EPA and DOT Developing New Fuel Economy Labels

label.1.for.electric.vehicle.500The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have unveiled two proposed fuel economy labels that would appear on the window stickers of new vehicles, including one design that assigns letter grades from A+ down to D to indicate the vehicle’s fuel economy performance.  The new labels are necessary because of the increasing number of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles that are entering the marketplace, according to the EPA. Since these vehicles use fuel more sparingly — or not at all — new methods of calculating fuel economy are needed, the agency said. The EPA is seeking consumer feedback during a 60-day period to help it decide what elements work, and ultimately which designs to incorporate into the final label.

The two proposed designs contain mostly the same information, but it is presented differently in each. One label prominently features a letter grade that is based on the vehicle’s fuel economy, and if adopted would be a major departure from the current sticker. The second label more closely resembles the current version, but adds more information to reflect new methods of calculating fuel economy. The EPA expects to make a decision by the end of the year, and the new label will first appear on 2012 models.

Posted by pfiorini on Oct 15 2010 in Environmental News

The Vehicle’s Ecological Footprint and Ways to Reduce It

We know that vehicles have an effect on the environment, ant that they contribute to ones ‘ecological footprint’.  Estimates size the ecological footprint of the 134 million passenger cars in the United States as slightly larger than the state of Texas. And that does not include SUV’s and other light trucks, not to mention heavy-duty trucks. Yet, the car  is the proven winner in personal transportation. Incremental improvements along each step of its lifecycle will make it easier to live with. So what are the direct consequences associated with owning and fueling a modern sedan and leave the infrastructure questions to the policy makers? And what can we do to reduce the impact?

Using Gasoline = Emitting CO2: Estimates attribute 77 percent of a car’s footprint to the CO2 released from burning gasoline. If three quarters of your car’s eco-footprint is attributed to its ability to release CO2, then you can have a real impact simply by limiting the amount of gasoline you burn. Gasoline consumption is important because CO2 production is directly related to gasoline combustion.  To limit CO2, the obvious option is to walk or bike. But in the many cases when that is not realistic, you can maximizing your car’s miles per gallon. Start by inflating your tires to the recommended level on a regular basis.  Tires naturally lose approximately 2 percent of their air pressure per month. Another major benefit comes from limiting speed to 65 mph or less. By then you are paying a logarithmically increasing price in fuel consumption due to wind resistance. And as if you could avoid it, idling in traffic is an obvious waste of time and fuel, so you also have a green reason to skipping rush hour.

Emissions: The toxic emissions include hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen. The newer the car, the more emissions are reduced. And thanks to advanced emission controls more and more conventional gasoline-powered cars are qualified as a PZEV (Partial Zero Emission Vehicle).  For efficient pollution control it is necessary to have up-to-date emission control devices and to keep them in working order. In practical terms that means driving a newer car and adhering to its maintenance schedule. Here we must find a balance between replacing a vehicle that we’ve already paid a high ecological price to build and one that works better from an emissions standpoint.

Recycling Oil, Batteries, and Tires: All of these can be recycled. If they are not they pose undeniable hazards. Used motor oil pollutes ground and ground water.  Of the 99 million automotive batteries manufactured each year the EPA says nearly 90 percent are recycled. But their main ingredient is lead, offering reason why it is important to recycle

Posted by pfiorini on Apr 1 2010 in Environmental News

Options for Driving Green

Avenger drivingCar owners have a desire to drive ‘green’ for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s solely to do well for the environment, to save on gas money, or both, there is more than one way to drive ‘green’. If you are interested in improving on this read the following tips for some easy ways to go green while on the road.

Go Small: Buying a small car is one of the best way to reduce your car’s environmental impact. Today’s small cars are better than ever, unlike the tin boxes of yesteryear. Furthermore they are becoming very popular, prompting automakers to renew their focus on the small car market. Small cars biggest benefit is their excellent fuel efficiency. If a small car fits your lifestyle, and you don’t have a thirst for overwhelming power, it may be the right way to go green.

Hybrid or Diesel: This may be an obvious one, but it’s certainly not right or affordable for everyone. Hybrids have improved over the years and there are now many models to choose from.  Diesel, once considered dirty cars, use new technology to create a super clean and fuel efficient engine. While the U.S. still lags behind in available diesels, compared to Europe, the trend may be catching on. The main downside to these vehicles is the more expensive price tag.

Green Materials: Today automakers are using green and recycled materials for the cars cabin. These include recycled components and parts made from plants.  Those who prefer can opt for a non-leather interior in most lower- and mid-priced vehicles, and even in some luxury cars.

Tire-Pressure-checkShut Off Cylinder Technology: To improve fuel economy and reduce emissions, some automakers have created systems that deactivate half an engine’s cylinders during certain driving conditions. Chrysler introduced the second generation of its Multi-Displacement System (MDS) on the 2009 5.7-liter Hemi V8, which can improve fuel economy by up to 20 percent on models such as the Chrysler 300C and Dodge Challenger R/T.

Consider Factories: Some automakers have made huge strides in greening up their manufacturing facilities — and you can reward them for their efforts. A quick visit to the automakers website will give you a quick overview of what they are doing to green their factories.

Tire Pressure: If your car’s tires are underinflated, it can result in increased tire wear as well as reduced fuel economy. Plus, they adversely affect handling, increase stopping distances and increase the chance of tire failure. If your vehicle does not have an included tire pressure monitor, make sure you check yours regularly.

Driving Habits: Lastly, think about how you drive. Could you change your route to make it shorter? Could you combine multiple trips into one? Is your destination close enough to walk or bike? There are many easy ways to drive more ‘green’, its just up to you to make these changes.

Posted by pfiorini on Mar 12 2010 in Environmental News

Green Road Driving System Brings Better Fuel Efficiency

green-roadCar crashes are the leading cause of death for young drivers. Already in use by thousands of drivers, the GreenRoad 360 service has been proven to decrease crashes by as much as 50%. While based on sophisticated technology, the service is incredibly simple: young drivers receive continuous feedback and coaching on safe driving habits both in their vehicles and online. Parents can finally have peace of mind when their teens are out on the roads. Insurance companies are so impressed with the results they are offering discounts of up to 25% to young drivers who sign up.

Green Road’s technology combines GPS, an accelerometer and map data to provide feedback to a driver on how efficiently and safely they are driving using a dashboard device that lights up red if they are braking or cornering too sharply. The device also records a log of driving maneuvers throughout the day, allowing fleet managers to assess how individuals are driving. The firm says a typical fleet operator sees up to a 50 per cent reduction in crash costs and up to a 10 per cent cut in fuel consumption within the first year.

The dashboard component is directly connected to a password-protected web interface, where drivers and their managers can access real-time reports on driving performance, recommendations for improving safety measures or fuel efficiency, and tools to calculate risk on a vehicle or fleet-wide level. Currently, GreenRoad has 80 fleet customers, some with as many as 20,000 active vehicles. Each of these clients pays $1,000 per car equipped with the GreenRoad system.

Posted by pfiorini on Feb 23 2010 in Environmental News

Chrysler’s Global Electric Motorcars

gem-peapod-600Chrysler Group LLC’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Global Electric Motorcars (GEM), has reached a milestone in the Low-speed Vehicle (LSV) industry by selling more than 40,000 GEM battery-electric vehicles. The GEM vehicle line is 100 percent electric and emits zero tailpipe emissions. GEM vehicles have been driven almost 500 million emission-free miles, saving more than 19.5 million gallons of gasoline. This translates into a CO2 reduction equivalent to planting nearly a half-million trees. The Fargo, North Dakota based manufacturer was acquired 10 years ago by Chrysler Group to assist the major automaker in their continuing efforts and commitment to developing, producing and selling environmentally-friendly vehicles.

Classified as Low Speed Vehicles (LSV) or Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the GEM vehicle line is street-legal in most states on roads posted 35 mph or less. With a top speed of 25 mph and a range of up to 30 miles on a charge, GEM battery-electric vehicles are perfect for short-distance transportation and are driven on medical and corporate campuses, universities, military bases, resorts, sports stadiums, gated communities and residential streets. GEM battery-electric vehicles are available in six models and can be customized with a variety of options and accessories. They are used for running errands, driving to work or school, hauling equipment, or transporting people around work facilities, and with operating costs of only about two cents per mile, have become an eco-friendly and cost-effective transportation alternative.

Global Electric Motorcars was acquired by Chrysler Group LLC in December 2000. Since then, Global Electric Motorcars has grown to be the market leader in the LSV industry and benefits from working with Chrysler Group’s design, engineering, and other resources as well as having access to the Chrysler Group’s Proving Grounds to test vehicles.

The six GEM passenger and utility models are legal on most streets with posted speeds of 35 mph or less and have many of the same features of regular cars, but are much more economical in price and fuel consumption. GEM cars are eligible for incentives and tax credits from clean-air districts and other governmental agencies.

Posted by pfiorini on Feb 19 2010 in Environmental News

New Emission and Mileage Requirements Closing In

emissionsAutomakers, dealers, and consumers alike are getting ready for a new set of standards in emission and mileage requirements.  The current plan was announced by President Obama on May 19, combining fuel economy and emissions standards in one unified plan and removing the complexity of having multiple fuel economy standards determined by different states. The new national standard will make cars 30% more efficient than today’s new vehicles. Cars and trucks will meet a comprehensive 35.5-mpg standard by 2016 (cars would be held to a standard of 39 mpg, trucks at 30 mpg), ramping up 5% per year from 2012 to 2016.

This program is the most aggressive new fuel economy standard for automobiles in the U.S. since the 1970s. For the first time it establishes a standard that accounts for tailpipe emissions and fuel economy. While alternative powered vehicles such as hybrid are quickly increasing, they will, almost out of necessity, be a mainstream vehicle in the future. Other technology, such as lighter weight design and cylinder shut-off system will help improved conventional gasoline driven vehicles. There are few cars on the market today that meet the year 2016 standards.  And the vehicles that do are either ‘clean diesels’ or hybrids, in addition to the tiny smart ForTwo, which for many people is not practical.

new mileage standardsThe new plan is different from before because California traditionally called for higher standards and wanted to enact its own rules for cars sold within its boundaries. This new plan essentially mirrors California’s plan for a national standard, making the building and selling of cars simpler for carmakers, while pleasing the most ardent of environmentalists.

Even should this new plan go into law, the U.S. will lag behind other countries for fuel economy standards. Right now in Europe, the average is 40 mpg and will be 49 mpg in a few years. Japan is aiming for 47 mpg by 2015. Agreeing on a national program will make things much simpler for automakers, as before there was a chance California would enact higher standards.  Vehicles such as used trucks sc will not be required to meet these standards, the new rules are for new cars only.As much as this will be a challenger for the automakers, consumers, and officials to make this plan work, it can only be a step in the right direction towards cleaner air and less dependency on foreign oil.

Posted by pfiorini on Dec 3 2009 in Environmental News