It’s no secret that greenhouse gas emissions are a threat to our environment, and vehicle emissions are one cause of our current environmental problems. According to the EPA, vehicle emissions account for 28 percent of the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
Since transportation is a big part of the problem, auto manufacturers have steadily worked to produce eco-friendlier vehicles. From finding ways to make cars with better gas mileage to developing hybrids, there has been a push not only from policy makers for greener vehicles, but also increased interest among consumers.
Though ZEVs are certainly beneficial to the environment, cost and a variety of other factors have kept these vehicles from being widely embraced by mainstream markets. Read on for more information on how these cars have evolved as well as the challenges faced in bringing this technology to the masses.
The Difference between Hybrids and Zero Emissions Cars
A hybrid vehicle uses an engine that is partly gas-powered and partly electric. These vehicles can usually get up to 50 miles per gallon and can be charged at any electrical outlet. Hybrid vehicles have also come down in price in recent years, making them comparable to the price of non-hybrid vehicles.
Zero emissions vehicles run completely on electricity, thanks to hydrogen fuel cells. For a vehicle to be classified as a ZEV, they must be devoid of measured detrimental emissions, powered by hydrogen fuel cells, and only produce water as a byproduct. Hydrogen is the preferred conduit because it is much more abundant than fossil fuels and is not likely to be depleted any time soon.
Health Impact of Greenhouse Gasses from Vehicles
The American Lung Association (ALA) recently released a report indicating that the cost of gas used for transportation purposes is far greater than simply the price we pay at the pump. In addition to the the cost of a gallon of gas, health problems directly or indirectly related to greenhouse gas emissions account for $20.5 billion in healthcare costs in the 10 states surveyed alone. In fact, the ALA reported that for every 16 gallons of gas sold, approximately $11.82 in related healthcare costs is generated.
These costs are related to a variety of illnesses that can result in untimely death, including asthma, heart attacks, and more. The ALA asserts that major health problems caused by emissions can be avoided if ZEVs accounted for the majority of vehicles on the road.
Getting the Government Involved
So far, 10 states have instituted ZEV programs with the hope that automakers will produce more electric vehicles, and consumers will be more inclined to purchase them. These states make up nearly 30 percent of the US auto market, and their ZEV initiatives could have a significant impact on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.
California has been one of the main leaders of the ZEV movement and is a trailblazer in creating stringent emissions standards that many states have since adopted. California’s regulations initially required manufacturers to gradually increase the number of ZEVs available to consumers. The state’s most recent regulations stipulate that 15 percent of new vehicle sales should be ZEVs by the year 2025.
Drawbacks of Zero Emissions Vehicles
Although ZEVs are promising in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lessening the load on the atmosphere, the concept is not without drawbacks. Cost is still a major factor with ZEVs – both for consumers and vehicle manufacturers.
Most ZEVs have a relatively high cost but low performance when compared to standard cars. This high cost often leads consumers to keep their current vehicles longer, rather replacing them with a more expensive ZEV.
A report by California Air Resource Board (CARB) suggests that the emissions problem cannot be entirely offset by the purchase of ZEVs. This is because the number of consumers driving their old cars will outnumber new ZEV purchases.
Historically, consumers respond to higher auto prices with a decrease in auto purchases. Automakers also feel the financial impact of producing ZEVs that do not sell as well as their other offerings, especially when the higher cost of development and production is taken into consideration.
Mass Production of ZEVs on the Horizon
While state and federal programs are important, getting ZEVs into mass production and making them affordable for consumers will also be critical in making these goals a reality. As consumers become educated on low emissions vehicles and how zero waste products and practices help the environment, they have begun to express more interest in these vehicles. In addition to lower price points, ZEVs will need to become more widely available, have more charging locations, and offer more individual vehicle options.
The goal is to have ZEVs account for the majority of vehicles on the road by the year 2050. It’s an ambitious goal, but with increased awareness about the health and environmental effects of greenhouse gas emissions, the cost savings could amount to $33 billion annually and will improve the state of the environment.