The environmental impact of vehicles is well documented, with 14% of all global emissions coming from transportation. However, with the increasing adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), there is hope that sustainable driving could be on the horizon, especially with many governments announcing they are to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars in the next few decades. Here, we’ll delve into some of the ways the unsustainability of vehicles is being countered and ascertain whether this means eco driving is a realistic possibility.
EVs could pave the way for a sustainable future
EVs are the one great hope for sustainable driving, and their time to shine is imminent. More than 750,000 electric cars were sold in 2016, and as well as governments, major car companies are moving towards electric driving. Every Volvo car will have an electric motor from 2019 onwards, and Ford announced it would increase its investments in EVs to $11 billion by 2022.
The potential benefits of EVs are clear to see: there are no pollutant emissions from tailpipes and they will significantly reduce noise pollution. As well as their green credentials, they should also prove lighter on the pocket for drivers. Whilst the price of an EV itself is currently more expensive than a petrol or diesel alternative, the cost of running an electric car is around 10% less than these vehicles. There are also less moving parts in an EV, meaning maintenance costs are also lower, although batteries do need to be replaced every 8 to 12 years.
However, there are still concerns about how sustainable EVs actually are. The lithium-ion batteries used in EVs can have serious consequences for the environment. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that they can cause “resource depletion, global warming, ecological toxicity, and human health impacts”. The batteries rely on a limited supply of rare-earth metals that are environmentally dangerous to mine, and they can be difficult and expensive to recycle. In addition to this, EV’s still release particle pollution from wearing tyres, brakes, and road surfaces.
Fleet tracking technology can limit fuel wastage
Another innovation that could pave the way for sustainable driving is fleet tracking technology, which monitors the CO2 emission levels of vehicles. Mainly used by businesses to keep tabs on their fleet of vehicles, the technology works using GPS tracking.
The tracking system stops drivers from needlessly using fuel by keeping note of wasting behaviours like braking too hard and harsh acceleration. The technology also lets driver know if they are heading into traffic and will offer alternative routes, helping to reduce engine idle time and improving fuel efficiency. Some green fleet management systems will even produce reports showing how many kilograms of carbon these eco-driving efforts are saving. This not only helps to create sustainable businesses, but can also save them significant money in terms of fuel costs.
Clean diesel technology can reduce vehicle emissions
Bosch’s recent breakthrough in the development of clean diesel will also help reduce vehicle emissions. The automobile supplier recently announced that they had developed a new diesel technology that works through a “combination of different new injection techniques, temperature management, air systems, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to steer the combustion processes”.
The result is that the diesel produces only 13 milligrams of NOx per kilometre, or 40 milligrams in busy city traffic. The European legal limit is currently 168 milligrams, which most older diesel vehicles don’t comply with, making this development a huge step forward for sustainable driving.
Sustainable tyres will have less of a negative impact on wildlife
The natural rubber used to make car tyres can have serious repercussions when it comes to a car’s environmental impact. Around 8.5 million hectares of new rubber plantations will be required to meet the global rubber demand by 2024, which could have a disastrous impact on wildlife. Animals including the yellow-cheeked crested gibbon, the white-shouldered ibis and clouded leopard could lose their habitats as a result.
However, with various companies, including Michelin, Goodyear and Bridgestone, committing to using sustainable tyres, this pridacement may yet be avoided. Methods to create sustainable tyres include recycling old tyres and using rubber from the Guayule shrub. Whilst comparable in quality to Hevea natural rubber, the source of 90% of all tyres, Guayule can grow in arid regions. This means it will have much less of an impact on wildlife than Hevea, and also give “economic value to lands not suitable for other agricultural purposes.”
The various innovations aimed at making driving more environmentally-friendly suggest that sustainable driving could be a possibility in the future. However, even though the planet-damaging effects of vehicles are being mitigated in many ways, they ultimately still exist. Whilst EVs could provide a more sustainable alternative to standard vehicles altogether, there are still concerns over just how green they really are. Truly sustainable driving might not be here just yet, but these new technologies are certainly a step in the right direction.