulted from this search for a lasting solution to the problem of gasoline-powered cars.
Not only are they fuel-efficient, but they also provide clean energy that does not pollute the environment. The paper has discussed some of the significant aspects of automobiles and their impact on the environment. It is an expectation that it will be beneficial to students, teachers, and professionals for a better understanding of the topic.
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