Given the number of cars on this planet today, cars are actually a significant source of air pollution. But cars do not only pollute the air, they contribute to land and water pollution as well. Read more about car pollution facts and the problems to health and the environment that they bring.
More people are becoming aware of the pollution problem that cars bring, and hence are looking to find air pollution solutions for cars. Below, we offer some tips that we know of, but they are by no means exhaustive.
Air pollution solutions 1 – Driving habits
If you are keen to adopt air pollution solutions for cars, the first place to start is really your driving habits. No matter what car you own, you can make a difference through your green driving habits.
Here are some tips of what you can adopt as air pollution solutions:
- Air conditioning systems and electrical gadgets within the vehicle (e.g. sound system, mobile tv systems) also take up energy. So if they are not in use, turn them off.
- If you are waiting while in your car, turn off the car engine. Idling actually wastes your fuel, and money, and also contributes to pollution (e.g. exhaust air, noise pollution etc). So reduce the amount of idling as much as possible, whether it is when you are waiting for someone while in the car, or waiting to find a carpark lot, or waiting for your turn in a drive-through queue.
These days, it seems that there are new car designs where the engines stop automatically when the car is stationary, but the engine restarts very quickly when you need to move off. Such green technology can help you save fuel, money and reduce pollution, so do look out for these models.
- Keep your car in efficient working condition. This is one of the important air pollution solutions for cars, because poorly maintained cars are a major source of car pollution. Not only will this help you reduce your repair costs, it will also help you to reduce the amount of pollution your car creates.
- Also, check the pressure of your car tires regularly. Tires that are properly inflated can actually help you reduce your fuel consumption (and corresponding pollution) by up to 3%, whereas tires with low pressures actually cause drag and increase fuel consumption, which in turn brings about more pollution.
- Get rid of excess load in your car, for example, the cargo that you have been carrying in your boot for months because you keep forgetting to bring the stuff home. According to WikiHow, every extra 100 pound in your car gives you up to 2% less mileage. This also means more pollution for the same distance travelled.
- One of the most basic thing you could do as air pollution solutions for cars is simply to drive less.
To help you do so, plan your routes and trips before starting off your journey. This is so that you reduce the amount of distance your car needs to travel (and hence the amount of fuel that needs to be used).
Find the shortest or least crowded route to your destination, so that you can drive smoothly and cruise along at a constant speed (which helps to reduce fuel consumption) during the trip. Aim to accomplish more tasks on your trip out. For example, on your trip out to shop for groceries, also send your laundry for washing, as well as take your pet for grooming. In this way, not only do you save time in running your errands, you also reduce the amount of traveling needed (and of course the pollution created). And you can make better use of the time saved for your hobbies or time with the family.
Also, as another one of the air pollution solutions you can adopt, minimize the amount of recreational driving you do. Why not look for an alternative recreational activity such as a sport that is healthier for the environment and probably healthier for yourself? Driving doesn’t require much movement on your part – in fact, it allows you to be rather sedentary, after all, it is the car that moves, not you.
Last but not least, refrain from driving as much as you can. If you can take a short walk to your destination, then walk. It is definitely healthier for you and the environment. Car pool as much as possible for trips that require driving. Such green driving habits help.
Air pollution solutions 2 – Choice of fuel for your car
When it comes to air pollution solutions for cars, the type of fuel you use for your car matters. This is because some types of fuels are more energy efficient than others, while some types of fuels produce more pollutants than others. In turn, the choice of fuel would determine the type of car you use, because different engines are required to process the different types of fuels.
- Diesel versus Petrol -- In the past, diesel fuel has always had the reputation of being a “dirty” fuel. This is in part due to the incomplete fuel combustion in diesel engines, especially at low speeds, resulting in greater pollution by diesel cars than say petrol cars. But in recent years, the modern diesel engine has seen much improvements – the precise injection of diesel fuel into the engine’s cylinders exactly when fuel is needed has helped to increase the combustion efficiency of diesel engines. This improvement has led to diesel becoming a worthy comparison to petrol, whether based on fuel efficiency or based on air pollution solutions.
In comparison to petrol, the use of diesel (in modern diesel engines) today delivers more power (about 38.6 megajoules per litre for diesel versus about 34.6 megajoules per litre for petrol), and achieves greater fuel economy (diesel is about 1.5 times more fuel efficient than petrol). Even though diesel produces more carbon dioxide per unit of fuel consumed, because diesel engines have higher fuel efficiency than petrol engines, diesel engines actually produce less carbon dioxide (about 20% less than petrol) and carbon monoxide (about half of that produced by petrol) for the same distance traveled.
Nonetheless, one thing about the use of diesel is it produces about 24 times more nitrogen oxides (NOx) than petrol for the same unit fuel consumed. Diesel also produces diesel particulate matter (or black soot), though the installation of a diesel particulate filter serve as a air pollution solutions for this emission of diesel particulate matter.
Until air pollution solutions are found for the NOx pollution by diesel fuel, a suggestion by Environmental Protection UK is for drivers to use a petrol or hybrid car for driving in urban areas (so as to reduce local pollution by NOx from diesel cars), and to use a diesel car for traveling long distances on motorways.
So that means, if you are choosing between a petrol and a diesel car, other than asking about the fuel efficiency, do remember to ask about the carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions, as well as the NOx emissions for the models you have in mind, for a more complete picture of the environmental impact your new car will have.
Alternatively, you might wish to other cleaner types of car fuels like CNG or biofuels.
- Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) -- CNG is considered a cleaner form of car fuel, as compared to petrol or diesel, and as such, might be seen as plausible air pollution solutions for cars. This is because it produces less car exhaust pollutants (e.g. carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, etc) as compared to petrol or diesel. For example, for the same amount of energy produced, CNG produces about 40% less carbon dioxide gas and 3 times less nitrogen oxides than petrol. However, one disadvantage with CNG is that it requires a larger fuel storage space as compared to the other fuels like petrol or diesel. Fortunately, improvements in structural designs of CNG cars are helping to resolve this problem.
The natural gas in CNG is essentially methane. A large proportion of the natural gas that is used today was created millions of years ago from buried organic material (which makes natural gas a fossil fuel). Nonetheless, since natural gas is methane, it is also being produced today, in places such as landfills, marshes and even animal farms. The development of the ability to tap on this green house gas to power our cars would actually allow us to reduce the air pollution generated by landfills and animal farms. It would then be a win-win situation when it comes to air pollution solutions.
- Biofuels -- These alternative fuels are made from biomass (biological matter from living or recently living organisms) or bio waste (waste cooking oil, etc). Examples of biomass include vegetable oils, animal fats, sugar and starch from crops etc.
Such alternative car fuels are considered more sustainable as compared to the non-renewable fossil fuels, like petrol or diesel. One reason is because biofuels are derived from renewable sources such as crops. So long there is photosynthesis, new biomass can be created. In addition, biofuels also produce less greenhouse gasses when used, as compared to the conventional fossil fuels.
Nonetheless, there are currently some issues pertinent to biofuel production, such that the use of biofuels as air pollution solutions for cars is by no means “perfect”. There is a need to convert the biomass energy into liquid fuel that can be used efficiently in cars. Some opponents of biofuels argue that using precious fertile land to grow crops for biofuel production rather than food contributes to the rising food shortage crisis on this planet. Also, the clearing of land for cultivation of biofuel crops can also contribute to deforestation, soil erosion and even water pollution. There are also concerns that an over-emphasis on biofuel crops in farmlands may lead to the loss of biodiversity. More detailed studies on the environmental and social impact of biofuel production over the entire life-cycle would be required.
- Batteries -- Batteries as used as sources of energy for vehicles like electric cars. An environmental benefit of using such a fuel for cars is that it produces technically no pollution at the point of use. This helps to resolve the problem of local pollution, especially for cities.
Nonetheless, the use of batteries to power cars as air pollution solutions might not be entirely foolproof. The batteries need to be recharged when they run out. And the source of energy for the recharge in turn comes from power stations, which may then contribute in particular ways to pollution, depending on the type of fuel (eg. coal, natural gas, wind power, hydroelectricity, etc) used at the power stations. Moreover, avenues for recycling the recyclable batteries used in the electric vehicles are important, for otherwise, batteries in themselves are a source of pollution to the environment.
- Hydrogen Fuel Cells -- Hydrogen fuel cells combine hydrogen fuel with oxygen to produce the electricity needed to power a fuel cell car. For such vehicles, the exhaust emission is purely water, which is hardly seen as a pollutant.
Nonetheless, hydrogen fuel cells are no perfect air pollution solutions. In the production of the hydrogen fuel needed to create the fuel cell, air pollutants are created. This is because most hydrogen currently comes from reforming natural gas. Moreover, hydrogen fuel cells are also currently in their early stages of development. Hopefully, technological developments in this area would one day allow us to obtain hydrogen through cleaner and greener ways, as such opening up the possibilities for real air pollution solutions in hydrogen fuel cells.
- Other green energy??One of the greener types of fuels that our future cars could possibly run on is probably renewable energies like solar energy. Nonetheless, given the existing green technology today, it is still not practical as yet to make use of directly solar-powered vehicles for day-to-day traveling. Green vehicles that are indirectly solar-charged are however already in use.
Air pollution solutions 3 – Should I change my car?
While an important principle for sustainable living is to reduce waste by reusing as much as you can, when it comes to air pollution solutions for cars, it might be a different story.
Some new cars are specially designed to improve fuel efficiency (so you can use less fuel to travel the same distance) as compared to older car versions, or the new models may be fitted with installations to help filter away air pollutants more effectively or they might even be capable of running on greener and cleaner forms of car fuels. In these ways, new car models could be better for the environment than older cars.
Moreover, an old car that has not been properly maintained can actually be quite polluting (not to mention the amount of problems it creates for its owner in terms of repairs).
Nonetheless, a certain proportion of waste is bound to be created when a old car is scrapped, even if efforts are made to recycle the scrapped car as much as possible.
These are issues that you would have to consider very carefully when deciding whether or not to stay with your old car, or to switch to a new car. The environmental costs and benefits of changing to a new car (e.g. how much is the increase in fuel efficiency) would have to be weighed against that of staying with the old one.
If you do decide to get a new car after all, do consider the following as air pollution solutions for your new car:
- Ask if your new car be smaller. – If you don’t need that big a vehicle, then choose a smaller new car. This will not only help you save money (in terms of the car price and fuel consumption), it will also help you reduce the amount of pollution you produce for every trip you make.
- When selecting your new car, remember to check the level of emissions for the various air pollutants such as NOx, CO etc, not only for CO2.
- Consider cars powered by greener fuels such as CNG.