Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Guest Posting: How Are Vehicles Evolving to be Greener?

Clean Air Watch has posted many articles about the importance of cleaner fuels and vehicles and the need for such programs as EPA's "Tier 3" vehicle and fuel standards to complement already adopted fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards. 

In today's Guest Posting, Steve Jordan takes a look at the many positive benefits consumers will experience with cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles:

The Consumer Federation of America’s report “Top 10 Reasons Consumers Want 54.5 MPG by 2025” found some interesting reasons fuel economy standards will benefit drivers and the country. Here are just a few:

  • Fuel economy standards lower the cost of driving, justifying any higher upfront costs and saving thousands of dollars over the life of fuel efficient vehicles.
  • The new standards will prompt and promote more fuel-efficient vehicles from all automakers.
  • Consumers will be able to finance fuel efficient vehicles, as Consumerfed explains.

This is good news for eco-conscious drivers who want to reduce their transportation’s impact on the environment without spending a fortune. And there are a lot of other promising developments on the horizon.

Whether you own an electric vehicle, a hybrid, or a standard gasoline-fueled automobile now, we’ll all soon have different driving options with a wider range of economical eco-friendly features.

Look for less expensive electric vehicles and an expanded network for charging. Networked cars are in the works and could be in use as soon as 2020. Used hybrid cars are also becoming more available as more new models are developed to comply with the new standards.

The Used Hybrid Car Market

Those in the market for a used hybrid gas-electric vehicle have a good variety to choose from at used car sales dealers and private parties, and will enjoy more cost-saving benefits than just the purchase price.

A used hybrid can cost less to insure because some insurance providers offer discounted rates to hybrid drivers. It will save you gas money without the higher price tag of buying new, giving you a better return on investment. The regenerative brake systems on hybrids last longer than brakes on regular automobiles because they use the electric motor to slow the vehicle, also increasing return on investment, according to Travelers.com.

U.S. News Rankings & Reviews reports there are good used hybrids under $20,000 in model years 2009 through 2012. For those concerned about batteries in used hybrid vehicles, hybrid battery warranties are between eight and 10 years, and remain in effect on vehicles when they change ownership. For used hybrids with high mileage that may need battery maintenance or replacement, there are dealers that remanufacture or recondition hybrid batteries for a more economical alternative to new batteries. Hybrid battery reconditioning may be an attractive option for older vehicles with high mileage and damage in the vehicle history that warrants a discounted price.

Less Expensive EVs and More Charging Stations

A breakthrough in nano-material engineering at the University of Wollongong in Australia has led to increased energy storage capacities of lithium-ion batteries used in electric and hybrid vehicles. The new capacity is five times higher than lithium-ion batteries in most current electric and hybrid vehicles. Further development could lead to lighter, more adaptable, and cheaper batteries, bringing the price of EVs down and making them more attractive and accessible to drivers.

Published at Wikimedia Commons by the Oregon Department of Transportation

Nissan has partnered with CarCharging to add chargers on the east and west coasts. EV charging network providers Chargepoint and Ecotality are also installing more chargers, as ChargedEVs.com points out. With more efficient batteries and more places to charge them, the next generation of EVs will give eco-minded drivers more real choice in eco-friendly vehicles on the showroom floor.

Networked Cars

The networked car may be the next public transportation solution for big cities with transportation and emissions challenges. As Edmunds highlights, electric “pods” or small efficient driverless vehicles that communicate with each other wirelessly in their geographic location would be accessible by smart phone or computer. They offer many benefits beyond eco-friendly features and convenience, including extended transportation access to the elderly and disabled.

As we get closer to achieving the new fuel performance and greenhouse reduction standards set by the Obama Administration in 2012, and cars and light-duty trucks with 54.5 mpg by 2025, we’ll see changes in the designs of the vehicles we drive. The Environmental Defense Fund reports that cars will run with hybrid technology, electric motors, aerodynamic bodies, and more efficient fuel operations such as turbo charging and direct fuel injection. In the next 10 years, we’ll be seeing and driving different vehicles than today which will save us money and give us cleaner air.

(Steve Jordan is a retired auto mechanic who blogs about cars from his home at the beach.)

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