Should Automobiles Have Better Fuel Efficiency Environmental Sciences

Essay add: 6-01-2017, 16:32   /   Views: 3

Issues of energy conservation in the transport sector are becoming increasingly relevant in the light of the annual growth of energy consumption, degree of negative impact on the environment, and emissions of harmful substances.

In terms of energy consumption growth in 2000-2007, the transport sector yielded only to the industrial one. Energy consumption in the transport sector increased in 2000-2007 by 43%, which made 31,5% of final energy consumption (Energy policy, 2009). The main reason for rapid growth is the increase of liquid fuels consumption in personal vehicles. According the data of ecologists, approximately 70% of emission into the atmosphere of cities is produced by automobile transport (Energy Efficient Cities, 2010).

Automobile transport is the main culprit of toxic air pollution in cities, because that transportation of cargo and passengers in the cities are the most large-scale and popular. However, the modern petrol car engine is not only extremely imperfect in ecological sense, but also primitive as for energy indicators. Its efficiency index is only about 20%, and since fuel now is getting ever more expensive, fuel inefficiency of engines becomes a real devastation not only for car owners. Thus, 80% of money of automobile-owners is used for warming and ecological pollution of the atmosphere (Easton, 2009).

Fuel combustion, allowing us to obtain steam or gas required for the work of an internal combustion engine and rotating an electric generator, is a not very effective process. Indeed, the energy efficiency of such transformation is limited by the second law of thermodynamics, and it is unlikely to be significantly raised above the existing level. The fuel energy efficiency of the most modern steam-turbine power mounts does not exceed 40% (Energy policy, 2009).

Despite the large number of patents and designs on fuel economy and emissions control, the modern car is still far from the energy and environmental excellence; therefore, technologies in the area require further thorough and sustainable development. But for some reasons, engine producers do not hurry to improve their production.

There are various techniques and devices for saving fuel in petrol engines. They include methods and devices of fuel and oxidizer activation, turbo boost, electronic metering systems and electromagnetic fuel injectors, powerful systems of electro-sparking, various homogenizers for improving mixture formation, and others (Solomon, 2010). However, the vast majority of these innovations and developments do not provide significant increase of fuel efficiency of petrol engines. Moreover, because of the complexity of technical solutions, many of these analogs are expensive to implement and therefore not produced massively.

At the same time, fuel consumption of cars with hybrid electric drive or compact cars like Smart is only 5.5 l/100 km. According to the IEA, energy consumption of modern petrol and diesel fuel cars with efficient firing and the system of variable valve timing is respectively 5.4-9.7 and 4.2-7.5 l/100 km. Additional costs of investing into vehicles with hybrid electric power are economically viable if the average annual haul is 12 thousand kilometers (savings 660 liters compared to the same haul of ordinary vehicles) and an average exploitation term is 10 years. Approximately 40% of the technical potential are financially efficient (Energy policy, 2009).

Another innovative approach is the introduction of fuel cells, which convert fuel energy into electricity. Fuel cells may in the near future become a widely used source of energy in transport, industry and households. Previously, the high cost of fuel cells reduced their use to only military and space applications. Fuel cells have no thermodynamic limit for utilization of energy. In the existing fuel cell from 60 up to 70% of fuel energy is directly converted into electricity, and power installations on fuel cells using hydrogen from hydrocarbon fuels are projected with the efficiency of 40-45% (Solomon, 2010).

The use of fuel cells in cars is expected to bring the greatest benefit. Here, as nowhere else, the compactness of fuel cells will matter. In the direct conversion of the fuel into electricity, the fuel economy will be about 50%. In addition, the efficiency of fuel cells can remain at a fairly high level, even when they are not used at full rated capacity, which is a major advantage compared to gasoline engines. When using fuel cells, practically no harmful emissions are produced. In any case, the replacement of today’s conventional internal combustion engines to fuel cells would lead to an overall reduction in CO2 and nitrogen oxides emissions. Fuel cells are durable, have no moving parts, and produce a constant amount of energy (Solomon, 2010; Energy Efficient Cities, 2010).

In 2002, the presidents of Toyota and Honda handed the Prime Minister of Japan the keys of the first mass-produced fuel cell vehicles. Mr. Koizumi personally tested the cars of the both companies. According to him, they differ little in driving from ordinary models and are practically noiseless (Solomon, 2010). The prices for fuel cells cars are so far 40 times the price of their counterparts with internal combustion engines and the most accessible form of their acquisition is leasing.

Although combined with DC motor fuel cells will be an effective source of car driving force, wide use of fuel cells requires significant technological advances, reduction of their cost and the possibility of effective use of cheap fuel, in order to make fuel cells competitive in relation to other energy-saving technologies. In addition, the installations must be durable, free from expensive materials and use the fossil fuels with minimal preparation. Only under these conditions fuel cells will make electricity and mechanical energy widely available around the world.

It should be noted that when considering costly characteristics of energy technologies, the comparison should be based on all components of the technological characteristics, including capital maintenance costs, emissions, power quality, durability, decommissioning, and flexibility. Although hydrogen gas is the best fuel, there is practically no infrastructure or transport base for it, which would entail the need for large money infusions (Energy Efficient Cities, 2010).

On the other hand, in the near future to provide the power installations with the sources of hydrogen in the form of gasoline, methanol or natural gas it could be possible to use the existing supply system of fossil fuels (gas stations, etc.). This would eliminate the need for special hydrogen filling stations, but would require each vehicle to be equipped with a converter (reformer) of fossil fuel into hydrogen. The disadvantage of this approach is that it uses fossil fuel and thus leads to emissions of carbon dioxide. Methanol, which is currently the leading candidate, has fewer emissions than gasoline, but it would require the installation of a larger container into the car, because it takes twice as much place with the same energy content (Solomon, 2010).

Unlike fossil fuel supply systems, solar and wind systems (using electricity to create hydrogen and oxygen from water) and systems of direct photoconversion of energy (using semiconductor materials or enzymes to produce hydrogen) could provide the supply of hydrogen without reforming phase, and thus, it could be possible to avoid emissions of harmful substances, which are observed when using methanol or gasoline fuel cell. Hydrogen could be accumulated and converted into electricity in the fuel cell when needed. In the long term, the connection of the fuel cells with this kind of renewable energy sources is likely to be an effective strategy to provide a productive, environmentally sustainable and universal source of energy (Solomon 2010).

Major car manufacturers in America are now developing hybrid-electric vehicles. Some companies are jointly working on a prototype of a car which for the actuation of the electric engine would use the energy produced by fuel cells. At the exhibition Hitachi uVALUE Convention 2006 held in the frameworks of Tokyo International Forum, the Japanese company introduced a prototype of the fuel cell, built on the principle of direct conversion of methanol - direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC). The specificity of Hitachi development - small size - makes the new product suitable for powering mobile machinery. According to the experts, the technology of direct conversion of methanol has a chance to be one of the first among the currently developing fuel cell technologies to be available at the mass market (Easton, 2009; Energy policy, 2009).

Thus, a balanced approach to the problem of fuel efficiency will contribute to formulation of the following energy saving measures and mechanisms for their implementation:

1. Improving the information base and the quality of data collection

The success of any policy depends on the reliability of information on the basis of which it is developed. At the federal, regional and local levels, a system of indicators for sustainable development of the transport sector should be implemented in order to assess the progress in urban planning, traffic management and transport activity.

2. Increasing the efficiency of new vehicles and the use of an integrated approach to transport planning

This approach includes a component of urban planning, optimal integration of residential, business, commercial and cultural areas, the adequacy of public transport. Many European countries have achieved the following indicators: more than 30% of all car trips are shorter than 3 km, and 50% of trips are less than 5 km (Energy Efficient Cities, 2010).

3. Improving the quality of services in public transport and the ability to change the types of transport during a single trip (e.g., personal and public)

International experience shows that the more roads, the more traffic and more (not less) traffic jams. For instance, there were approximately 3.5 million cars in Moscow in 2005. By estimates, each of them spends in traffic jams on average 40-45 hours per month. If a car consumes 1 liter of fuel per hour of idle mode, the Moscow car owners annually lose 16-18 thousand person-years and about $ 2 billion (Energy Efficient Cities, 2010). The opportunities should be developed to improve the connections between major routes of public transport and the use of different transport modes in one trip.

4. Introduction of a tax on the use of private vehicles

The annual taxes on car owners typically supplement the taxes on the purchase of cars; in most countries, their rates depend on the fuel consumption of cars, in order to encourage buyers to purchase less powerful models, more energy efficient and environmentally friendly cars. The highest taxes on the purchase of cars are in Singapore, Denmark, Finland and Norway. In Denmark and Norway, in addition, there is a high tax on car owners in the amount of 300-450 euros per year (Energy policy, 2009).

5. Rewarding drivers who choose more efficient vehicles

In many cities of the U.S., the buyers of small cars and cars with a hybrid engine are exempted from vehicle tax and given the right of free parking. In California, hybrid engine vehicles can use the lanes allocated for vehicles with a large number of passengers, regardless of their actual number.

6. Tighter standards for fuel efficiency and emission standards and the introduction of labeling of fuel efficiency for new cars

In addition to the development of standards the mandatory labeling of the new cars might be introduced. It should include the obligatory information on fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. In several countries, labeling even includes a rating system in terms of energy efficiency and additional data, such as noise, emissions standards, taxes and other technical information. European experience shows that the labeling and high consumer awareness can help reduce fuel consumption by 4-5% (Energy policy, 2009).

7. Encouraging of behavioral stereotypes change

The preference of large luxury cars in many countries emerged due to the perception of personal car as a status symbol. Government can promote the change of behavioral stereotypes forcing people to buy big, powerful and luxurious cars. It can initiate a shift in social values, for example, stressing that the cities are designed for people, not for cars. This can be achieved by increasing people’s knowledge that a growing number of private cars or increasing air pollution is harmful to their health and quality of life, or by the involvement of local communities and interest groups into the process of behavior change. Thus, smaller and more efficient cars may acquire a status value among certain groups of consumers.

8. Implementation of schemes for recycling old cars: accelerating the renewal of car stock by providing fiscal stimuli for recycling old cars

Experience shows that in most cases a positive impact on the environment from the decommissioning of old vehicles exceeds the amount of additional energy consumption for the production and disposal of vehicles. Car owners may receive a reward for the utilization of their cars, regardless of the subsequent decision to replace it, or bonuses for the replacement (depending on the type of replacement).

In general, it is necessary to actively implement the above measures that help to reduce the energy intensity of the transport sector on the whole, and to achieve the national goals for energy efficiency of the economy.

Article name: Should Automobiles Have Better Fuel Efficiency Environmental Sciences essay, research paper, dissertation