In my last article I promised to reveal my choice of “really, really, green cars, and when we will get them”. The good news is that they are here now. The bad news is that they are called ‘bicycles’ and use a form of “biofuel” that includes sweat in the equation. There are several runners up, however, that require more money but less sweat. Some, like the hybrid and diesel cars, are here now, others, like the hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen fueled cars are still in the making. Each of these options comes with environmental trade offs.
All the major car manufacturers are making gasoline/electric hybrid cars. Some are small and among the most fuel-efficient cars made. Others are larger and even more powerful than their non-hybrid brethren. Their biggest drawback is complexity and the unknown (so far) life expectancy of the batteries. They all still use gasoline and contribute to global warming and pollution, just less so than non-hybrid cars.
Diesel powered cars and trucks also emit their share of pollutants, including hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulates, but they are more efficient, using less fuel per mile than gasoline powered cars. In addition to the drawbacks of pollution, emissions, global warming, etc. of both diesel and gasoline powered cars is their fuel’s limited supply. Sooner or later we will run out!
Alternative fuels: Not the miracle cure, but definitely an improvement. Biodiesel is so far the “greenest” fuel available today. Energy costs involved in production are low, and efficiency, the available energy per gallon, is relatively high. Ethanol is being touted (especially by Midwest farmers) as the ideal replacement for gasoline, but the energy costs in production are high and its efficiency is low. Biodiesel has the same drawback in so far as production costs are concerned, however it’s efficiency helps it outweigh that disadvantage. The famous Country Western singer Willie Nelson has even come out with his own brand of biodiesel and hopes that it will be marketed along side conventional diesel in truck stops. Right now biodiesel users have to rely on independent producers and suppliers. Locally biodiesel is available at J.B.Dewar on Prado Rd, San Luis Obispo. It is only available in 55 and 5-gallon quantities but they plan to install a conventional pump in the near future.
To sum up, human power is still the greenest way to get around, but bio diesel is a close second and hybrids third, with fuel cell and ethanol power an unknown quantity at this time