Low Emission Cars and Their Effect on the Environment

A low emission vehicle (LEV) is a vehicle that emits less than 193 g/mile of CO2. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the pollutant that has the highest impact on the environment. Other toxic substances that vehicles emit include sulfur, carbon monoxide (CM), nitrous oxide (NOX), and hydrocarbons (HC). Aside from LEVs, there are several additional categories that further determine the level of emission of a vehicle: ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV), super-ultra-low emission vehicle (SULEV) and zero-emission vehicle (ZEV).

Vehicles that meet SULEV standards include Honda Insight and Toyota Prius, as well as the Ford Focus SULEV variant. However, with the enormous advances in technology we are witnessing today, the goal is to produce as much zero-emission vehicles as possible, and many car makers already invest a lot of money doing just that. Zero-emission vehicles are electric and hybrid cars, that are in use nowadays.

Electric vehicles run on electric motors, that are powered by rechargeable batteries. They emit no pollutants and work quietly, thus contributing to reducing noise pollution, as well. Downsides to this technology is that electric vehicles get significantly lower mileage than gasoline-powered vehicles by as much as 50%, and the time they take to be charged is pretty long – it can last 7-8 hours. These cars, like all other products that involve new technologies, are pretty expensive, because of high production costs.

Hybrid cars use internal combustion engines in combination with electric motors for propulsion. The thing with hybrid vehicles is that they provide better performances than electric cars, but have higher emission levels due to the use of fossil fuels. Hybrids use the gasoline-powered engine to power the electric motor while driving, so it doesn’t need to be recharged. They are less expensive, and more people can afford hybrids, such as Toyota Prius or Honda Insight, compared to electric vehicles.

Latest experiments aiming to produce affordable zero-emission vehicles include fuel cell technology. These vehicles run on hydrogen, which is transformed into electricity by fuel cells to power an electric motor. Experts say fuel cell vehicles shouldn’t be too expensive once they become mass-produced. One of the major negative effects is the hydrogen extraction process, because it is not readily available. It has to be extracted from fossil fuels, which creates pollution. Other environmental-friendly technologies include biofuels, natural gas, and liquid petroleum gas and achieve some positive results in emission measurements and tests.

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