Friday, June 24, 2016

The Hypocrisy of Green Cars

Alexander Carabitses

Green cars... environmentalists love them, gear heads hate them, and marketing departments go to town with them.  Of the three points that I just listed, it is the third that is most important to understanding the true nature of green cars as things stand now.  Every gear head knows that the EPA and CARB are responsible for the green cars that are on the road today, due to the environmental and fuel economy regulations that they have placed on automakers.  In my mind, these are worthy regulations, as I am a believer in global warming, and I do believe that we have a responsibility to take care of the earth (although my automotive enthusiast side makes me want to cut my throat every time I say or write this).  For this reason I do believe that alternative propulsion technologies should be developed to produce eco-friendly or "green" cars.

Unfortunately, today's green cars are nothing more than hypocrisy on wheels, as they are really marketing machines and anything but green.  We have all seen ads for electric cars with the phrase, "Zero emissions", along with a photo of the car that also features nature imagery and happy-go-lucky environmentally contentious families. It is marketing that makes the car companies that put out these ads look conscientious and responsible. Well folks, those ads are the biggest crock of shit I have ever seen, and in my mind, so are electric cars in general.  True, electric cars produce absolutely no tailpipe emissions, but the lack of tailpipe emissions is not the whole story, as there are a few other factors that prove electric cars to be nothing more than a marketing hoax.  For starters, various metals must be mined in order to produce the materials needed to build a battery.  It is also important to remember that the biggest source of electricity on God's green earth is coal, and I can safely tell you that mining and burning coal to generate electricity is just as harmful to the environment as drilling for oil.  And although alternative energy is taking the world by storm as we speak, I find it hard to believe that immature technology will be able to support a world that will supposedly be dominated by electric cars in the future.  As it is, our current electrical grid may not be able to support all these cars (if the opinions of several powertrain engineers from various OEMs are to be believed).  Finally, there is the fact that once the used batteries of electric cars are disposed of or recycled, they will release a crap load of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.  Zero emissions? I think not.

At least electric cars are fun to drive and meet their EPA label in real world driving conditions.  The same cannot be said with turbo charged 4-cylinder engines.  Here is the deal, 4-cylinders are great on fuel economy, but they deliver little to no driving pleasure, so turbo chargers are added to give a power boost.  However, this defeats the purpose of the fuel efficient 4-cylinder, and in the end, performance is still poor, there is a nasty groan from the 4-clyinder, and don't get me started on turbo lag.  It is also important to note that turbo-chargers are notorious for getting real world fuel economy that is well below the official EPA numbers on the window sticker.  Now for an OEM, this presents a great opportunity to "legally scam" buyers, because if an owner complains that the vehicle that he or she purchased isn't getting the fuel economy on the window sticker, the OEM can point the finger at the EPA, as it was the EPA that tested the cars and it was their test protocol that lead to these numbers being dished out.

At the end of the day, there are so many things that are wrong with enviormnementally friendly vehicles.  Some of them are expensive, others lag in performance, while some don't even match their EPA fuel economy numbers in real world driving conditions.  Worst of all, electric cars, the future of personal transportation and mobility, are only environmentally friendly in that they lack tailpipe emissions.  Unfortunately, even if all OEMs converted their current lineups to all electric vehicles and comsumers suddenly started buying them (yes, another problem is the fact that not enough people buy these things which causes car companies to lose money) the other environmental factors that I mentioned earlier will offset the gains made by having emission free lineups.  Automakers are doing the best that they can with the cards that they have been dealt with.  It was the government agencies that forced car companies to use the powertrains that I covered in this post, as well as some others, in order to meet tighter fuel economy and emissions standards, and it is quite clear that this has caused more harm than good.

The one positive thing that can be taken away from all of this is that automakers are finally becoming sustainable, and in the case of electric cars, are finding ways to make these types of cars fun to drive. However, the government needs to let automakers choose their course of action to meet these new standards and not constrain their technology choices like they currently are.  There must always be a middle ground for positive changes to take place.

That's all I have to say for now.  Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

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