Term Paper: New Vehicle Technologies

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New Vehicles

The trend to save the environment for future generations while at the same time maintain our current lifestyle has proved to be a constant struggle. One of the most discussed and debated issue of modern time is the increased use of petroleum-based products for automobiles. Cars are considered consumer goods. There is an expectation then, that autos will be updated within three to five years. Automobiles are run using an internal combustion (IC) engine that burn hydrocarbons to generate energy that helps move the vehicle. Currently, the two most commonly used hydrocarbons are gasoline and diesel. There is no doubt that the IC engine changed the world as we know it today. Suburbia was a result of the ability of people to drive longer distances to work, for entertainment and for recreation.

Today, the internal combustion (IC) engine still dominates the world of automobiles. Design of engines has not changed much. But attempts have been made to improve performances and reduce the harmful effects from the by products generated. Engines have become more fuel efficient; however, cars have become bigger with bigger engines offsetting any advantages that could have been gained by smarter designs. People have also started traveling more, working longer hours and have tended to explore and research to larger extents. All these factors have resulted in generating more greenhouse gases. This has impacted the quality of air and the ozone layer that surrounds our planet.

The dependence on automobiles has encouraged research and development (R&D) in this field. Gasoline-electric hybrid and the ethanol cars are but a few of the new innovations that have been put forward in the past few years. While many environmentalist claim that these cars are the solution to the problems of global warming, a closer look indicates that these are not quite the panacea that people envisioned. Many critics are quick to note that many of these so called new inventions are simply cleaned-out versions of fuel use that allow the user to appease their guilt of using automobiles. For instance, ethanol fuel produces more greenhouse gases; one obvious advantage they offer is that they can be produced from renewable source.

There is no doubt that, at some point, a new technology for the transportation industry will have to be sought. As with any new technology, there will be a learning curve that will have to be undertaken. New vehicle technologies such as hybrid electric automobiles and diesel-electric buses and trucks are lauded as important tools in the fight against global warming and rising fuel costs; however, they also pose new challenges and risks.

Discussion:

While the intentions are good, hybrid cars can prove detrimental to the very purpose for which they have been designed. Often, these hybrid cars are expensive and beyond the purchasing power of the average American. For example, the Lexus LS600h L. hybrid starts at $104,000; and, while it claims to 'eco-friendly,' is really not very efficient. (HybridCars, 2007b) as such, this car really will not help solve any of the current problems faced. There are many reasons people buy hybrid cars; however, the fuel-saving costs are not always realistic as these cars cost more. People like to feel however, that they are doing something to save the environment and save it for the next generation.

This paper discusses some of the concern and the issues that any changing technology faces in the market. An adjustment period from the social and cultural aspect will always occur. At the same time, public opinion is more vocal today than it was when the automobile was first developed. Over time, different additions and modifications to the car has always created a stir in the public. For instance, when air-bags were first introduced, there was much criticism of the dangers and the safety of these installations in cars. Today, we take air bags for granted and modern cars incorporate more than just the front air bags. Studies indicated that approximately 5000 people today are alive as a result of this new technology. The same is also true for seat belts and padded dashboards. There are many 'horror" stories of people dying as a result of seat belts not releasing, but these are far fewer instances than the number of people who have been saved from seatbelts having been properly deployed.

Critics state that it will be a long time before the sales of hybrid cars is sufficient in changing the existing automobile-based economic structure. Toyota's hybrid model Pirus sold just about 24,000 cars for the month of May 2007, with a total of just 109,648 hybrid cars sold to date. It is clear that such a sales volume is not as significant as the total number of cars sold totally in the U.S. (HybridCars, 2007c) From a geographical standpoint, the maximum numbers of hybrid cars have been sold mostly in the major cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Washington DC and Seattle. (HybridCars, 2007c) Research also indicates that these vehicles perform better within city limits than on open highways and on steep inclines (where the batteries tend to drain faster than they recharge)

The use of hydrogen fuel cells for cars has also been extensively discussed. The problem however, is that maintenance issues for alternative fuels for vehicles is not taught as extensively in trade schools. The IC engine still holds the highest attention of automobile instructors. Efforts are being made however, to encourage schools to offer these programs in their schools. (CCCEWD, 2007) the range and scope of the programs are limited to a few schools and require third party funding to ensure that they receive the expected coverage. Most of the current training on new vehicles is through collaborations between dealers and auto manufacturers. Even so, the numbers of mechanics who have undergone the training are significantly lower than the ratio for the standard cars.

Critics are not very forgiving of the hybrid cars. There are short comings in many of the new hybrid designs. Electrical cars cannot cover great distances as the capability of the batteries needed for these cars cannot be compact enough. The fuel cell is the next option that sounds promising on paper. These cells use hydrogen and oxygen as their inputs and the only byproducts from the process is water. The concerns with this design is the storage of hydrogen especially hydrogen under pressure. The infrastructure required to supply hydrogen is also required and would take sometime to implement. "The only way hydrogen, theoretically, can be supplied in the quantities necessary for it to become the primary fuel used in the world is to manufacture hydrogen via electrolysis." (Ring, 2005) as such, this type of car would not be an instant solution but would take a long time. What most people do not realize that the process of the creating hydrogen and oxygen even though it is freely available requires a lot of resources. (Powell, 2007)

The best alternative so far has proved to be the hybrid car that uses an IC engine along with an electric motor or battery. But these cars are not without inherent problems. While the performance is better than a standard or comparable car, it is not as significant as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) numbers suggest. Hybrids are very much dependent on batteries that have to store the charge and they are larger than the conventional car batteries used. If the popularity of these cars among consumers increases, disposing these batteries will be a major concern. There are no definite policy guidelines as yet that the car manufacturers can access to take care of the problem. The material to manufacture batteries such as lead, copper and heavy metal have to be mined and manufactured which can be very environmentally damaging.

Many of the numbers touted for the hybrid cars are generally not realistic as the gasoline mileage is generally evaluated for city driving. When the mileage is to be evaluated for highway driving the values are generally much lower. "The test fails to consider the fuel needed to recharge the batteries later on. All energy-draining, electrically-powered accessories (including AC) are switched off during both the urban and highway tests. These variables contribute to the huge discrepancy between the EPA's official numbers and hybrid owners' real world experience." (Elton, 2007)

Hybrid designs result in heavier power trains and as such this weight has to be compensated for during the design. There are other factors such as "Engine shut-off at idle, electric power steering, harder and reduced rolling resistance tires (at the expense of comfort and traction), reduced option content, reduced engine performance, and, in the case of the Ford, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) all help raise the cars' overall efficiency."

The press and environmentalists have aggressively pursued the idea of clean car without reviewing some of these factors. Auto makers are also investing heavily in this new field with the objective of garnering public relations brownie points. (Knapp, 2006)

Quiet cars could also be a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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New Vehicle Technologies.  (2007, June 19).  Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/new-vehicle-technologies/404240

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