Government agencies have been told to stop using official vehicles one day a week based on their license plate numbers, according to a notification for an energy-saving and emission reduction program to be implemented across the country. The program, part of government efforts to protect the environment and promote sustainable development during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), was published on the central government’s official website Tuesday. According to the program, the measures were specially designed for various fields, such as enterprises and schools. Some Web users applauded the government’s efforts, while others questioned the feasibility of limiting the use of government vehicles.
Lian Peng, a freelance writer, wrote on his Sina Weibo microblog that it was difficult to distinguish private cars from official ones, and the ban would result either in drivers using two license plates, or the government buying more vehicles. A pilot project for government agencies to use bicycles will be launched. Government workers’ autos were also encouraged to be parked one day a week based on plate numbers. Niu Fengrui, director of the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, praised the positive efforts made by the government to reduce emissions.
However, such efforts would not have apparent effect, Niu told the Global Times Tuesday. Niu suggested that the root of the problem was energy supply, and the fundamental approach should be to develop technologies and adopt better equipment to improve efficiency, as well as change lifestyles and production methods. Zhu Lijia, director of the public research department of the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times such measures will not actually promote the reform of the official vehicle system, and would not impact the core of the system. Military told to cut emissions
The government’s efforts to save energy and reduce harmful emissions have spread to a new front: the country’s military. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and armed police should work to build energy-efficient barracks and develop energy-saving models for logistics, consumption and training, said a nationwide emission-reduction plan. “Efforts to save resources in the military are an important part of the country’s energy-saving and emission-reduction efforts,” the plan said. It lays out that the PLA will scale down administrative expenses, make greater efforts to conserve fuel, procure environmentally friendly products and recycle military uniforms. PLA garrisons will coordinate their use of civilian vehicles with local governments to enhance transportation efficiency. Xinhua
It is possible that no invention has had as profound an effect on society as the passenger automobile. It did not take long after its introduction in the early part of this century for the auto to quickly become the primary means of transportation in the United States, where there are now 752 motor vehicles for every 1,000 people (World Almanac 211). While no other country can match the excessive automobile use of the U.S, it’s not for lack of trying. Even in China, where the use of bicycles by its citizens is legendary, the number of cars has been doubling every five years for the past 30 years (World Resources Institute, hereafter “WRI” 172). But reliance on cars is not without its problems&emdash;the most obvious being air pollution and energy consumption.
Pollution by cars causes lung cancer, respiratory problems, urban smog, and acid rain (Brown 25). By 1970, after decades without government regulation, air quality had become a serious problem. The first federal Clean Air Act was passed during the Nixon Administration to curtail the ever-increasing amount of pollution caused by automobiles and industry, and Congress passed an updated version in 1990 (WRI 182). However, the Clean Air Act didn’t prohibit pollution; it simply defined an “acceptable” amount. Further, the legislation addressed only certain airborne contaminants, while ignoring others. Perhaps most significantly, although bad air was outlawed, it still exists.
More than half of the people in the U.S. live in areas that failed to meet federal air quality standards at least several days a year (30 Simple Energy Things You Can Do to Save the Earth, hereafter “30 Simple Things,” 11), and around 80 million Americans live in areas that continually fail to meet these standards (WRI 63). Despite the Clean Air Acts, the reality is that air pollution continues to be a major public health problem. As bad as the air is in the U.S., in other countries which have waited too long to address the pollution caused by cars, it’s worse. Mexico City, São Paulo, New Delhi, and Bangkok are grappling with serious air problems. And much of that pollution is caused by private automobiles (Brown 25).
Pollution: Ground-Level Ozone
One way cars create pollution is by contributing to the amount of ground-level ozone (not to be confused with the atmospheric ozone layer). In the atmosphere, the ozone layer shields the planet from harmful ultraviolet radiation rays. But on the ground, ozone is another matter, causing hazy smog and respiratory problems. Most ozone pollution is caused by motor vehicles, which account for 72% of nitrogen oxides and 52% of reactive hydrocarbons (principal components of smog) (30 Simple Things 11). The seriousness of ground-level ozone should not be underestimated. According to the World Resources Institute: Ozone pollution has become widespread in cities in Europe, North America, and Japan as auto and industrial emissions have increased. … Breathing ozone concentrations of 0.012 ppm&emdash;levels typical in many cities&emdash;can irritate the respiratory tract and impair lung function, causing coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain … Evidence also suggests ozone exposure lowers the body’s defenses, increasing susceptibility to respiratory infections (65).
Cars also pollute by emitting lead from leaded gasoline. Although the use of lead in gasoline is banned in the United States, leaded gasoline is common in other countries. In fact, of the countries for which data is available, 43% use nothing but leaded gasoline. Many of the rest use at least some leaded gasoline in their energy mix. This is a definite cause for concern: One of the oldest metals used by humans, lead is a cumulative neurotoxin that impairs brain development among children and has been connected to elevated blood pressure and resulting hypertension, heart attacks, and premature death in adults.
Emissions from vehicles is the largest source of lead exposure in many urban areas (WRI 266-267). The effects of all this pollution on human health are unsettling. A study of U.S. cities found that mortality rates were 17-26% higher in cities with the dirtiest air compared to those with the cleanest air. Not surprisingly, the study also found correlations between bad air and lung cancer and cardiopulmonary disease. The risks translate roughly to a two-year shorter life span for residents of dirty-air cities. On a global basis, estimates of mortality due to outdoor air pollution range from about 0.4-1.1% of total annual deaths (WRI 63-64). In the U.S., 30,000 people die every year from automobile emissions (“Bicycling and Our Environment” 1). [Also see our separate page on lead.]
Pollution: Global Warming
Perhaps even scarier than the direct damage to our bodies from auto pollution is the fact that car emissions are contributing to an overall warming of the entire planet, which could destroy the world’s food chain. Cars emit carbon dioxide (CO2), a heat-trapping gas. In fact, they emit a lot of it: 20 pounds per gallon of gas burned (NRDC 12, Zuckermann 29). Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have increased by 30% since preindustrial times, and much of that increase is directly related to the burning of fossil fuels. According to the Worldwatch Institute: “CO2 levels are now at their highest point in 160,000 years, and global temperatures at their highest since the Middle Ages” (Brown 26). The effects of this global warming are frightening: rising sea levels, dying coral reefs, spreading of infectious diseases, and extreme weather conditions, including droughts, rare forest fires, historic floods, and severe storms. Even more frightening, these events are not just predictions&emdash;they’re happening right now (Brown 26).
The amount of energy used by automobiles is staggering. Transportation of all types accounts for more than 25% of the world’s commercial energy use, and motor vehicles account for nearly 80% of that (WRI 171). In numerical terms, the figures are hard to comprehend. The world used over a trillion liters of motor gas in 1995. And the U.S. accounted for 46% of that total (WRI 266-267). In fact, America’s gasoline consumption easily outstrips its production. The U.S. currently imports over half its oil (52%) even more than it did before the oil crises of 1973 and 1979. This dependence on foreign oil has significant economic consequences, and many observers feel that protecting “our” right to oil was the real reason for the U.S./Iraq war of 1991. Americans use large amounts of gasoline not just because they drive so much, but also because they’re extremely wasteful about how they drive. The NRDC notes: “Most cars on the road carry only one person. In fact, we have so much extra room in our 140 million cars that everyone in Western Europe could fit in them with us.”
If every commuter car in the U.S. carried just one more person, we’d save eight billion gallons of gas a year. The one-person-per-car scenario also greatly contributes to traffic congestion, which in turn wastes even more energy&emdash;about three billion gallons of gas a year (30 Simple Things 52-53). But changing Americans’ habits doesn’t seem likely any time soon, as the failure of “High-Occupancy Vehicle” (HOV) lanes makes clear. To encourage commuters to carpool, some communities have designated one lane of traffic on certain roadways as HOV lanes. Commuters can drive in this lane only if there are at least two people in the vehicle. The reasoning is that commuters will want to carpool so they can ride in the uncongested HOV lane rather than being stuck in traffic in the normal lane when riding by themselves.
But as Michael Bluejay points out, these lanes don’t always succeed in encouraging carpooling. A friend and I recently had occasion to drive through Dallas during rush hour, and I had my first opportunity to see how an HOV lane worked. Basically, it didn’t. We passed hundreds and hundreds of single-occupant cars in the regular traffic lanes as we zoomed by in the practically-empty HOV lane. It struck me as really crazy: Whenever I try to encourage people to ride bikes more and drive less, they always whine to me about how ‘convenient’ it is to drive. Well, exactly how ‘convenient’ is it to sit in your car at a complete standstill, adding 30-60 minutes to your morning commute? That’s convenience?! The experience demonstrated to me how far people were willing to go to avoid carpooling. They were willing to sit there like morons, stuck hopelessly in traffic, for the ‘luxury’ of being the only person in their vehicle. Although I was disappointed that the HOV lanes didn’t seem to work, I was at least pleased to realize that all those greedy motorists were being punished with even more traffic congestion, since the HOV lane meant that there was one fewer lane to move all those cars.
Automobiles are responsible for a tremendous amount of air pollution and wasted energy. These problems impact people all over the world, both motorists and non-motorists alike, by affecting their health, their economies, and their communities. Legislation to address air pollution has been only partially successful, and air quality continues to be a major concern in countries all over the world. As for energy use, one can only hope that world leaders find a better way to address this problem than fighting wars over an increasingly shrinking supply of oil.
More stats are available in our Car Almanac.
“Bicycling and Our Environment.” Austin Cycling News. Aug. 1998: 1. Bluejay, Michael. “HOV Lanes.” Bicycling in Austin. Feb. 1998. 22 June 1999. http://BicycleAustin.info Brown, Lester R., et al. State of the World: A Worldwatch Institue Report on Progress Towards a Sustainable Future. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1999. 30 Simple Energy Things You Can Do to Save the Earth. Los Angeles: South California Edison, 1990. World Almanac and Book of Facts. 1996 Mahwah, NJ: World Almanac Books, 1995. World Resources Institute. 1998-99 World Resources: A Guide to the Global Environment. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Zuckermann, Wolgang. End of the Road. Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 1991.
Car Pollution Statistics
Driving cars effects more than air quality. Car pollution statistics point to ground pollution, resource reduction (mining and petroleum products), and health issues as other problems derived from out motorized society. Air quality is an important reason to pay attention to car pollution, but there are other reasons too.|
Car pollution is considered by most people to be a decreasing problem, but it’s actually increasing, due to the large number of cars that are driven each day. Measures are being taken to reduce air pollution, including the manufacture of hybrid cars, the creation of new environmentally friendly fuels, and more, but those measures don’t touch all of the car pollution issues. Learning about car pollution statistics can open your eyes to the myriad problems. If you realize the importance of making changes in your life and car driving habits, then you can make changes to help decrease the amount of car pollution that you release into the air. * FTIR Gas AnalyzerGas purity and emissions monitoring by MKS Instruments On-Line Analyzer www.ccrprocessproducts.com/FTIR *
Car pollution statistics can give you the knowledge that you need to compel you to make changes in your life to lessen your impact upon the environment. Here are a few car pollution statistics that you need to be learn about and be aware of: * SUV’s release up to forty-seven percent more car pollution than the average-sized car. * The amount of car pollution that is released from cars is much more than the amount of pollution released by a nuclear power plant. * Ozone pollution is primarily due to the pollution that is released by cars. Seventy-two percent of nitrogen oxides and fifty-two percent of hydrocarbons, which is a component of smog, are released by cars. * The Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health published a study that suggested that most childhood cancers are caused by air pollution, which can be caused by cars and more.
* There are 752 cars for every 1,000 people in the United States. * In China, the number of cars that are driven has doubled every five years for the past thirty years. * Thirty-thousand people in the United States each year die from conditions that are caused or exacerbated by car pollution. * Half of the people in the United States live in areas that fail to meet federal air quality standards at least several days a year. * Eighty million people live in areas that are continually not living up to these standards. * SUV’s release 28-gallons of carbon dioxide into the air for every gallon of gasoline that is used. * Car pollution has numerous effects, both physically and environmentally, like acid rain, smog, lung cancer, and respiratory problems.
As you can see from the above car pollution statistics, cars have a huge impact upon the health of the citizens, the air, and the environment. That is why it is so important that we find ways to make changes in our lives to help decrease the amount of pollution that we release by driving our car. By using alternative fuels, considering hybrid cars, driving less, and more, you can help make your impact upon the world a little less harsh. Consider these car pollution statistics the next time that you get into your car. You may find that your trip is not as important as you think.
Energy Consumption and the Environment
Impacts and Options for Personal Transportation
In 1973, petroleum shortages caused by the OPEC oil embargo launched the world’s industrialized nations on a search for more efficient homes, factories, and transportation systems. After two decades of attempts to economize, energy use in the residential sector is about the same, industrial energy use is down, and transportation energy use is up. Today, we are more concerned with the other side of the coin – the environmental problems and long-term economic perils of unbridled energy consumption.Trends in Transportation Energy Consumption:Transportation now consumes more than 20% of the world’s total primary energy and produces much of the world’s air pollution. In just 30 years, the number of cars in the world will soar from today’s 400 million or so, to more than one billion. Private transportation will then need 2-1/2 times more energy and produce 2-1/2 times more air pollution. If global trends are projected to year 2100, the world will need 10 times more total energy, and transportation will consume 40% of this much larger pool.(1)Energy Use, Global Warming, and Climatic Changes:Energy use and emissions trends point to significant economic, political, and social problems for future generations.
The greenhouse effect alone could have devastating effects on economies. Without intervention, the buildup of greenhouse gases could reach twice the pre-industrial level as early as 2030. The resulting global warming effect could raise sea levels enough to threaten wetlands, increase coastal flooding, and accelerate coastal erosion. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated that sea levels will rise an average of 6 to 20 inches by 2050. In addition, many unmanaged ecosystems will probably be lost. Changes in rainfall patterns will likely result in more severe droughts, more intense tropical storms, and ultimately, dislocations and reductions in agricultural output. (Despite the increased crop yield associated with higher carbon dioxide levels, the resulting climatic changes are expected to shift agricultural production to regions having less productive topsoil, which would then result in diminished total yields.)About 75% of human emissions of carbon dioxide, the most important man-made greenhouse gas, is caused by the use of fossil fuels.
Fossil fuel use has caused an imbalance in the earth’s normal carbon cycle. Normally, biologic growth absorbs carbon from the environment and then releases it back into the environment when it decays or is burned. New growth then absorbs the carbon again, and the amount of carbon in the environment remains roughly the same. Since the last ice age, the level of carbon in the atmosphere (in the form of carbon dioxide) has varied only about 5%. However, fossil fuel use has upset the balance.Over the earth’s history, large amounts of carbon had been removed from the environment and become locked away beneath the surface where it was ultimately transformed into fossil fuel deposits. Since the industrial revolution, humankind has been removing these deposits, burning the fuel, and releasing the carbon into the atmosphere. The result is a rapid buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide that is unprecedented in the history of human life on earth. No one knows the precise effects, but for better or for worse, average temperatures will increase and global weather patterns will change.
Limited Supplies of Traditional and Inexpensive Energy:Nearly 40% of the world’s energy now comes from petroleum, and another 21% comes from natural gas.(2) Together, these finite natural resources supply about 60% of the world’s energy. If oil and natural gas consumption continued to double every 15 to 20 years as it had for the 100 years preceding 1973, the earth’s entire original endowment of these resources would be 80% depleted in another 30 years or so. As early as 1970, new oil and gas discoveries had dramatically declined and have remained low. In the ’80s, experts estimated that U.S. reserves would last about 35 years at existing pumping rates. More recently, estimates have been revised downward. Considering known reserves and estimated undiscovered deposits, U.S. oil will be depleted in about 10-12 years at present pumping rates. And new finds will make little difference on a worldwide scale.
A new Prudhoe Bay discovery would provide the world with about six months’ oil supply, and a new North Sea find would equate to about three years’ supply.(3)Each year, the demand for oil is increasing by an amount equal to Kuwait’s entire annual production, and for the first time, OPEC has no substantial excess production capacity. Because of declining and more costly-to-recover petroleum reserves, prices are expected to begin rising in the mid to late ’90s, and continue to rise thereafter.(4)Alternative Fuels:The challenge of alternative fuels is primarily an economic one. Although the volumetric cost of methanol (made from natural gas) and ethanol (made from corn) is on par with gasoline, a car running on ethanol consumes 50 percent more fuel and an ethanol car consumes about twice the fuel per mile traveled, in comparison to a car running on gasoline. Consequently, per-mile fuel costs are greater. Natural gas is less costly on a per-mile basis than today’s gasoline, but supplies are finite and the high cost of natural gas vehicle systems generally offset the lower cost of the fuel itself. Although environmentally friendly, hydrogen is both technically and economically challenging due to its high production costs and the difficulty of storing hydrogen on-board vehicles.
Alternative fuels do not save primary energy, but they are cleaner than gasoline. Carbon dioxide levels remain essentially unchanged when alcohol fuels are made from renewable biological feedstocks.Renewable Fuels:Renewable biomass fuels, such as ethanol and methanol, may become economically competitive with petroleum motor fuels by year 2000. But much remains uncertain about the world’s capacity to produce biomass in quantities sufficient to meet future energy needs. Already, about half the world’s solar energy captured by photosynthesis is used by humans, primarily for food and forest products. Total primary energy use in the U.S. amounts to about 31 times more energy than is harvested as crops and forest products, and about 40% more energy than is captured by all forms of U.S. vegetation, combined.
Considering all agricultural crops, forests, lawns, gardens and wild vegetation, the energy contained in annual U.S. vegetation growth totals about 54 quads (quadrillion BTUs), and in year 1990 total U.S. primary energy consumption amounted to approximately 81 quads.Because of limitations in water supplies, nutrients, and arable lands, the amount of energy obtainable from the world’s agricultural resources is limited. Even in the U.S., which has more arable land per capita than any other nation on earth, it may be infeasible to produce biomass fuels in quantities sufficient for the nation’s energy needs. According to Dr. David Pimentel, Cornell University, the U.S. has the agricultural capacity to support a population of about 200 million on biomass energy – only if per capita energy consumption were reduced to half its present level. Worldwide, the ability of the ecosystem to sustain a population at an equivalent of U.S. consumption in the ’90’s is probably limited to about two billion people, or one-third of the existing population.(5) Unfortunately, U.S. population is expected to reach 500 million in 60 years, and worldwide population will reach 12-15 billion near the end of the 21st century.
Economic Implications:The world is entering a period of escalating consumption, declining reserves of traditional energy feedstocks, higher energy costs, and increasing environmental stress, which could have vast economic, political, and social ramifications. As environmental limitations are approached, ecosystems become more unstable. In the future, ecosystem management and environmental maintenance will become more the responsibility of humans rather than nature. The economic impact of higher energy costs will be compounded as the cost of environmental protection and repair is included in the fundamentally higher cost of energy. As a result, varying degrees of negative economic effects are likely.Ultimately, a fundamental restructuring of the way in which energy is produced and consumed, as well as its value and role in the economy, must occur, regardless of the particular energy technology. Reducing the energy intensity of industrialized societies is the most environmentally sound and least economically harmful strategy.
Energy use must be constrained if the interrelated problems of energy supplies, environmental degradation, and economic well-being are to be solved.Transportation’s Role:Transportation is essential to modern economies, and that sector is almost totally dependent on oil as a source of energy. The ability to freely and inexpensively move goods and people is a fundamental link in the economic chain. Today, large changes in the price or supply of oil send shock waves rolling through the world’s financial institutions. Transportation is the most rapidly growing consumer of the world’s energy, and the largest share of transportation’s energy goes to passenger travel. In developed countries, passenger travel accounts for about 70% of the total energy consumed by transportation.The Automobile’s Impact on Transportation Energy Consumption:The automobile is responsible for nearly 90% of the energy consumed for travel in the U.S., about 80% in Western Europe, and nearly 60% in Japan.(6) Today, there are approximately 400 million cars in the world, and sometime around year 2030 the world’s automobile population will surpass one billion.
If driving habits remain unchanged, cars will have to become nearly three times more energy-efficient by 2030 just to maintain that sector’s present consumption. If energy use trends are projected to year 2100, transportation would then have to be twenty times more energy-efficient, which roughly equates to 400 mpg cars (automobile fleet-average fuel economy is now about 20 mpg).Cars in the U.S. have become more energy-efficient over the past two decades, but other developed countries are losing ground and actually consuming more fuel per passenger mile traveled.(7) Europeans are turning more to private cars, and as a result transportation trends and energy use patterns are converging with those of the U.S. But the greatest increase in transportation energy consumption will occur in the developing world. By year 2010, India is expected to have 36 times more cars than in 1990. China will have 91 times more cars, Mexico will have 2-1/2 times more cars, and Eastern Europe and the countries of the former U.S.S.R. will probably double their automobile population.
The rest of the developing world will experience a 300% increase over the same period. In comparison, the number of cars in the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, and Japan will have grown by only 12%-15%.(8)The Automobile’s Role in Atmospheric Pollution:In a typical U.S. city, motor vehicle emissions account for 30%-50% of hydrocarbon, 80%-90% of carbon monoxide, and 40%-60% of nitrogen oxide emissions. Cars and light trucks are responsible for about 20% of the nation’s carbon dioxide, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Motor vehicle carbon emissions are essentially proportional to total fuel consumed.(9) Unfortunately, in the coming decades the greatest growth in the automobile population will occur in developing countries which can least afford clean technologies. The United Nations Fund for Population Activities estimates that, because of rapidly increasing automobile populations, developing countries will be emitting 16.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually by year 2025, or about four times as much as developed nations.
Problems Are Interdependent:Transportation energy consumption and environmental health are interrelated issues. Relieving the demand side of the equation simultaneously relieves the rest. If vehicle fuel economy were doubled, for example, transportation emissions would be essentially cut in half, even if there were no improvement in emission control technologies. If petroleum consumption were cut in half, reserves would be effectively doubled, even though no new deposits had been discovered. With a doubling of vehicle fuel economy, the same number of vehicle miles could be supported on half the investment in exploratory drilling, half the recovery, refining, and delivery expenses, and half the damage to the environment. The same interrelationships would exist with alternative energy sources, regardless of the particular technology.Although each problem, from emissions and resource burdens to economic factors, may yield to their own targeted efforts, alleviating the fundamental problem simultaneously reduces the entire spectrum of associated difficulties.
The Automobile as a Transportation System:Mass transit is often mentioned as an alternative to private cars, but the most effective mass transit system in the world is the automobile. An automobile transportation system provides schedules and routes that are tailored to individual needs. In addition, users individually purchase, maintain, and fuel the transportation device, and only the relatively inexpensive roadways require public funding.The primary tradeoffs for this otherwise ideal system are high energy intensity and high emissions.(10) However, if the automobile is to survive as an economically sound and viable transportation system its energy consumption and harmful emissions must be reduced.The Potential Impact of New Technologies:Today, automobiles operate at approximately 15% efficiency, which means that about 15% of the energy contained in the fuel is delivered to the drive wheels as useful work.
According to the best estimates, it may be possible to double automobile energy efficiency (using conventional powertrains) to about 30% before we run out of ideas. At 30% powertrain efficiency a 20- to 25-mpg sedan would then achieve fuel economy of 40 to 50 mpg. Advanced power systems and reduced vehicle roadloads are necessary in order to make significant gains in automobile energy intensity.Electric cars produce significantly fewer harmful emissions, and they save about 10% to 30% in primary energy (over the entire energy chain). Advanced fuel cell vehicles using methanol reformed on-board into hydrogen may be as much as 2-1/2 times more efficient than today’s cars. Practical automobile fuel cells, however, present enormous economic and technical challenges.In the final analysis, technology alone may not be able to solve the world’s energy problems: partly because of the limitations of technology, but primarily because of the economic realities of alternative energy systems.
And even the most optimistic estimations of the energy savings obtainable with advanced-technology systems still fall short of accommodating the long-term forecasts of transportation’s energy needs.A reduction in personal transportation energy intensity is essential in order to reduce the economic impact and technical hurdles of new energy systems and more costly energy supplies. Energy conservation is the most economically sound and environmentally friendly option.Factors That Affect Personal-Transportation Energy Consumption:Transportation energy consumption depends on the mass being transported and the distance it is transported. The technologies employed determine the efficiency at which the mass is transported. Consequently, energy consumption can be reduced by developing more efficient transportation technologies, or by reducing the transported mass and/or the distance traveled.The factors of distance and mass are determined largely by social and economic structures, and by vehicle layout and configuration.
In order to reduce the distance and mass factors, Paulo Solaria envisions self-sufficient cities like Arcosanti in Arizona in which automobiles are no longer needed. Telecommuting, or working at home and transferring information, rather than people, is another approach designed to reduce overall distance and mass.With revised architectures, and new business and social structures, it is possible to significantly reduce society’s transportation energy needs. The difficulties of such revisions arise from the economic burdens of restructuring cities, and the psychological resistance to large scale changes in social and business structures. The technologies, however, are largely available or just on the horizon.Reducing the transported mass, independently of the distance traveled, can also fundamentally reduce transportation’s energy requirements. Moreover, mass reduction need not affect travel habits, social and business structures, or the architecture of cities. The opportunity for a large reduction in mass becomes apparent when one considers that the vehicle itself is responsible for approximately 92% of the transported mass, while the occupants account for only 8%.(11) Most of the automobile’s energy is consumed to transport itself.
Mass reduction alone can save more energy than the most advanced powertrain concepts.Matching Vehicle Size to Trip Requirements:From the traditional perspective, the “identified problem” contributing to the automobile’s high energy intensity is low vehicle occupancy. Transportation energy intensity is a measure of the energy consumed per passenger mile traveled. When a vehicle is lightly loaded, energy intensity goes up because the vehicle consumes about the same amount of energy (fuel), regardless of the number of occupants. Operating large, multi-passenger cars with only one or two occupants is therefore considered the most wasteful habit affecting the world’s consumption of transportation energy.Worldwide, automobiles operate, on average, with about 1.6 to 1.8 occupants. In the U.S., approximately 87% of all automobile trips occur with two or fewer occupants. The average for work related trips is 1.1 occupants per vehicle. One- and two-occupant trips account for approximately 83% of all vehicle miles traveled in the U.S.(12)If the same number of travelers were condensed into half the cars (car pooling), total automobile energy consumption would be reduced by half. But condensing occupants into fewer vehicles essentially defeats the automobile’s primary benefit.
Trips must then accommodate the needs of other occupants, and the automobile is no longer a private and personal means of transportation.Traditionally, occupancy-rate is considered a behavioral by-product and therefore outside the bounds of vehicle technology. However, if the “identified problem” were redefined, it can easily become a simple technical problem. If the definition were “inappropriate vehicle size” (rather than underutilization of large cars), the solution would then be to resize vehicles so they more closely match trip requirements. Since one- and two-occupant trips predominate, it naturally follows that a category of smaller vehicles designed for one- and two-occupant local and commuting trips would be beneficial.Low-Mass Vehicle Safety:Small, lightweight cars are normally associated with an increased risk of harm. Traffic accident statistics generally support the relationship between vehicle size and injury/fatality rates, with the potential for harm increasing in proportion to the decrease in vehicle size. (The exception is in Japan, where a special category of lightweight “kei” cars actually have a lower fatality rate than conventional large cars.) But with better vehicle designs, historical data can quickly become outmoded.
Cars built today are four times safer than vehicles built in 1969, and they are approximately 10% smaller and 20% lighter. This is due primarily to improved safety engineering and modern safety systems.Although occupant protection becomes more challenging as vehicle size is reduced, it is technically feasible to produce significantly smaller and lighter vehicles that have a high degree of safety. Advanced “hard shell” concepts designed to increase low-mass vehicle safety are already under development in Switzerland. This new approach utilizes a rigid exterior that is largely identical to the rigid passenger compartment of conventional cars. During a collision, the rigid exterior of the smaller car causes the less rigid deformation zone of the larger car to yield and absorb energy. Passenger ride-down space (for deceleration) in the low-mass car is provided inside the vehicle, rather than by the traditional exterior deformation zone.
Occupant deceleration is controlled by elastic restraints and air bags. (13)Vehicle use patterns and operating environment are also important. Cars that operate primarily in the urban environment do not necessarily have to match the crashworthiness of larger cars in order to provide equally safe transportation.New Products and New Market Appeals – The Giant Oil Well Under Detroit:Market positioning, the implied messages in a product’s theme and advertising appeals, can capitalize on today’s environmental and energy concerns, and ultimately have a powerful effect on energy consumption and pollution. The necessary consumer motivations and interests already exist. A shift in thinking that disengages manufacturers and consumers alike from the association of size and mass in relation to value in automobile design is an essential part of reducing transportation’s energy consumption.Significantly smaller and lighter cars, both electric and conventionally powered, are normally envisioned as cheap, underpowered, and unsafe vehicles that have little appeal. Once this premise is accepted, vehicle attributes consistent with the vision naturally emerge and an outline of market potential, profitability, and even vehicle styling and safety then follows suit according to the core idea.
These details can quickly change when the vehicle and the market are seen from a different perspective.By adopting a new perspective on automobile design, new marketing opportunities and new product ideas can begin to take shape. By emphasizing innovative safety features, visually impressive driver information systems, advanced vehicle control and crash avoidance systems, and attractive vehicle layouts and styling, smaller urban cars and commuter cars can emerge as safe, marketable, and even superior, transportation products. Innovative product packaging and marketing appeals are essential for a successful transition to electric urban cars and fuel-efficient commuter cars.Despite today’s “green” orientation, sacrifice and conservation are not especially marketable attributes. New vehicle types must satisfy consumers’ complex psychological needs while appealing to their broad social concerns. Energy conservation and environmental protection must be positioned as an upscale product attribute, rather than as a necessary sacrifice in the name of economic and environmental health.
Energy conservation and emissions reduction are not primary consumer benefits. When manufacturers address environmental concerns with attractive new vehicle themes that satisfy consumers’ psychological needs, a marketable new category of products will have emerged, and passenger-travel energy consumption could be reduced by nearly two-thirds.A Sustainable Paradigm for a Fully Industrialized World:Alternative cars alone will not create a system for long-term sustainability with the expected populations. Although transportation will be tomorrow’s largest single energy consumer (as much as 40% in the long term), combined industrial and residential needs will account for a larger portion of society’s total energy needs.Future generations will probably have to adapt to more expensive energy, and use the world’s resources more prudently. This does not necessarily point to a world of stifling scarcity, but more to a new sense of responsibility, and a new paradigm for product design and the lifestyles that interrelate to form the overall production/consumption/pollution matrix.
Changes in attitudes and behavior patterns can have an enormous impact on the cost to the ecosystem in resources and pollution. Population control and new business and social structures are essential; and new technologies are needed as well.Today’s developed economies, which account for only one-fourth of the world’s inhabitants, have been fortunate to have abundant and cheap fossil energy supplies to fuel their transition into an industrialized world. In a sense, today’s developed societies are similar to yesterday’s pioneers, blazing the technology trail to a new frontier of sufficiency and sustainablity for the world’s future community of developed nations.
Abundant and clean energy from nuclear fusion, along with fuel cell cars and rapid-recharging, extended-range, battery-electric cars, are probably the best hopes for meeting long-term transportation and energy needs. And new frontiers must be pioneered in attitudes and values, which ultimately convert to resource consumption and environmental degradation as they guide behavior. Just as alternative cars do not necessarily imply dull product design or reduced transportation quality, new values and social structures do not necessarily imply compromised lifestyles.
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