Vehicles and Transportation
Developing effective and inexpensive clean fuels for vehicles such as cars is more problematic than producing clean energy for electricity. Biofuels offer the most immediate solution, but there is a doubt whether enough crops could be grown to meet demand. Other solutions include electric vehicles and hydrogen-powered vehicles.
Electric cars used to be much more common than oil-based cars. It wasn't until Henry Ford invented the production line and started mass-producing oil-fuelled vehicles that they gained a monopoly on the vehicle market. Large advances have since been made in battery and motor technology, but the mass production of electric vehicles has always been blocked or dropped. This may be because of the job losses it would create in the oil and automotive industry.
The most well known case was GM's EV1 electric car. It was developed during the 80s and early 90s as a high-powered model. They were available for sale and rental, but GM took them off the market shortly after purchasing the Hummer SUV Company. The cars were crushed and the project shelved. The issue became the subject of the documentary by Sony Motion Pictures "Who Killed the Electric Car".
A number of small companies, particularly in the USA, have been developing new models of electric car. One particularly impressive example is Silicone Valley start-up company Wrightspeed's X1 electric car. It can do 0-60mph in 3 seconds, 0-100mph in 7 seconds and has appeared on television easily beating a Ferrari 360 Spider and a Porsche Carrera GT over a ¼ mile drag race. Another company, Tesla Motors, have produced stylish convertible sports cars for the mass market with a range of 250 miles and similar performance figures to the X1.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells have often been touted as the solution to clean vehicle power. The technology is still some decades away from being viable, but it does give the oil companies a chance to stay alive through the sale of hydrogen at filling stations and for the automotive companies to make a fortune selling expensive hydrogen fuel cell systems.
The concept of 'Hydrogen on Demand' is one that has crept into the limelight in the past thirty years. Many inventors claim to have produced electrolysis units to use the charge created by a car's alternator to split a tank of water into hydrogen and oxygen whilst the car is being driven. This is then fed into the engine where it is combusted instead of an oil-based fuel.
Hydrogen boost units are on the market today and work exactly on this principle to improve your fuel economy by 10-30%. However, creating a unit that supplies enough hydrogen and oxygen to power a vehicle without supplemental fuel appears to break the laws of physics. Despite this, claims have been made to this end, most notably from Stanley Meyer, who is reputed to have created a $1500 dollar modification for cars that would enable them to run totally from water.
Biofuels offer an immediate way of reducing greenhouse emissions from a given vehicle by a significant percentage. Biodiesel can be purchased from some filling stations for use in Diesel powered engines. Biodiesel is a mixture of conventional low-sulphur diesel oil and vegetable oil. Bio ethanol can be used in petrol/gas powered engines.
Millions of hectares of land would be required to grow enough crops to provide enough biofuel to make a significant impact on transport emissions (without resorting to genetic modification). The demand for these crops could have an adverse effect on the environment as large amounts of forest could be felled to make way for them. In Brazil, alarming amounts of rainforest are being cleared to make way for Soya Bean plants to meet the demand of the Soya-based food industry. Biofuel-producing crops would have a much higher demand than Soya beans, so the effects could be catastrophic.