Monday, January 14, 2008

Futuristic Automobiles

Following the Detroit auto show, where it seemed like every car marker was bending over backwards to create the next step in 'clean energy,' I wanted to know exactly what the current trends are in car manufacturing. Below is a chart from the Department of Energy, released Dec. 2007, and can be found at:

The above graph is a great representation of the current trends in the United States, in terms of what type of car is being produced. Keep in mind that my personal point of view is that one car should combine several 'green' qualities to qualify as the car to bring us into the future. However this chart only shows the distinct types by number of models sold. Although it is no surprise that hybrid and E85 flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) are on the increase, pure electric vehicles and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles have been reduced over the past 3 years to almost zero models offered. Pure electric vehicles, also known as battery electric vehicles (BEVs), are cars run only on electricity by plugging the car into an outlet, something that isn't catching on quite yet. CNG, something that I never thought was a great idea, is probably suffering from a strong increase in natural gas prices and so the idea of fueling a car on natural gas has become less appealing.

Finally, as I've stated in earlier posts, while hybrid/E85 vehicles are a great way to go towards conserving gasoline usage and using less imported fuels, BEVs are not the way to go at this point. To underscore this point, there is a succinct graph from Michigan State University that highlights a common misconception among consumers -- 'that electricity is a very clean and efficient fuel, much more so than ethanol or gasoline.'

As the graph clearly shows, the amount of fossil energy (non-renewable energy such as coal or gasoline), compared to the amount of energy that comes out is astounding. Not only does it take more fossil energy in the form of petroleum to produce gasoline, but electricity is only about half as efficient! Before people jump all over this post with comments I want to clearly point out that this is a snapshot in time -- numbers change and things become more efficient. Let's just make sure we continue to monitor the facts so that we all can make the correct decisions in the future.

1 comment:

mus302 said...

I agree with what you are saying about hybrids and BEVs but I think we will most likely end up with something in between in the form of plug in hybrids.