For many years, auto consumers complained about the pollution that was caused by gasoline-powered vehicles. The carbon monoxide and particulates that were released into the air from the tailpipes of millions of cars and trucks contaminated the environment. This led to the creation of electric and gas-hybrid vehicles. The idea was for these cars and trucks to rely less on fossil fuels and more on cleaner-burning ones - which would ultimately help the environment.
But is it possible that we've been operating under false assumptions? In other words, could alternative-fuel vehicles be no better for the environment than their gas-guzzling counterparts? Or even worse?
Believe it or not, the answer is yes. In fact, it's happening right now in China.
Like many countries, China has been looking for ways to increase the number of electric and/or hybrid vehicles on the roadways. In 2009, Beijing created initiatives with such names as the "New Energy Vehicles Program" and the "Ten Cities, Ten Thousand Vehicles Program." China has also pledged to commit $15 billion dollars over a five-year period toward constructing and selling electric cars to its citizens.
Sounds great, right? Here's the problem: the electricity that fuels these new vehicles comes from power plants. And what is used to generate this valuable electricity? Yup - fossil fuels. In fact, about six out of every seven Chinese power plants need fossil fuels to operate; and of these, all but 5% rely on coal - which is known for spewing dirty and unhealthy pollutants into the air.
The bottom line? A study by researchers at the University of Tennessee has found that on an emissions-per-passenger-kilometer basis, electric cars in China produce 3.6 times more polluting particulates than gas combustion engine vehicles do. Of course, this pollution is distributed differently; while the air around the vehicles themselves is cleaner, the environment in areas where power plants operate is much dirtier and more harmful to humans. In China's case, that means urban area environments improve at the expense of rural environments.
While the results of this study are surprising, they do not conclude that a similar phenomenon is taking place in the U.S. or other Western nations. Power plants in America are more energy efficient and often use cleaner-burning sources of fuel to generate electricity; so weighing auto pollution levels in the U.S. vs. China is not an apples-to-apples comparison.
Besides, we're still better in basketball - which is all that really matters anyway.
But the basic concept behind the research still holds true in the West: alternative-fuel vehicles do not completely eliminate the pollution caused by gas engines - although they do move it closer to the power plants. This notion serves to remind Americans that improving the environment can only be accomplished using a comprehensive approach to power generation - instead of an overly-simplistic, myopic effort to boost the numbers of hybrid or electric vehicles in consumers' garages.
Image credits: blogs.reuters.com, motoringtv.com, time.com.upi.com.
Tags: safeauto, safe auto, auto pollution, car pollution, hybrid car, auto insurance, car insurance
One of the safety buzzwords in the 21st century automotive lexicon is "distracted driving." To that end, states are cracking down on handheld cell phone use and texting while driving in an effort to force individuals to pay more attention to their motor vehicle operations.
The problem is, today's newer passenger vehicles are so "advanced" that their consoles resemble something you might see on the space shuttle. As a result, some of the biggest driver distractions are located a few feet away from them inside their cabins.
Here are five of the most distracting console apps you will find in modern cars and trucks.
1. Satellite radio. Audio entertainment has come a long way from five preset radio buttons and a Scan function. Now, you can purchase satellite radio, which offers literally hundreds of channels for your listening pleasure. Scrolling through all of these options is bound to draw your focus toward what you are hearing and away from what you are seeing on the road in front of you.
2. Global positioning systems. It may sound illogical that a device which ostensibly helps you to get where you're going makes the journey itself more dangerous. But all of the mapping software and directional commands associated with GPS console devices can often require several seconds of attention at a time. They're especially more hazardous if the driver is trying to "search" for a restaurant or address and drive at the same time.
3. Web browsers. Yes, the future of computer technology is here, and it works great - provided you don't damage it in a collision. Some cars now come equipped with 10-inch screens situated above the gearshift, thus allowing the driver to use touch screen commands (or even write words on the screen with their finger) to navigate cyberspace and roadways simultaneously. What could possibly go wrong?
4. Multifunctional controls. Some automakers are trying to "simplify" their consoles by incorporating several functions into a single control. For instance, the jog dial on BMW's in-dash LCD screen lets you control everything from the heater to the radio station, and a "mouse-like" controller does much the same for Lexus drivers. However, these all-in-one controls force drivers to concentrate on which cabin function they are altering instead of what driving hazards may be approaching.
5. Whiz-bang graphics. Today's young adults have been brought up on visually stunning animation and intricate graphics. As a result, carmakers are trying to appeal to this key demographic by designing dashboards with video game-like display technology. Which begs the question: if you have to pump up the techno-glitz factor to appeal to the uber-chic sensibilities and limited attention spans of modern drivers, shouldn't these people not be driving in the first place?
Image credit: eaa52.org
Tags: safeauto, safe auto, auto insurance, car apps, car insurance
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