Transportation is one of the key instruments to human success. Previously, many months of productive time were wasted crossing the sea in inefficient vessels. Now, crossing the Atlantic Ocean takes less than 10 hours. Additionally, work can still be done whether you are writing an article offline or using cellular data supplied by the airplane for a fee. Because of this newfound ease, people move more than ever. This also means that more GHGs are being released. In this article I will explore the solutions and my opinions.
Internal combustion vehicles are the main emitter of transportation’s GHG gases. They work by igniting gasoline or diesel. The energy is pushed into a piston that rotates, moving the car forward. Their green alternatives are electric cars, hydrogen cars, and alternative transport.
Electric cars are more expensive than internal combustion cars, so most people cannot afford them. Their range is limited, even on the most technologically advanced models, and fully charging a battery at a supercharger can take upwards of two hours. However, electric cars are still relatively new. Although they had been introduced around the same time as internal combustion vehicles, battery technology and cheap gas prices made the winner clearly obvious. Because of this early defeat, no significant efforts have been made to advance battery technology until Tesla came in the 2010’s. Based on the progress they have achieved, I estimate that electric cars will truly become a competitor in the mid to late 2020’s. I also hope that superchargers will be able to discharge enough electricity for a full battery in as much time as filling up a gas tank takes.
According to https://www.planete-energies.com/en/medias/close/hydrogen-production, 95% of hydrogen is created from fossil fuels, natural gas, or wood. Wood is just as detrimental as using fossil fuels because of the deforestation caused. Even “responsibly sourced” wood is not perfect, due to its land use. To sustainably produce hydrogen, natural gas can be replaced with biogas, produced when organic matter either ferments or is burned.
Finally, there is personal transportation. Personal transportation includes bicycles, scooters, and skateboards. They have zero emissions, because your body powers them. There are also electric variations. These have an advantage in speed and efficiency, but the environmental impact is greatly increased. The main material in batteries for many electric vehicles is lithium. Mining sources for lithium are mainly located in Argentina, Mexico, and Australia. Transporting the lithium internationally has a huge carbon footprint. Additionally, the methods of extracting lithium are extremely harmful to communities and the environment. Visit https://www.wired.co.uk/article/lithium-batteries-environment-impact to learn how.
It mostly comes down to using research and science to discover new and better ways. Forming hydrogen is an area of study where there is so much potential. If a new and more efficient method were found, suddenly a whole new industry would be formed, thousands of jobs would be created, the economy would go up, and GHG emissions would be reduced. Lithium harvesting is a less-explored research area. So far there is no real clear path to sustainability.
Even with all of the traps and pitfalls, electric cars still have a lesser environmental impact than internal combustion vehicles over a period of time. However, the GHG emissions released through manufacturing is often at least 50% greater. By far the cleanest transportation option is by riding a bike, kick scooter, or just plain old-fashioned walking.