Great concern is now being put into the environment especially about global warming. Many people fear its possible catastrophic effects and thus, mankind is searching for ways to prevent global warming. One of which is by reducing the emissions from vehicles since vehicles make up a huge amount of total greenhouse gas emissions. Vehicle developers are now looking for alternative fuel sources for vehicles such as electricity, natural gas, hydrogen and fuel cells. These are all good energy sources but when incorporated with a vehicle, it may not be cost effective or may even result in more pollution.
Here, we will analyze which energy source has the greatest potential to be used for vehicles. Electric Vehicles Electric cars seemed to be a good bet since it produces virtually zero emissions when used as a fuel source for a vehicle. This however appeared to be a paradox because as these cars consume electricity, more fossil fuels like coal are being burned to produce electricity. Thus, it does not necessarily reduce greenhouse emissions. However, it is argued that it is better for the emissions to be expelled from power plants instead of being expelled from vehicles since it is more regulated in a power plant.
Another advantage of the electric car is that it comes with a plethora of other financial incentives. Such incentives are cash rebates, tax credits and free recharging of the car battery. In some states, free parking is offered for electric cars (Himanshu, 2008). On the other hand, one of the major disadvantages of the electric car is that a battery charge cannot cover an extensive distance that a conventional vehicle can. The range is approximately 50 to 100 miles. Another concern is that the electric car is not capable of reaching very high speeds with only a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour.
It will save you from that over speeding ticket but you would not likely use it for long trips anyway (Himanshu, 2008). Natural Gas Vehicles Cars powered by natural gas promise up to 93 percent reduced carbon monoxide emissions, 33 percent reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides and a 50 percent reduced emissions of hydrocarbons when compared to vehicles powered by gasoline. This kind of vehicle is also safer as the fuel tanks have stronger and thicker hulls. In the United States, there was no reported rupture of a fuel tank of a natural gas vehicle in the past two years.
Natural gas is also cheaper than gasoline. Its price is also more stable and as of present time, there is still an abundant supply of the resource and there exists pipelines that would deliver the resource to many locales. Natural gas is also better because it has lower maintenance costs because it burns cleanly which results in reduced wear and tear on engine parts. This also results in more time in between oil change and tune ups (Harris). It has many advantages but it also has disadvantages. One disadvantage is that it is not roomy because of relatively large cylinders used to store fuel.
It is costs a lot to design and build this type of vehicle. Another flaw is that it has a limited driving range at only about half of a vehicle running on gasoline. It is also still quite uncommon and there are not much refueling stations for natural gas and natural gas is a fossil fuel which means that the resources, even if it is abundant now, is not inexhaustible and may soon be depleted (Harris). Hydrogen Vehicles Hydrogen fuel cells are now being used to fuel cars but just like any other alternative fuel for vehicles, it has many advantages and disadvantages.
Its main advantage is that it produces reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Hydrogen fuel cells do not undergo a combustion process in order to make a vehicle move. It produces electricity to run the car through chemical reactions (TechFaq, 2008). However, hydrogen is a light element; thus, it produces a relatively lower energy per volume compared to fossil fuels. Producing hydrogen fuel cells is also a very expensive process and there is still no technology that could mass produce a hydrogen fuel cell. On the other hand, using hydrogen as a fuel for combustion is not viable since it requires a large storage space.
Using hydrogen as a fuel for combustion, the large storage space and weight make it not fit for an ordinary land transport vehicle. It produces electricity to run the car through chemical reactions. Its weight make it an unreliable alternative fuel source (TechFaq, 2008). Fuel Cell Vehicles Fuel cell vehicles are also one alternative to a more environment-friendly vehicle. This type of fuel source has a high electrical and total efficiency potential, which is higher than a combustion engine. It produces no amount of emissions.
It also needs very little maintenance because of the absence of moving parts. This means no wear and tear in the engine. It is virtually noise-free and it combines heat and power production. As of today, it is still of low efficiency but future studies could further improve it. Research however proves to be much of a challenge. Another disadvantage is that fuel cells have a short lifetime and it costs much. This could be a great alternative fuel for a vehicle but it still needs to be further developed (mini hydrogen). What to choose?
Electric cars are good but it only diverts pollution away from cars and into power plants. Hydrogen vehicles are also a good bet but its bulkiness make it unfit for a regular land vehicle. Fuel cells provide much potential but the technology still needs to be perfected. The best choice would be natural gas but attention should be shifted to fuel cells when the technology is perfected. Why natural gas? Because natural gas, although does not necessarily eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, it reduces it by a very significant amount, whereas, electric cars only shift the emissions to power plants.
Electric cars could be viable if production of electricity does not rely on fossil fuels. Although natural gas is a fossil fuel, it is cleaner compared to gasoline and it could save the economy from rising oil prices since the US has a good supply of the resource. It is cheap and there are already pipelines that could deliver the fuel elsewhere. It could sustain for a couple of decades or until fuel cell technology or another better alternative source of fuel is discovered. Also, its drawbacks are not that hard to solve.