The best of green technology
Advances In Automotive Green Technology
With the myriad advances in green technologies in so many areas, have you ever wondered which of these are being integrated into current and future automobiles? Let's briefly examine some car models where solar panels, efficient lighting and earth-friendly materials are being built right in.
Manufacturers such as Fisker, Ford, Toyota and Fiat are all looking at integrating solar panels into their cars. Fisker's Karma and Ford's 2013 Focus Electric are hooking their panels directly into the main power system to improve drive time through direct drive-battery charging, and in powering cabin temperature control systems.
Fisker states that their integrated rooftop solar panel will provide approximately 200 miles (321 kms) per year of free driving energy. For their system, Ford is partnering with SunPower to integrate a solar panel that will provide approximately 12,000 miles (19,312 kms) of energy a year. This is a $10,000 upgrade to the car, but at the current price of gas, it could pay for itself in about five years.
Toyota's Prius and Fiat's upcoming electric version of the Fiat 500 are taking a different approach. The Prius panels are solely focused on cooling the car's interior on hot days. It uses the solar energy to circulate air through the car to keep it from heating up too much. The Fiat product is being reported to assist in similar ways. Any energy created by the panels that can be used to run internal instrumentation and systems will ultimately result in extended main battery charge.
LED lighting is becoming more common on newer vehicles, and a must for EVs and hybrids. For the average gasoline cars, LEDs in headlights and taillights provide bright lighting with a bit of a luxury look. LED's greatly reduced electricity draw, when compared with halogen or incandescent bulbs, along with their faster rise time make them ideal for energy-management and safety.
In the interior of cars, manufacturers are looking at materials that are renewable, recycled or reclaimed in order to reduce their environmental impact. Fisker is using reclaimed lumber for their wood finishes and offers 100% recycled interior suede-like material. There is a great deal of research going into bio-plastics, fungi-based foams and plant-fibre fabrics from banana peels and bamboo. Consumer pressure may dictate how quickly these become the norm.
Research into interior surface materials is also being pursued with the goal of improving the indoor air quality of vehicles. Although some like the new car smell, it is a carcinogen. The Honda Civic and Toyota Prius currently lead the pack in air quality. They are working hard to remove the bromine, chlorine, lead and heavy metals from their interior surfaces.
As these types of " green " technologies become more common, their price will drop. This will not only create a desire for these features in more models, but also drive innovation into other aspects of the overall vehicle. The future of some cars looks very green indeed.