California prides itself in having sustainable transportation. After all, companies like Tesla, along with plenty of other electric vehicle startups are headquartered in CA. Thus, it’s no surprise that California constantly innovates to find better alternatives for gasoline-powered vehicles.
Under the California Fuel Cell Partnership, the state government has partnered with private car manufacturers to lead such innovations. Specifically, the group has worked to foster the growth in a specialized electric vehicle market: hydrogen-powered vehicles.
How Do Hydrogen-Powered Cars Work?
Hydrogen-powered vehicles, unlike traditional ones, don’t require a battery to operate an electric motor. And instead of emitting hazardous air pollutants, hydrogen-powered vehicles’ only byproduct is water. This means the environment is free of carbon emissions coming from the vehicles.
So the only cause of concern is that hydrogen-powered vehicles require adequate refueling stations. Currently, there are only 39 locations where refueling stations exist. However, the California Fuel Cell Partnership plans to introduce 1000 stations by 2030.
Impact on the Economy
According to Andrew Martinez, a hydrogen program expert at the California Air Resources Board, “These [hydrogen-powered cars] are no longer vehicles where essentially every driver is hand-picked. These are vehicles that are getting to real customers on the real market.”
Martinez believes that the market for these cars exists for the average consumer and not just people with deep pockets.
In addition, Bill Elrick, an executive director at California Fuel Cell Partnership, mentioned: “We can achieve that vision of a self-sustaining market through the establishment of 1,000 hydrogen stations throughout the state to support up to, or even more than, 1 million fuel cell vehicles.”
In other words, Elrick believes that the market will jump-start itself with the addition of more fueling stations.
Future Plans for Hydrogen-Powered Vehicles
With the state currently dominated by battery-powered electric vehicles, people at fuel car companies hope that the market will expand and reach people once more fueling stations are built.
Currently, only 6,300 hydrogen-fueled cars operate within the state.
Although the two electric vehicle markets seem to be clashing, the steps towards achieving sustainability are growing even closer.
Hyundai launches car with a solar charging system in a push for sustainability
Just Friday, Hyundai announced the launch of its first car with a solar roof charging system, which would be first introduced to the newest Sonata Hybrid. Promising to roll out the technology to other cars in the future, the company’s move is its first of many.
Fundamentally, introducing the solar roof should help improve fuel efficiency, boost electric power, and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions. According to the company’s announcement, its silicon panels would allow for between 30 and 60 percent of the car’s battery to be charged through solar.
The impact? Apparently, six hours of daily charging could add over extra 800 miles to the car’s travel distance. To the consumer, that means convenience and saving a whole lot on gasoline.
For now, Hyundai is looking to have its solar roof play a supporting role in powering its cars. Its long term goal is to make powering cars with fossil fuels an obsolete concept, the company alludes. Its new Sonata Hybrid is a small step in the right direction.
Because the Sonata Hybrid does still run partially on gasoline, it does still emit the same greenhouse gases as conventional passenger vehicles. However, it is (and will be) far more fuel-efficient. On average, hybrid cars emit greenhouse gases in a quantity of over 30% less compared to their gasoline-run counterparts.
But the debate over whether electricity is actually cleaner than gasoline still remains. Currently, over 45% of the electricity generated in the United States comes from coal-powered plants. Hyundai is going in the right direction, but still, there are many challenges ahead.
The Future: A Self-Driving, Zero-Emissions Tesla Motorhome?
Back in November 2017, Tesla unveiled its new Semi. Consumers were excited then, but now, with production plans set for 2020, the truck has only continued to pick up speed. CEO Elon Musk said the fully-electric, heavy-duty truck “rides like a sports car,” without spewing harmful emissions and thunderous noise.
Many were captivated by the reveal of this sleek, eco-friendly vehicle, and some even dreamt up new ways to vamp up the new ride and drive it into the future.
It’s one thing to drive a Tesla. Ever thought about living in one too? Well, a startup just released a prototype exploring that possibility.
Introducing the Tesla Semi RV.
What Would a Tesla Semi-Home Entail?
Vanlifer designed a concept prototype for what it dubbed the “Tesla Semi-Home,” with the Tesla Semi acting as the base of the electric campervan. A concept sketch by the company showed the motorhome would be able to fit 6 passengers, and would be equipped with all the same commodities as other luxury motorhomes and RVs — a full kitchen, seating areas, bathroom, and beds.
The company also pointed out a Tesla Semi would save drivers around $200,000 in fuel over the course of two years. Plus, not only would an all-electric motorhome save some big bucks, but it would also be significantly more environmentally conscious.
“Its [the Tesla Semi] range of up to 500 miles (fully loaded) makes it ideal for motorhomes,” the company wrote on their website. “So you can clock up some big drive days without the accompanying gas-guzzling guilt.”
The Tesla Semi’s Features Make It Ideal for Building a Motorhome
Vanlifer added that Tesla’s enhanced self-driving function, Autopilot, could also be an exciting new asset for a potential motorhome, especially for drivers taking long, scenic road trips.
“The enhanced autopilot also has us really excited as it means the driver has more time to take in the scenery of the drive, rather than worrying about driving itself,” the startup stated.
Some other notable features about the Semi include its 500-mile range on a single 30-minute charge and ability to go from 0-60mph in 20 seconds, even with 80,000 pounds of cargo. Without cargo, Tesla said the truck will be able to accelerate from 0-60mph at 5 seconds flat.
Let’s Talk About Cost
For the Semi with up to a 300-mile range, it’s projected to cost $150,000, while one up to a 500-mile range will be about $180,000.
Since 2017, customers have had the option to reserve Tesla’s long-anticipated vehicle online. Currently, to reserve a standard Semi, it costs around $20,000. However, to reserve the limited production “founders series” version of the truck, it would set one back $200,000. Nonetheless, Business Insider reports that several major corporations such as Pepsi and Walmart have already bought in.
While these figures may seem pretty daunting, Vanlifer argues that the price is reasonable. In fact, the company said online, the price for the Semi “really isn’t much for a luxury, high-end motorhome.”
Still, this price doesn’t include the trailer for the motorhome.
The Environmental Defense Fund reports cars produce roughly 333 million tons of CO2 annually. (That’s 20% of global carbon-dioxide emissions.) Consequently, people have switched to everything from bikes to public transit to reduce their carbon footprint.
But as the Semi reaches the market, maybe a future with net-zero emissions won’t entail cutting cars. As seen from the minds at Tesla and Vanlifer, it might just require a little more imagination.
Self-driving cars are the future, but how do they impact the environment?
Industry giants like Uber, Google, and Tesla are all investing massive amounts into autonomous vehicles. In the next decade, self-driving cars could completely populate our roads. No doubt, they’re the future of transportation. But as cars and trucks account for one-fifth of all U.S. emissions, the advent of autonomous vehicles potentially has huge environmental consequences.
Autonomous Vehicles More Sustainable on a Unit Basis
Autonomous cars are free of human errors, including accelerating too quickly or braking unnecessarily, and are programmed to take the most efficient routes. Thus, a single self-driving car should almost always be more sustainable than a regular car on a per-unit basis.
Tesla, for example, is one of the front runners in the autonomous car market and only builds electric cars.
Autonomous Vehicles May Cause Public Transport Opt-Outs
Of course, if autonomous cars became widely available, more people would choose to drive or use ride-hailing services. If people could sleep or work while their personal cars drove to them to work, many people may opt out of public transportation. Even if self-driving cars are more sustainable than regular cars, a large influx of vehicles on the road could greatly increase emissions.
Yet, autonomous cars could also lower emissions by reducing congestion. Autonomous cars could be programmed to interact with other cars to make routes more efficient. So, if every car on the road were autonomous, traffic congestion could dramatically decrease. Some have also suggested that self-driving cars could drive close together in packs to reduce air resistance. This ‘platoon’ driving could reduce vehicle energy consumption by as much as 25%.
Autonomous Vehicles Would Promote Ridesharing, Reduce Emissions
Furthermore, autonomous cars may also promote ridesharing. Ride-hailing apps like Uber could have fleets of self-driving cars picking up groups of people around the clock. And cutting out labor costs could dramatically reduce ride-hailing costs in the long run. Around three-quarters of commuters drive to work alone, so increasing ride-sharing could dramatically lower the number of cars on the road, as well as emissions.
Since autonomous cars wouldn’t need to park and wait for you to return, carpooling also becomes far more viable. A group of four people could take a single car that takes each of them to their respective offices. Individual car ownership may even decline in favor of neighborhood cars.
Consumers and Regulators Should Play a Role in Emissions Reductions
Regulations on ride-hailing apps could be vital to preventing excess emissions. If ride-hailing services were required or incentivized to use fuel-efficient and electric fleets, emissions could be dramatically reduced.
Furthermore, consumer trends play a big role in the environmental impact of autonomous vehicles. If many individuals opt for neighborhood cars, carpooling, or ride-sharing services, autonomous vehicles could actually reduce the number of cars on the road.
Regardless of their environmental impact, autonomous cars are the future. From an economic and safety perspective, the transition is inevitable. It’s up to governments, industry leaders, and individuals to ensure that autonomous cars reduce overall emissions.
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