Tag Archives: batteries

Driving Clean: Hybrid Cars Move Up Front

This is the last of the car-related articles that I wrote for Technocopia in 2000. Some things have changed since then and Canada has an electric car, the Zenn car. http://www.zenncars.com/ You can also check out Tesla Motors. http://www.teslamotors.com/

CAR MANUFACTURERS RACE TO BUILD AN ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY CAR, BUT WHO’S THE REAL WINNER?

With greenhouse gases and tailpipe emissions harming the environment, atmosphere and human health, countries as well as car manufacturers and industry are looking at ways to clean up their act.

Alternate fuels and car prototypes are being tested. Although there are several electric cars available for lease in selected cities, they have not yet caught on. Manufacturers are reluctant to mass produce the expensive electrics which have limited driving range (between fifty and one hundred miles), need at least a three-hour battery recharge, and don’t have the support infrastructure of recharging stations. California has installed many recharging stations but then it is the test bed for electric cars.

In 1997 the Kyoto Protocol was signed stating that by 2008 all signing countries would lower their emissions. As pollution becomes a problem some countries aren’t waiting. However, a loophole allows countries with lower than standard emissions to sell off their extra emissions to countries that produce more than the allowable amount.

Fuel Economy and Low Emissions
Drivers don’t want to worry about running out of a charge before arriving home. An alternative was needed that increased range but lowered tailpipe emissions. There are government restrictions that already regulate emissions per vehicle. In the search for efficiency and economy, the hybrid gas/electric car was born.

At the forefront of hybrid cars are the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight. Toyota’s five-passenger sedan has already sold 28,000 in Japan and will be released in the U.S. this year. The Insight was available as of December 1999. The Chrysler Intrepid ESX2 is a hybrid using electric and diesel. The driving range of these vehicles is farther, the gas tank and engine are smaller, and the emissions, therefore air pollution, are reduced.

The hybrid uses an electric and a gas motor. The electric battery cuts down on fuel consumption and the gas engine keeps the battery recharged, eliminating the need to set up separate recharging stations.

In the Prius “an electric motor and a generator are attached to the transmission. The generator, driven by the car’s 58-horsepower gasoline motor, recharges the 135-pound battery pack, and can provide power for the 40-horsepower electric motor as well.” The Boston Globe(10/07/99) An all-electric vehicle’s battery weighs 1200 pounds so the hybrid’s weight is greatly reduced. Accelerating from a stationary position needs a lot of engine turning power. More efficient for providing torque, the Prius’s electric engine kicks in to supply power to the transaxle and turns the wheels. Once the car is cruising along, the electric engine turns off and the gas engine, more efficient for providing the ongoing energy, turns on. If the electric engine needs to be recharged the generator is used. An onboard computer system constantly monitors and regulates which engine will be most efficient in any circumstance. The transition is smooth and unnoticed by the driver.
The Honda Insight’s system is slightly different. A sophisticated computer also regulates which engine is best for each task. However, the Insight has a gas engine and an electric motor powered by a battery, but no generator. When the Insight hits cruising mode the electric battery is recharged.

Prius and Insight both use regenerative braking. This technique captures energy that is lost in traditional braking systems. When the brake is tapped the electric motor runs in reverse. Not only does this slow the forward momentum of the car, it generates the energy needed to recharge the battery.

The Honda Insight is comparable in size to the Honda Civic but gets eighty-five percent better mileage due to a lighter, aerodynamic body design including a plastic bottom, and a smaller, refined engine no larger than a large motorcycle’s. The dashboard display indicates which system is running and not to shift down—to save on fuel—if the electric is engaged. The two-seater should get about 60-70 mpg and will cost under $20,000 USD.

The Prius will get around 55-60mpg and sell in the low $20,000 USD range. Toyota is reported to be losing money on the Prius because it costs more to produce. However, once it goes into larger mass production the reproduction costs will most likely lower. By the time the Prius goes on sale this year, it is expected to meet California’s super-ultra-low emission standards set to go into effect in 2004.

GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler have joined in research with the US government to develop other hybrid technologies. DaimlerChrysler’s Citdael is still in the test stages and is a cross between a sedan and a SUV. Tom Kizer for DaimlerChrysler said, “If you’re going to improve fuel economy, do it on the vehicles that burn the most fuel. A 20% improvement from hybridization on an SUV saves a lot more fuel than a 20% improvement on a Neon.” Fortune Magazine, Time(10/25/99) SUVs are one of the most popular vehicles in North America today and put out higher emissions than cars. IAnd as I mentioned before some government regulations let them emit more because they were classified as “farm vehicles.”

Government incentives are in place to offset the higher cost for hybrid vehicles. Until the hybrids are mass produced on a much larger scale they will continue to be pricier. What price is greater to pay, a car that continues to destroy the environment and our health or one that costs a little more out of pocket yet gives cleaner air and more miles to the gallon? Gas prices will climb as we run out of fossil fuel and it is fuel economy that will save us more in the long run.

For more information:

Honda Insight www.honda2000.com/insight/homepage.html
Toyota Prius www.toyota.com
Chevrotlet Volt http://www.chevrolet.com/electriccar/
Zipcars (Vancouver) http://www.zipcar.com/ 

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Filed under cars, consumer affairs, Culture, environment

Go Green

I have already mentioned how I wouldn’t litter even as a teenager, and what I think of Sam Sullivan’s “eco-density” movement (another word for cramming people into smaller spaces). Along the way of my own greening I started to look at what I could do to lessen my impact. Like most people there is even more I can do.

At one point I was a book rep and had many book samples as well as reams of catalogues and order forms. Blue boxes had not quite made it into every household. Instead of loading up the garbage cans with all the paper, I would take loads to the Kent St. station, the only place in Vancouver that would take material for recycling. They had bins for paper, glass, plastic, tin and electronic equipment such as toasters or fridges. Unless you were bringing large containers or items it was free to dump and the Kent St. depot is still there.

I started cleaning my sinks and tub with baking soda as it was less harmful than using chemical cleansers. I look for biodegradable detergents for laundry and I try to buy make-up that’s not tested on animals. Though the nasty stuff in the makeup that isn’t good for humans is something I still need to research.

I also try not to buy anything that’s overpackaged. However, that’s difficult because small items are often packaged in a box that’s packaged in a molded, plastic blister pack. I understand the reasoning for this, which includes marketing–making the piece more visible on the shelf, and as an anti-theft deterrent–make it big and bulky. But buying something like a box with 24 snack-size bags of chips, crackers, cheese, whatever wrapped in plastic is a sign of convenience, or laziness, and not environmentally sound. Consider that you can always buy a bulk bag or box of the same product and portion the sizes out into reusable containers.

When I have a party I keep extra plastic cups but I have bags set up for people to put their bottles and used cups into. I recycle and wash the plastic glasses until they crack. I haven’t had to buy plastic cups in years. I don’t use paper napkins but have cloth napkins. I don’t use plastic utensils but wash my metal ones, and the same for plates. I don’t use paper towels but have rags for spills. I do however, use toilet paper. 🙂

I’m not so good at composting. Lee Valley has these nice stainless steel composting buckets and I’ll need to get one of those. Anyone who has kept any sort of vegetable scraps in a bucket knows they stain, but the smell of decomposing organic matter smells just like an outhouse, so the container needs to be sealed. I keep all my used batteries in a plastic bag and when there are enough of them I take them to Ikea. I hear London Drugs also has battery recycling as well as other depots.

I’ve just finished painting my bedroom and will have several empty paint tins. I wasn’t sure where to take them, a paint depot or to the garbage? Although empty there is still paint residue. They’re no longer allowed to be in the blue boxes and the hardware/paint stores don’t necessarily take them back. Likewise, painting has caused me to purge other items. I have a working fax/printer and a scanner that I refuse to throw into the landfill. Besides, one can now be fined for putting these things in the garbage. So I clicked on the Recycling Council of BC’s website. They have a host of information on where to take all sorts of items, as wells as ways to lessen our environmental footprint. http://www.rcbc.bc.ca/index.htm

Many cities may have something similar for recycling and information on programs. If they don’t, public encouragement can get them there. The RCBC’s website also has the Waste-o-Meter. Like places I’ve seen that show the number of species going extinct by the day, this shows how much we’re tossing in the landfill and it’s frightening.

A year ago the greater Vancouver area suffered a strike, which included garbage collectors. Between my landlords and me, we managed to keep the garbage down to the large plastic bin for over a month. My garbage amounted to one small bag every two-three weeks. Hopefully I can still improve on that. I encourage everyone else to try a little harder. I’ve always said, If necessity was the mother of invention, then laziness was the father. I’ve had too many people tell me they didn’t recycle because they couldn’t be bothered. It’s too bad we treat our world with such disregard.

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