Sustainability | Renewable Energy

Clean Vehicles

One of the best things a person can do to reduce their carbon footprint is to use a zero-emission electric vehicle (EV) instead of a vehicle with a fossil fuel-based internal combustion engine (ICE).

The next best option to an EV for low-emission driving is a hybrid. Electric vehicles, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids all help to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from one of the biggest causes of climate change on the planet - ICE automobiles. 

Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) have internal combustion engines but also have electric motors. Blended and flex-fuel PHEVs run on both ICE and electric motors. Extended-range PHEVs can run on their electric motors only (switching from the motor to the engine as necessary).

Standard hybrid vehicles only have internal combustion engines and use biofuel (ethanol or biodiesel), or (most likely) a biofuel-gasoline blend.

Hybrids still use combustion for power; fuel is still used (biofuel or a gasoline-biofuel blend). Fully electric vehicles (100%-EVs) run on electric motors entirely. 100%-EVs produce zero emissions.

Read more about EVs and hybrids here: Solutions to fossil fuels.

100%-EV and EV Range

Electric vehicles (EVs) drop the gas engine entirely, becoming zero-emission vehicles. Both EVs and PHEV produce zero tailpipe pollution when running on electricity; however many PHEVs will switch to a gasoline engine when the range of the vehicle (capacity of the vehicle's battery) is reached. The 100%-EV has no gas engine at all, only an electric motor.

The higher the capacity of the battery in the EV, the higher the range (and also the initial cost) of the vehicle. Although EVs emit no tailpipe pollutants, it remains important that the source for the energy from the grid that charges the vehicle’s battery remains green (i.e. renewable energy) as well.

2 long-range EVs - Tesla's Models S and X

"EV range" based on a full charge for an electric vehicle refers to the distance an EV can travel on a fully charged battery. Most EVs on a full charge will last at least a couple of days or even a few days, for standard driving (standard driving is about 20-90 miles/ day).

Tesla's Models X, 3, and S are three of the longest-range EVs in the U.S. at 295, 310, and 335 miles, respectively (as of 2019). In the United States, Tesla also represents the most popular new car sales in the luxury sedan category.

***Update as of 2022 - the median range for EVs is about 250 miles. Tesla still holds some top spots for EV range, but there are other long-range vehicles on the market, and models X, 3, and S have all increased in range (other long-range EVs include Ford, BMW, others, and even a long-range GMC Hummer).

The top 10 long-range vehicles as of 2022:

10. 2022 Rivian R1S: 316 Miles

9. 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning: 320 Miles

8. 2022 BMW iX: 324 Miles

7. 2022 GMC Hummer EV: 329 Miles

6. 2022 Tesla Model Y: 330 Miles

5. 2022 Tesla Model X: 348 Miles

4. 2022 Mercedes EQS: 350 Miles

3. 2022 Tesla Model 3: 358 Miles

2. 2022 Tesla Model S: 405 Miles

1. 2022 Lucid Air: 520 Miles  [FROM  -]

EVs take numerous forms and then compete in the mass auto-sales market against standard gas and diesel vehicles. Standard fuel-efficient diesel vehicles used to be the most popular type of efficient automobile for new car sales in Europe. EVs and PHEVs are the more popular new car sales in the EU, and throughout Europe, than just standard efficient diesel cars or hybrids in Europe. EVs are already popular throughout Asia as well. IN THE UNITED STATES, EVS ARE JUST STARTING TO GAIN THE POPULARITY SEEN IN EUROPE AND ASIA..

The EU is set to ban sales of new ICE cars starting in 2035. In addition, cities worldwide are starting to phase out ICE vehicles from new sales and city roads. Hybrid, PHEV, and EV sales are expected to continue to increase steadily in the US, EU, China, and throughout the rest of the world.

Please also see: Sustainable Transportation

Benefits of EVs and Hybrids

100%-EVs are the more environmentally friendly choice (as they produce zero emissions), however, hybrid vehicles do also have increased gas mileage compared to standard vehicles while lowering CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) associated with vehicle use.

The benefits of hybrid cars include a variety of short-term and long-term financial savings, even above and beyond savings on gas due to the increased fuel efficiency of hybrids. For example, the purchase of hybrid vehicles, PHEVs, and EVs often includes manufacturer and retailer incentives and rebates, in addition to state and federal tax incentives (especially for plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles).

EVs and hybrids offer long-term savings such as lower maintenance costs, in addition to increased fuel efficiency, and decreased cost to run the vehicle. EVs and hybrids are also much better for the environment than conventional ICE vehicles, generating much less pollution. EVs also offer a vastly better driving experience than ICE vehicles and reduce noise pollution.

EVs and some hybrid vehicles offer features with advantages over standard cars. Typical features include regenerative braking, electric motor drive/ assist,  and automatic start/ shutoff

Regenerative braking refers to energy produced from braking and coasting that’s normally wasted, which is instead stored in a battery until needed by the motor. During electric motor drive/ assist, the electric motor kicks into gear, providing additional torque for such things as hill-climbing, passing, or quickly accelerating.

Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles

PHEVs have high-capacity batteries and charge by plugging into the grid, storing enough electricity to significantly reduce gas use. PHEVs typically use anywhere from 30% to 60% less gas than a vehicle with only an internal combustion engine.

There are two basic types of PHEVs: extended-range electric vehicles and blended plug-in hybrids.

Whereas a blended PHEV simply combines an electric motor and a gas engine, extended-range PHEVs work by having only the electric motor turn the wheels; and can run on electricity only until the gasoline engine is needed to generate electricity to recharge the battery that powers the electric motor (or the gas engine can be eliminated entirely, on short rides).

Blended and flex-fuel PHEVs work by still having both the gas engine and the electric motor connected to the wheels, both propelling the vehicle most of the time.

Low Emission Zones (LEZ)

Owning an electric vehicle helps car owners when facing vehicle emission-based levy systems such as London's congestion charge (C-charge). Zero-emission vehicles are often exempted from fees in LEZ around the world.

Following London's lead, there are already mandated and implemented charges for polluting fossil fuel-based vehicles, and low emission vehicle zones, in France, Norway; and in major cities throughout the world.

Even New York City is in the process of mandating levies on vehicles with high polluting tailpipe emissions, to create an ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) in the city. The proposed NYC ULEZ is to be modeled after London's ULEZ.

Vehicles in the United States typically consume about 9 million barrels of gasoline per day (a rough estimate of all vehicles' gas use in the U.S. per day). The U.S. transportation sector accounts for about 29% of the GHGs produced by the U.S. domestically; with about 60% of those GHG emissions just coming from passenger vehicles.

Increased adoption and use of hybrid vehicles and EVs will decrease gasoline use, increase efficiency (both the cost- and fuel-efficiency) of vehicles on the road, reduce transportation-related GHGs, and improve air quality; thus improving overall public health, and even the financial well-being, of drivers in general.

Cities will derive the same set of benefits from implementing LEZ, as Manhattan is in the process of doing, in order to make roads greener and cleaner. The new NYC ULEZ and C-charge are modeled after similar initiatives in London.

NorwayGermany, the UK, France, and Denmark, are great examples of countries where EVs, and PHEVs, are taking off.

Also, please click here for information about the congestion charge in Oslo, Norway, and the attempts to eliminate fossil-fuel vehicles from the streets of Oslo.

Please see Green City Times' article on Crit'Air in France. Crit'Air is a program that is designed to encourage greater use of low or zero-emission vehicles in France by mandating that vehicles in Crit'Air zones throughout France have fuel-efficiency related color-coded stickers on their windshields. Crit'Air stickers identify the fuel efficiency (or lack thereof) of vehicles; and are priced higher for more polluting vehicles, according to a vehicle's tailpipe emissions test results.

Please also see: London (and the congestion charge in London)


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