One Billion Cars Worldwide, Search for Green Fuel Continues

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its 17th annual greenhouse gas inventory, and it doesn’t look good, with transportation emissions rising by 18 percent between 1990 and 2010 in the U.S.

The demand for transportation will only grow in coming years, as emerging economies improve living standards and acquire more cars and the developed world remains slow to sacrifice personal comfort for the environment.

Just think about China, where the number of vehicles is increasing every day.

China had only 5.54 million vehicles on its roads in 1990, but by 2010 that had grown to 62 million. The number of cars worldwide has surpassed one billion, according to Ward´s Auto. The U.S. has the most cars per capita, in fact, 1.3 people per car, while there are 6.75 people per car in China.

So what can we do to improve fuel efficiency and cut down on environmental pollutants?

It sounds like miraculous salvation, every time I read about a new “environmental friendly” car based on technology “X”. It’s hard for us ordinary people to be able to determine if a technology has a future or not.

Ethanol produced from plants seems like a good choice – clean, renewable. But will growing crops for ethanol reduce the amount of land available for food? Then there’s diesel—with lower fuel consumption and less carbon dioxide spill compared to petrol-driven cars—but diesel tends to cost more, both in terms of fuel and the engine, and may require more maintenance. Electrical cars have less carbon dioxide emission but the cruising range is limited.

You can find more detailed information on the advantages and disadvantages of various fuel sources from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Many drivers believe we’ve yet to find any “real” alternative to petroleum. But which fuel alternatives will be viable in 10 or 20 years?

China, which is often portrayed as the bad guy when it comes to environmental issues, has aggressive fuel efficiency standards and an auto industry focused on developing small electric vehicles.

Germany too is pioneering green-drive initiatives. StreetScooter is a Germany-based consortium of more than 50 specialized automotive and industrial equipment companies that aims to make electro-mobility affordable for the masses.

There’s a huge business opportunity in developing fuel-efficient cars, and the technology is progressing rapidly. What we have on the market today will not be the same in five or 10 year’s time.

I believe that hybrid models have the best near-term future, while in 10 years electric vehicles will dominate. What do you think will be the most viable automotive fuel 10 years down the road?

Photo: Driving Cars in a Traffic Jam by epSos .de on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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