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What Makes A Green Car Green?

The concept of a “green” car is widely misunderstood. It isn’t just about good fuel economy; the definition runs much deeper than that over-simplistic notion. Let’s take a closer look to define exactly what a green car really is.

Defining “Green”

A broad definition of a green car is a vehicle that reduces its negative impact on the environment. The obvious way to do this is to reduce consumption of fuel. This is one of the primary components of green cars. They achieve superior fuel economy, which helps to sustain the environment. Better fuel economy also saves the consumer money as he or she will purchase less gasoline or none at all.

Lower fuel consumption is possible by reducing the vehicle’s weight and creating a more efficient engine. A lighter car uses less fuel to travel between two points. According to strattonfinance.com, efficient engines have a variety of features, including variable valve timing, cylinder shut off, smart control computers, engine shut off at stop, direct injection, turbo chargers, and petrol-electric hybrid technology. Since green cars save drivers money, they often have long waiting lists for purchase and are more expensive than traditional automobiles.

Low Emissions Technology

A critical aspect of green cars is their reduced CO2 emissions. This is what people mean when they refer to a car’s carbon footprint. Emissions include those from the vehicle’s tailpipe as well as the pollution created during the production of the fuel. Green vehicles produce few, if any, harmful emissions.

Electric cars are the closest we’ve come to attaining a “zero emissions” car. Tesla Motors produces an environmentally friendly battery-powered car that has no exhaust pipe. Flexible fuel vehicles also exist. These operate on a combination of gasoline and ethanol also known as ethyl alcohol, a clean bio-fuel. This style of vehicle makes a minimal impact on the environment due to its decreased emissions.

Natural gas vehicles operate on compressed methane gas, which is very environmentally friendly. However, one must reside in an area with natural gas refueling stations in order to operate such a vehicle. It is important to note that natural gas refueling systems are being built by owners of these vehicles at an increasing rate.

Cars operated by fuel cells in rechargeable batteries are also new to the market. They run on hydrogen working in tandem with our atmosphere’s oxygen to produce electricity. Biodiesel is available in most states. It is a clean, primarily vegetable-based fuel that can run any diesel-fueled truck or car. Using this type of fuel helps to reduce humanity’s unnecessary dependence on oil as it is a substitute for petroleum fuel. Treehugger.com states that biodiesel is created from a variety of sources, including animal fats, vegetable oil, or even oil from the deep fat fryers in restaurants. It burns more cleanly than traditional gasoline and releases less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. All of these green vehicles provide excellent alternative transportation methods that reduce drivers’ carbon footprints.

Gas and Electric Together

Hybrid vehicles also exist. These allow the driver to use both gasoline and electricity, depending on the style of terrain. A noteworthy example of a green car is the Chevrolet Volt. According to askmen.com, the Volt has a single gas engine, two electric motors, and three different clutches. It can be labeled as a plug-in hybrid or as an extended range car. At its core it is an electric car with a gasoline-powered backup power source. The first 30 to 40 miles are driven with the power stored in the vehicle’s lithium ion battery pack. This is also known as a “zero emissions mode” as it produces no harmful pollution. Beyond this initial mileage, the Volt is capable of crossing 350 more miles with the power provided by the gas engine. It is quite the technological accomplishment.

It is important to note that many large, gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles are being labeled as “green” because they have hybrid power train technology. For example, an individual can purchase a Cadillac Escalade equipped with a hybrid power train that consumes enormous amounts of gasoline and emits loads of pollution into the atmosphere. This sort of vehicle is not green at all. It just has the hybrid component of green technology. It can be labeled as a “hybrid” while not having enough to “gain green credentials”.

A Sneak Peek into the Future

In the future green cars will probably be powered by renewable energy sources such as the sun. In a century or less, green cars will likely come equipped with built-in solar panels that release no emissions at all. As Earth’s population surges, we will have to break our dependence on finite fossil fuels in order to travel in the manner that we are accustomed. What we consider to be a “green” car in today’s terms will become the “regular” car of future.


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Chris Countey is a digital marketer for the automotive industry and a car enthusiast. He’s written about cars, technology and companies, including Cerritos Hyundai.