As someone who is ‘trying to do their bit’ with regards to car emissions I have been following quite closely developments in the automotive world over the last few years in relation to ‘green’ cars. I even went as far recently of trying out a Toyota Prius for a couple of days to see if it would work for me – the answer was a resounding no!
There is no doubt that something needs to be done to reduce the effects of motoring on the planet – there are just too many cars out there not to be doing some damage. The motor manufacturers are trying to do their bit (although not for the right reasons – purely due to legislation in most cases).
Toyota / Lexus are the leaders in Hybrid technology – part petrol, part electric, but able to use both to clever effect to reduce emissions (but in reality these are ‘gadgets on wheels’, not the real answer).
Honda and Mercedes have tried with hybrid but are moving towards hydrogen as well (more about that later)
The other arm of eco development is Electric Vehicles (EV’s) – this has been shown to stunning effect in the Tesla a two seat sports car, but rather expensive at £86,000! They have also recently entered into a partnership with Toyota (perhaps Toyota realise hybrids are not as great as they try to tell us!).
At the ‘bottom end’ of the car food chain there are some ‘cheap’ electric cars coming from General Motors (the Volt), Nissan (the Leaf) plus others in the pipeline from Renault and Citroen. The Leaf and Volt are due out shortly, both offer very low emissions (except when their petrol engine is charging the battery) so they must be the answer – right?
Well, no – not in my view, especially in this country. Electric cars are a great idea (until you run out of electricity) they are quiet, totally emission free when running on electricity. But, and its a big but in the UK. The power to recharge has to be generated, and in this country we produce the vast majority of our power from fossil fuels – if you take this into account the EV’s are no more environmentally friendly than low CO2 emitting petrol or diesel cars! But massively more expensive to produce.
The Royal Academy of Engineering have this week confirmed this view and stated that they believe a full ‘de-carbonising of our electrical supply’ needs to accompany the introduction of EV’s.
So we are back to the need for wind farms, wave power, tide barrages and may be even nuclear power in the UK. People need to realise that you have to look at the wider problem – car manufacturers are not trying to save the planet, they are producing low emission cars to reduce the overall emissions of their car range to comply with EU legislation.
Mercedes and Honda’s hydrogen system is very clever – it produces water as a by-product, but again there is a cost to actually produce the hydrogen in the first place. It’s also a bit scary as a gas to keep safely in a vehicle (think Hindenburg!).
Its time for Green issues to become centre stage again with the politicians. In the mean time I will drive my diesel which in reality it appears is as good on emissions as an EV (and costs less in real terms and is nicer to drive).