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How Green Are Zero Emission Vehicles?

t25_thumb1A project to develop a new all-electric urban car, that will be affordable for many consumers when it reaches market and manufactured using an innovative and sustainable production process has been announced in the UK. It comes at a time when many companies are announcing development programs for electric or zero emission vehicles , hybrids and plug-in hybrids but how these vehicles are made may be as important to the environment as the fuel they do or don’t use. Hybrids for example have an increased level of complexity with an electric drive-train and battery integrated with a conventional internal combustion engine. This means that from a life cycle perspective the production of hybrid vehicles uses more resources and energy  than their conventional counterparts. If this energy was derived from fossil fuels than the manufacturing of our well meaning hybrid also produced additional CO2. Battery electric vehicles are simpler in that they have only one drive-train with less moving parts than an internal combustion engine. However are they to be made in a sustainable manor? Plastic parts are made from oil and considerable energy is used in production and assembly process.  Is the plant that they are to be built in an old car plant that leaks heat , wastes energy, produces VOC’s and buys it’s electricity from a coal fired generator?  How do we know how much of a carbon footprint is coming with our new zero emission vehicle?

In the UK a recent announcement by the government backed Technology Strategy Board brings  to the forefront the concept of sustainable manufacturing and truly green vehicle design. Gordon Murray Design and Zytek Automotive Technology, through a £4.5m investment from the Technology Strategy Board have announced  a new research and development project to develop four prototypes vehicle by February 2011. The first two of which will be the T27 and T25.

The T.27 is a sustainable vehicle, which means that it will be designed in a way that minimises the use of materials and keeps the embedded carbon of the vehicle as low as possible. The aim is to ensure that the environmental impact of the materials and energy that are used are as low as can be. The iStream® production process is also highly efficient, and flexible to minimise the cost of production.

In this picture Lord Drayson is seated in a prototype of a petrol version of the T27, the T25, where the bodywork has been removed to conceal the identity of the car.

In this picture Lord Drayson is seated in a prototype of a petrol version of the T27, the T25, where the bodywork has been removed to conceal the identity of the car.

Gordon Murray, Chief Executive and Technical Director of Gordon Murray Design said:

“The iStream® manufacturing process behind the T.25 and T.27 is all about sustainable, low energy process by design. The T.27 programme is a great opportunity for us and our partners to create what will be the world’s most efficient electric vehicle. An opportunity to start from a clean sheet of paper combined with our disruptive manufacturing technology will result in a product which truly pushes the boundaries of urban vehicle design and further protecting our mobility”.

The aim of the 16 month project is to develop prototypes that will put the consortium in the position where they can further explore the possibility of scaling up and building a manufacturing facility, with the ultimate goal of making this affordable, fun and environmentally friendly car widely available on the open market.

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2 comments to How Green Are Zero Emission Vehicles?

  • Gary Kirkland

    Until Solar, Wind, and Geothermal Power become economical, more efficient utilization of existing sources of energy is the way to go.At this point it actually takes far more energy from start to finish to use Alternative Energy since there is so much hassle and expense involved, especially in transportation.But Alternative use of conventional Energy is actually illegal ! Toward that end I would really like to see the EPA-OBD II Annual Vehicle Emissions Inspection Law closely examined and changed.As it stands right now, it is entirely possible for any Gasoline powered Vehicle from 1996 to the present to fail it’s Emissions Inspection, for not emitting enough polluting Exhaust Emissions ! All such Vehicles have on board Oxygen [O2] Exhaust Sensors.These O2 Sensors are set up to detect a level of polluting Exhaust Emissions that would indicate that Gasoline is being consumed by an Engine at 14.7 parts of Air to 1 part of Fuel.If there is a low level of Oxygen, and a high level of Pollution, a Vehicle will fail it’s Emissions Inspection as well it should.But Gasoline can be safely vaporized into a mixture that is 100 parts of Air to 1 part of Fuel.With this, even the largest SUV could easily get 50 + MPG and emit a fraction of the Emissions of a conventional 14.7/1 Fuel System, with an increase in Power, and much longer Engine life.I’m not the first to figure this out.Far from it ! For proof, do a search on [the late] Tom Ogle, and Charles Nelson Pogue.Then, go to and scan down the page to just before the update.But even if it is not to be believed that Fuel Vaporization is entirely possible, it’s illegal to even attempt to do so with any Vehicle from 1996 to the present.O2 Sensors are set up to detect that Fuel is being consumed at 14.7/1. A mixture of 100 / 1 will not emit enough Polluting Exhaust Emissions to register on O2 Sensors.When such a Vehicle is connected to an OBD II Emissions Inspection Analyzer, an O2 Sensor Failure Code will be generated, which will result in a failed Emissions Inspection.O2 Sensor Exemptions are permitted for Vehicles that have been legally converted to operate on Natural Gas, Propane, or Hydrogen, and are Registered as such.But not for vaporized Gasoline.Thus, it is entirely possible under this EPA-OBD II Vehicle Emissions Inspection Law for any Gasoline powered Vehicle from 1996 to the present to fail it’s Emissions Test for not emitting enough polluting Exhaust Emissions ! As long as this insane 14.7/1 Law that only benefits Big Oil remains in effect, the only way to make Vehicles more “efficient” will be to make them lighter, and smaller.This has got to change ! I have asked the Question many times ; “Why is it illegal for any Gasoline powered Vehicle from 1996 to the present to emit too little polluting Exhaust Emissions”? So far, not one Big Oil Executive, Politician, or Concerned Environmentalist can, or will answer the Question.Those that have bothered to reply can’t seem to come up with an Answer either.Can you ?

  • Betty Saenz EcoBroker

    I drive a Prius and I know it is still not perfect yet I thought it was a good vehicle for me.

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