Driving Towards a Greener Future

Unsurprisingly, human activities account for the majority of the increase in greenhouse gases over the last century. In 2015, the EPA did a study to see which activities accounted for the greater percent, hoping that those industries would turn toward greener alternatives. Transportation accounted for 27% of the emissions, the second largest source of greenhouse gases.

The largest portion of transportation is made up of emissions from combustion of petroleum-based products in internal combustion engines, like gasoline in an engine from cars and light-duty trucks. The other part of transportation is made up of trains, commercial aircraft, boats, and freight trucks. Since 1990, the total emissions from transportation increased dramatically due to an increase demand in travel. Due to this large increase, automobile and other transportation companies have been working to utilize alternative fuels and alternative sources of energy.

One automobile company that has been especially creative in alternative fuels is Honda. While Tesla has been paving the way for electric cars, Honda has turned towards hydrogen fuel cells to power their vehicles. Hydrogen fuel cell cars are zero emission, and run on hydrogen fed into a fuel cell that produces electricity, which then powers the vehicle. Honda chose to turn toward hydrogen rather than a traditional electric vehicle because they believed it to be a better long-term solution. The vehicle has a range of around 366 miles, which is the largest range of any zero emission vehicle, and fuels up in minutes at any hydrogen station. Unfortunately, Honda was not able to sell this vehicles nationwide because the only state with hydrogen stations in California. The current infrastructure of the United States is not equipped to handle releasing these vehicles at the moment. However, it is a great push towards the direction of alternative fuel we need to lower emissions drastically and in a few years, it is Honda’s hope to have more hydrogen stations around the country.

Another automobile company that has been thinking outside the box is Toyota. The company known for their fuel-efficient hybrid Prius vehicles is venturing out into other fuel options in order to cut emissions even further. The Toyota Research Institute was searching for new alternative fuel options when they figured it would take them a lot less time to have something much smarter then them searching for them. Therefore, they decided to fund an artificial intelligence software that worked towards finding new materials to use as batteries. Toyota, like Honda, has taken a step towards hydrogen-fueled cars, but believes machine learning will be able to determine a better source of fuel more quickly. By using artificial intelligence, Toyota will be able to reach a conclusion faster and will be able to produce a new vehicle that cuts down emissions. General Motors has also jumped in to create all-electric, zero emissions vehicles to reduce pollution. Following the rollbacks on fuel efficiency requirements in the U.S., General Motors hopes to pursue the electric age with the same ferocity as European governments. Since General Motors is the largest selling car manufacturer in the U.S., they hope that other automobile companies, if they have not already done so, will follow in their footsteps. They are not the most advanced in alternative fuel vehicles, but they will make the biggest impact on the industry.

Solar energy is also a very popular alternative fuel because it is relatively easy to set up and the source of energy is the sun, so it can re-charge whenever it needs.

A much talked about concept in the world of transportation is the idea of trains utilizing a fuel source other than diesel. In the UK and India, it is very much possible to implement solar powered trains with the existing infrastructure. Nothing about the voltage of the rails needs to be changed as they already fit between the voltage needed for solar energy of that magnitude. The only problem that arises when thinking of the logistics of making UK’s trains solar is the fact that they do not have the proper funding to change their trains and add power grids to the rural countrysides. India, on the other hand, has been steadily increasing the amount of electrified rails to make way for this type of innovation, but they too would need funding for power grids throughout the country. While trains do not make up the largest portion of transportation emissions, cutting back on fossil fuels in any aspect brings us one step closer to reducing our carbon footprint and slowing down the effects greenhouse gases have on our planet.

However, if these types of technology have been around for years already, we have to wonder why they have not been inserted into our society. The answer is simple: automobile companies saw no reason to change from diesel and gasoline powered engines if no one really cared about the emissions they produced. While climate change has been a big issue for many years, it was not until lately that consumers have realized the effects climate change has on our everyday lives. Since the consumer became more eco-conscious, the companies had to start creating products that were better for the environment. It begs the question, yet, whether it is right for companies to limit themselves to what the consumer wants rather than what the world needs. If we have the ability to minimize the damage of climate change, are we really going to let a few dollars stand in the way of saving our planet?

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