Friday, 15 August 2014

GUEST - The future is green; the increase in popularity of eco technology in cars

When looking at the latest technologies in cars it’s hard to overlook the massive industry wide adoption of developing environmentally friendly technology. From the Tesla electric car company selling more completely electric powered cars each year to the crossover hybrid car models from makers such as Porsche and Jaguar, the reason is obvious; more and more people are looking for green alternatives.

This is largely for two reasons, the changing perception of environmental concern and the raising prices of car fossil fuels. Over the past ten years global warming and greenhouse gases have become widely accepted scientific facts, with very few people nowadays denying climate change is happening.

On top of this, we are becoming more and more aware of the tumultuous and temporary supply we have of petrol and diesel, with prices seeming to constantly be on the rise. Such an expense is becoming too much for people to bear when there are so many other exciting developments.

Within this blog we’ll be looking at a few of the green technologies that are changing the automotive industry, and what exciting futures they promise.


Hybrid/ Plug - In Technology

Even if you aren’t particularly green tech savvy, you’ll have heard of hybrid cars. These are a halfway between a car powered by electricity and a more conventional fuel source. The batteries are normally powered through the engine working a dynamo or from the wheels rotation, however, the latest development has been investigating different and more effective ways to power these batteries.

Over the past few years hybrids have become more and more popular around the world. They have become known not only as a reliant and green vehicle, but also can help save money on the road. Government’s have embraced the hybrid’s low emissions and have offered tax breaks to owners of these cars, helping to further reduce road costs. In the UK you can dodge emission and congestion fees when travelling to London when behind the wheel of a hybrid.

As hybrids have been gaining momentum, so too have electric cars. Ideal for short distance city driving, rather than relying so heavily on petrol and diesel you just plug them in and charge them up. Hybrid car manufacturers have taken note of this, and have begun to produce plug in hybrid vehicles. This means further reductions to a reliance on fossil fuels.

In the UK and US, public charging stations are spreading like wildfire, from the standard mains power source to a super quick charging stations, the developments in infrastructure have meant that these cars are becoming increasingly appealing.

Whilst hybrid cars aren’t anything new, the industry’s heated interest in them certainly is. Now, nearly all car manufacturers are producing at least one model of hybrid cars, if not multiple types. With companies like Ferrari even showcasing the green technology with their concept hyper-car La Ferrari, they’re only going to become more and more common on the roads.

Solar Power

Hybrid and electric technology is great, however, a criticism that can still be raised for this green endeavour is that it still relies on fossil fuels, due to its dependence on mains powered electricity. Car companies and local governments have noticed this and are looking into what different ways to change how we use and fuel our cars.

Possibly the most publicised of these is solar power. Solar panels are already used for a number of things in the household, from producing a portion of domestic electricity to heating water supplies, they’re an excellent way to reduce the use of nonrenewable energy whilst also saving some extra money. It makes sense then that they would adopt this technology in powering the car batteries.

This has happened in two ways, installing solar panels on cars, and on infrastructure to support the charging stations. This year, Ford unveiled their Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept and impressive family vehicle that will absorb power from the sun whilst being driven and parked. The dream is that this car will be able to drive for 21 miles powered only by the electricity.

This technology, however, is not fully developed yet, as it would take a weeks worth of direct sunlight in order for the car to receive full charge to benefit from that 21 miles petrol free. With the potential concerns of buyers as to whether the solar panel also poses an eyesore, it’s probably safe to say that this technology isn’t going to be adopted on a Ferrari or Porsche anytime soon.

Instead, alternative fuel developers are looking towards utilising the larger surface area provided by commercial and domestic buildings to charge up the cars on solar power. These are ranging from purpose built solar panel charger stations, to car park towers providing shade and charging abilities. The addition of solar panels to a residential driveway means that many electric car owners can benefit from a constant and steady supply of solar power all day, to charge their cars upon their return.

It looks set to be a mix of both infrastructure and vehicle technology to make a fuel free future a reality. It doesn’t stop here, however, as there looks to be a new environmental contender to the scene.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell

For a long time hydrogen the fuel cell has been discussed as a miracle fuel source for cars and vehicles across the world. Not only would it completely cut the need for fossil fuels but also for mains electricity within a vehicle’s everyday usage. The only waste product a hydrogen cell produces is water.

Clearly, this is an exciting development in the green community. For the past few years though, it’s been seen as a bit of a pipe dream. The high costs involved in producing the actual fuel cells, combined with the limited usage - around 300 miles is the highest so far - they have made it a tall order to introduce to a buyers market.

Yet this has not discouraged car manufacturers. Last year saw the release of the first mass produced hydrogen cell car in the form of the Hyundai ix35, with more set to follow suit. Whilst sales haven’t been excellent, this looks set to change when green car technology giants Toyota steps into the fray.

Famous for releasing the first truly successful hybrid, they’re planning on selling their own line of hydrogen fuel cell cars across the world through 2015. Great news, you may say, but what about topping up the fuel cell after the 300 miles? Well, that may take a little longer.

The only major announcement of hydrogen cell stations has come from the state of California, where they hope to bolster their number of hydrogen cell stations up to around 70 by 2016. This is promising, however with the high costs of fuel cell cars of around £60,000 for the UK ($100,000 Stateside), it’s not going to be wrestling away too many plug in car sales immediately.

Green Technology

Green technology continues to be on the rise, and both shoppers and manufacturers are becoming more savvy to the business of environmentally friendly technology. Be sure to expect more of these types of developments in the coming future, as more people try to reduce car costs by turning away from expensive nonrenewable fuel sources.

This article was written by Jennifer Smith on behalf of Evans Halshaw, the UK’s leading car and van retailer.

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