Understanding the Modern Green Cars
by: Walter Shuler
Environmentalism (the green movement) has resulted in many changes to the automotive industry. The catalytic converter was a direct offshoot of this movement. Today, green cars can be found in many places. There are numerous types and styles of green cars available for consumers, from hybrid vehicles to natural gas vehicles. What types are best? What does the future hold for the green cars?
Hybrids are perhaps the most common type of green car on the road today. These hybrids are what automakers term "parallel" hybrids. That is, they use an electric motor and an internal combustion engine (ICE) to propel the car. The electric motor operates at lower speeds, while the ICE kicks in for higher speeds.
The Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight are perhaps the most ubiquitous examples of these hybrids. However, green cars are about to get a dramatic facelift, beginning as early as 2010. The Chevy Volt and several other models will be available. These are not "parallel" hybrids. Rather, they are "series" hybrids. These offer all the benefits of an all-electric vehicle, without out the considerable drawbacks.
These series hybrids will still use an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. However, the ICE will no longer propel the vehicle. The Volt and other models will be capable of driving for 40 miles without using a drop of fuel, on battery power alone. Once the battery power drops below a certain level, the ICE will kick in and charge the batteries. However, the electric motor will continue to propel the vehicle. The Volt will have an electric engine capable of producing 160 horsepower, ensuring fast takeoff and plenty of power for the road.
Other developments hold potential for the future of the green car, as well. For instance, hydrogen fuel cells are expected to be in full production within two decades, while full-electric cars may be a reality within three decades, according to current research.
Why is research and development of viable green alternatives progressing with so much fervor? The impending climate crisis is one reason. The visible end of normal oil reserves is another. As countries turn to developing oil sands and oil shale deposits, the world's supply of oil will slowly dwindle. The green car is a viable, realistic alternative to the common internal combustion engine and all the environmental damage that the technology can cause.
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