SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Purchasing a Greener Vehicle
Car manufacturers now offer a number of different fuel and engine options made possible by advances in battery and engine technology. Because of this technology consumers can now purchase vehicles that have a smaller environmental footprint compared to the traditional internal combustion engine that runs on gasoline. The federal government is also offering federal tax credits of up to $7,500 for consumers who purchase electric vehicles (EVs) and plug–in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs). Many states offer tax credits as well. For a comprehensive list of vehicles click here.
The Benefits of a Greener Vehicle
The transportation sector accounted for a whopping 27 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions from the United States in 2008. And as of 2011, the U.S. spends more than $1 billion a day on gasoline and diesel for transportation purposes. By having a cleaner, greener mix of vehicles on the road, we will emit fewer pollutants into the atmosphere, lessen our dependence on foreign oil and save money on fuel costs. Federal fuel standards for all vehicles are already moving us towards these goals. In 2010, the EPA and the Department of Transportation raised mileage standards for new vehicles to 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg), which will be phased in by 2016. These new standards are expected to reduce levels of carbon dioxide from vehicles by 30 percent from 2012 to 2016. Of course, by purchasing a vehicle that exceeds those standards, individuals can lead the way towards energy independence.
Types of Greener Vehicles
Electric Vehicles (EVs): SACE believes that mass deployment of EVs in the U.S.
may become a reality sooner rather than later and with the introduction of the Nissan Leaf, EVs are headed in that direction. While EVs are expensive, with a purchase price between $30,000 and $40,000 before federal and state tax incentives, vehicle owners will save money on fuel and maintenance expenses. Because electric cars don’t need oil changes and many other regular services required by conventional cars, those maintenance costs can be close to zero. Estimates are that electric cars cost two cents per mile to drive on average; with gasoline above $3 per gallon, conventional carshare 5-8 times more expensive to operate per mile. EVs also produce no emissions when driven, which is an exciting departure from most vehicles on the road.
One major obstacle to the widespread transition to electric vehicles is the deployment of public charging stations. For now, charging an electric vehicle at home is your most likely option. Electric cars can charge from a standard outlet at your home, but charging times range from eight to 20 hours depending on the make and model of the car. Charging times can be reduced 50-70 percent by having an electrician install a 200-volt outlet that is compatible with your vehicle’s charger in your home. One of the drawbacks of charging your vehicle at home is that most households get a large percentage of their energy from coal plants. An alternative is to add solar panels to your home to limit transportation-related emissions and to use publicly available charging stations that partly use solar to charge cars.
Hybrid Vehicles: Hybrid vehicles are a transportation technology that couples a standard internal-combustion engine with an electric drive train. Hybrids utilize a battery pack to supply power to the vehicle’s electric motor, and often incorporate regenerative braking technology to capture the forward momentum of the vehicle upon deceleration, in order to create electricity for battery recharging. Hybrids achieve much higher fuel efficiency than a standard engine due to the vehicle’s ability to stop the internal combustion engine from running and utilizing the electric motor as a power source. The best-selling hybrid car in the U.S. has an estimated fuel-efficiency rating of 50 miles per gallon according to the EPA. Substantial fuel savings and emission reductions are realized when choosing a hybrid-electric vehicle over its standard non-hybrid equivalent.
Plug-in Hybrid-Electric Vehicles (PHEVs): These vehicles are hybrids capable of running on electric power, gasoline or a combination of both. PHEVs have batteries capable of charging through a household outlet or charging station and use 40 to 60 percent less gas than conventional vehicles when charged. Re-charging the battery to 80 percent capacity can take as little as 30 minutes, but a full charge may take six to eight hours. One of the major advantages of PHEVs is that they can run on gasoline once the electric range of the vehicle is exhausted. But, if fueled entirely with gasoline, PHEVs will not achieve their maximum fuel economy potential.
Biodiesel Vehicles: Biodiesel can be used with current existing diesel engines with little to no engine modifications needed. Biodiesel is most often blended with petroleum diesel or “petrodiesel” in various amounts, such as B2 (Two percent biodiesel blend with 98 percent petrodiesel) or B20 (20 percent biodiesel blend with 80 percent petrodiesel). Biodiesel can also be used in its pure form-B100 (100 percent biodiesel). Use of biodiesel will reduce particulates, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and air toxics emitted from diesel engines. According to DOE, the cancer-causing potential of biodiesel (B100) is 94 percent less than regular diesel and 27 percent less for B20.
For more information on greener vehicles visit the following websites:
U.S. Department of Energy page on fuel economy information – http://www.fueleconomy.gov
EPA facts on carbon emissions resulting from cars – http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/index.htm