The Apex of Eco-Friendly

by Brittany Mortera on February 20, 2014

A lot of car industries are going forward and going green by making many of their new models “eco-friendly.” But these models aren’t the typical, small hybrids you see on the road. Sports car companies are suddenly steering away from gas-powered models and instead revamping their engines to be electronically-powered. Why not save the environment, while looking and feeling good about it? They’re attractive, speedy and appealing to the masses. Tesla Motors recently came out with their Model X design, a chic SUV with the functionality of a minivan, “falcon wing” doors, high quality performance in speed and safety and, of course, battery-run engine. Tesla Motor’s stocks are currently at an all time high. Popular automobile brands such as Mitsubishi, Porsche, Nissan, Ford, Kia, Volvo, BMW and Volkswagen are also among the companies like Tesla Motors who are redesigning their image and products to cater to a more eco-friendly population. President Obama has touched base about the trend — he “dared the American population to envision 1 million electric cars plying U.S. roads by 2015 (Zehner 2013).” Tax incentives among different states also provide a pretty hefty credit return for purchasing an electric car. Celebrities such as Justin Bieber are joining in on the new electric fad; he was seen sporting a flashy Fisker Karma, a $100,000 hybrid sports sedan. With the increasing demand for hybrid models and the car companies’ need to satisfy proposed limits on CO2 emissions, it’s clear that these automakers are stepping in the right direction for the betterment of the environment and for business gains. Or are they? 

Tesla Model X

Porsche 918 Spyder

BMW i8

Ferrari LaFerrari

Greenhouse gas pollution continues to be a controversial issue due to its long-term adverse effects on human health and the environment. Climate change is a major side effect of these emissions with an increase of heat waves, droughts, smogs and other weather-related patterns. Carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas pollutant, contributes to 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In the United States, COpollutants account for a whopping 84% of gas emissions. After researching the statistics of where these carbon dioxide emissions emit from, fossil fuel-fired power plants are surprisingly the largest source, followed by transportation and industry.

We substitute gas for completely battery-based energy resources which would absolutely reduce CO2 emissions and pollution; however, using electricity as the alternative resource raises questions about the additional resources it would take to provide that electricity. This goes back to the generation of electricity at power plants which burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, sometimes even uses nuclear power, to produce the resource. Could the excessive use of these sources be equivalent to the environmental harm created from emissions, if eventually all cars became electrically powered?

People who are in favor of electrically powered cars tend to focus solely on the reduction of greenhouse gases and forget to take into account the other negative effects electric cars have on the environment. The article “Unclean at Any Speed” goes into depth about studies conducted that surround every literal environmental hazard from the car’s body to the actual engine itself (Zehner 2013). The materials required to manufacture the battery include carbon composites, aluminum, lithium, copper, nickel and rare earth metals such as neodymium and dysprosium. The energy, methods and resources needed to fetch these materials are limited, costly and even dangerous. In some regions that have poor regulations, extracting minerals could cause exposure to toxic chemicals through air and groundwater contamination. Improper disposal of batteries could result in the release of toxic chemicals.

The points mentioned expose a small amount of the downfalls rarely brought up when talking about hybrid vehicles. Due to our increasing technological advancement, we may be able to use a source that reduces a negative side effect; however, we forget to realize that we could just be exchanging a set of environmental problems for another. In this case, we should look on the less technological side and promote bike riding and walking as methods of transportation.

 

WORKS CITED

Edmunds, D. (2013, October 17). Retrieved from http://www.edmunds.com/fuel-economy/what-is-a-hybrid-car-how-do-hybrids-work.html

Electric Car. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_car.

Power Station. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_station.

Tesla Motors. Retrieved from http://www.teslamotors.com/modelx.

United States Environmental Protection Agency, (2014). Learn about carbon pollution from power plants. Retrieved from website: http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/learn-about-carbon-pollution-power-plants

Zehner, O. (2013, June 30). Retrieved from http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/renewables/unclean-at-any-speed

Zehner, O. (2013, July 29). Interview by R Young. A claim that electric cars aren’t green fuels firestorm., Retrieved from http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/07/29/electric-cars-green

 


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joseph Cho February 21, 2014 at 12:41 am

Very interesting post Brittany. I never considered the negative consequences of electric cars. Most of the media has focused on the positive effects such as the overall reduction of CO2 emissions. All too frequently we find solutions to problems and dive into them without considering the consequences.

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