Which way to go?


Right now we're sort of in a transition stage where some companies are choosing to build electric vehicles while others are building hybrids and another group is just trying to create the most efficient internal combustion engine possible. There is a large amount of pressure to make changes due to rising fuel prices, environmental issus and limited oil supply. Therefore manufacturers are making strides to try and improve fuel economy and the impact cars put on the earth.

There are advantages to all these paths manufactures are taking. First off electric cars don't have to have any impact on the environment when they are driving and operating (this of course depends on where your power comes from). This makes them very good for the environment compared to vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. They also require significantly less maintenance because they don't require oil changes, oil filters, timing belts, or spark plugs. This means it's not only cheaper for you, it's also better for the environment in this regard as well. The downside however is right now they don't last very long on a charge or if you buy a hydrogen powered one stations are not available in most places, and we don't know how fast fuel stations will adopt hydrogen pumps. So that means right now don't expect to get too far with your vehicle. That's the electric cars biggest downfall is that your limited to just driving short distances between charges and obviously the wait for the vehicle to fully charge. I believe it's these factors that make them so unattractive to potential buyers.




Not as "green" as you thought.
The next one is hybrids. I see these as a temporary solution that isn't very green at all. All the Prius owners reading this just jumped up! Yes that's right they aren't good for the environment at all. You see they use batteries which have the metals mined here in Canada and are shipped across the world, assembled into a battery and then shipped again to be put into the car. This of course requires a lot of energy and means that when you get your car it already has a massive carbon footprint. It would take YEARS of saving on fuel to make up for this, to be honest I still don't know if it's really possible. That means these cars only save you on fuel, they still requires oil changes, oil filters, timing belts etc. They also require new batteries after so many years too because even though they are rechargeable they don't last forever. Essentially these cars created added complexity and weight to a vehicle for a relatively small increase in fuel economy. I'm not sure it's worth the trade off.




Volkswagen's turbo direct injected engine.
The last option is what we've been using for years, the trusty internal combustion engine, this is one that has powered cars for years and has proven reliable. The only problem with this method is that it will always rely on oil products. Right now through turbo charging, direct injection and variable valve timing we can create far more efficient engines than ever before. They consume less fuel, create more power and create less emissions. The only question with these engines is how efficient will we be able to get them. Is it possible to create a 100MPG car that is comprised of only an internal combustion engine and no hybrid components? Right now though manufacturer's are holding back by only producing small fuel efficiency upgrades at a time. 5 or 10% isn't enough, we need much more fuel efficient cars. I think if we really demanded them though we would see some pretty fuel efficient solutions. Right now VW's TDI engines in their golfs, passats, and jettas can get over 50MPG's on the highway. Keep in mind these cars aren't any different from any other model apart from the diesel engine. My guess is with stop/start technology, aerodynamic tweaks and weight saving measures they could get this number much higher.

Now here is the ultimate question will internal combustion engines ever get to a point where it's so efficient that burning fossil fuels won't make a big enough impact to worry about? Or has the internal combustion engine reached the end of its useful life? I don't think hybrids are a viable solution at all because they create a pretty big carbon footprint while being made and then continue to make one as they are driven. Should we just suck it up and deal with the short comings of an electric vehicle and hope they improve over time?

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