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dubone

How will enviro-friendly car tech change Charlotte

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I've been following the news about hybrid and hydrogen automobiles for a while now. I've been thinking quite a bit about how much the urban equation will change when a majority of cars are considered environmentally friendly.

Eventually, most cars will not be polluting, oil-consuming machines. I think we are about a generation (20-30 years) away from that point. It seems to me that many urban problems will be very different when cars are relatively pollution free.

On one hand, pollution and smog creates a negative image for urban areas. Eliminating that pollution will be a major positive for urban life. On the other hand, it will eliminate a major moral argument against suburban/exurban commutes, as it will no longer consume mideast oil or contribute to metro pollution.

what do you guys think?

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I dont know how much of an impact we will feel directly in Charlotte, but I hope we go in that direction. It kills me how much this country revovles around the price of oil. To fill up my company truck(which I drive home) is 70$ of diesel fuel about every 3 days. When gas prices get over the 2$ mark, like they did a couple months ago, filling my tank goes well over 75$. Times that by 75-100 trucks and the cost is extreme. Then, unfortunetly, that is compensated for by jacking up prices for our services.

The less we rely on the middle east and oil, the better.

These enviro friendly cars are great, but I dont know how fast they will catch on. The younger croud will always be tempted by speed(of which im guilty) and "coolness". Cars today are becoming faster and faster, without the extra price tag. Ideal for the teen/early 20's driver.

I did see however a comercial the other day for Honda(?) that said they now have 4 different hybrids to choose from. Making hybrid versions of already sold cars including the Accord. Having a hybrid version of one of America's best selling cars is a step in the right direction.

(At least im pretty sure it was Honda and the Accord in that commercial)

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Actually.....they have a hydrogen powered 7-series that they are touring around the world and will be releasing in less than 10 years.....this isn't a hybrid.....but a 100% clean car....

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They said this in 1980 when gasoline cost the equivalent of $3.15/gallon adjusted for inflation and there were days in Charlotte when you couldn't even buy it as there wasn't any. There were more fuel efficient cars on the road then now when the hottest highe demand cars had 90HP engines with 5 speeds. Now we have SUVs and sedans with 350HP motors.

There were predictions that we would be energy independant by now. None of it happened of course because gasoline became cheap and people have move away from the idea of "conservation".

I don't think there will be much change in 20 years.

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I believe that the increasing sales of diesel vehicles is promising, especially with homegrown biodiesel becoming more available.

While it is not as clean as a water fueled fuel-cell vehicle (which are effectively pollutionless), new diesel technology is cleaner and more efficient than fuel cell cars which utilize a hydrocarbon based source of hydrogen. In my opinion, the latter fuel cell option is stupid--you're still producing CO2 and NOx, so what is the point besides the fact that it's marketable as a "high tech fuel cell car"??

In the Raleigh area, Biodiesel is becoming increasingly popular. There are already stations selling a blend in place of regular dino-diesel... I use it in my car. Progress Energy converted their fleet to biodiesel a while back, and I believe that all Wake County vehicles use it now. I believe other counties use it as well. It is a 100% renewable resource that is environmentally friendly and it burns a lot cleaner.

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I dont think masses of ppl will buy enviro-friendly cars unless companies and government make masses changes and set a deadline for the change over to take effect.

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hahahaha "dino-diesel".

I think some of the eff;0icient cars from 1980 are still on the road. You just can't kill a corrolla's if you try. :)

I think hybrids have changed the score for car companies that otherwise would just sit back and rely on their century old technology... Toyota and Honda are making it hard to ignore efficient technology. I think now that they have shown that 50 mpg is feasible, Washington will have more ground to stand on in making public policy more strict.

I agree with monsoon that 30 years ago, things seemed like they were headed in a way that we would be there by now. I think the difference is that it was more of a weight factor then... You could have an efficient car if you would buy a tiny car. It is still like that in a way, but now there are options for suv's and busses and trucks that weren't there before because of advances in battery technology, hydrogen fuel cells, and hybrids that rely on computer tech that wasn't available then.

In the optimistic scenario, where a majority of cars were efficient and/or didn't pollute, do you guys think that would affect development patterns? Do you think it would make people favor suburban commutes even more, because of the lesser budget and environmental impact? Would some people be less inclined to take transit because there would no longer be the environmental argument? Would it clean the air enough to make urban living mainstream again?

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Great, so people will havce slightly cleaner air while sitting in gridlock.....

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Mr Whiskey has hit the nail on the head. The popularity of urban living, and especially Charlotte's urban rush, has VERY little to do with air quality concerns. Convenience, community, aesthetics, land conservation, simplicity, energy efficiency... there are a million reasons to move to an urban neighborhood. I'm sure there are some folks who are moving to Uptown Charlotte because they are Air Quality Crusaders, but the majority just don't want the commute.

Hybrids, Zero emmission, you name it, the "urban equation" will be fine... whenever they get here

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Actually.....they have a hydrogen powered 7-series that they are touring around the world and will be releasing in less than 10 years.....this isn't a hybrid.....but a 100% clean car....

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Well except for the minor detail that most hydrogen today is generated by burning petroleum. Future plans call for building 500-2000 fission nuclear power plants. What most people seem to miss is that it takes more energy to produce hydrogen into a form useable by cars than it provides by burning it.

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Well except for the minor detail that most hydrogen today is generated by burning petroleum.  Future plans call for building 500-2000 fission nuclear power plants.  What most people seem to miss is that it takes more energy to produce hydrogen into a form useable by cars than it provides by burning it.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

DING DING DING!

Most of the "environmentally friendly" vechicles (hydrogen, compressed air, etc) don't reduce pollution as much as move the source of the pollution out of sight. This has been shown to be vrey effective in our culture of instant gratification.

Landfills are hidden from view so that you pay no mind to the tons of waste you produce every year.

Factory farms/slaughterhouses are hidden from view so that you don't equate the steak on your plate with a dead cow.

Sweatshops are hidden from view so that you never have to wonder where that 4$ shirt came from.

We are masters at fooling ourtselves into believing that nothing is wrong....

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People forget that you can't get something for nothing. Even "clean" nuclear power has a serious drawback--highly toxic waste without a permanent home.

Even the process for converting water into hydrogen consumes a great deal of electrical power--how will this extra energy demand be met? And forget the catalytic approach--obtaining bulk hydrogen by stripping it from a hydrocarbon. That process spews more CO2 and NOx than a modern clean burning gasoline car!

For a hydrogen fueled car, the cleanest approach is of course the former, but we've got to work on cleaning up our nation's electrical infrastructure first or there won't be much benefit. If we relied on "free" sources of energy like hydroelectrics, thermoelectrics, and solar energy, then we would be set. That would be a truly zero-emission way to go.

If we end up sticking with a piston engine for a while, I think that diesels and diesel-electrics will become more popular.

New diesel technology is awesome, and Europe leads the way as usual. Engines from Volkswagen, Peugeot, and Mercedes-Benz are extremely reliable, highly sought after, extremely clean, and they get fantastic economy. All of them use an exhaust catalyst of some sort (like a catalytic converter on a gas engine, but different materials), and this also changes the odor of the exhaust--which is already pretty benign. Both Mercedes and Peugeot have their own versions of a particulate filter which eliminates soot emissions. Volkswagen is working on releasing theirs if they have not already done so.

Common rail injection has really done wonders for quieting them down and smoothing them out. A new European diesel is loads quieter and smoother than even 5 years ago. The concept behind common rail injection is that a very small amount of fuel is sprayed at first to start combustion quietly, then the remainder is sprayed in afterward to promote a slower gentler burn. Old school diesels just spray all the fuel at once, and it results in a loud CLACK when it ignites.

This technology has even been brought to domestic pigs, like the brand new Dodge Cummins truck. Have any of you heard that motor? It is incredibly quiet and smooth--and clean too, courtesy of a Mercedes particulate trap. A friend of mine bought one and recently got 27 mpg on a steady cruise trip down to Wilmington. That is excellent for a domestic truck.

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DING DING DING! 

Most of the "environmentally friendly" vechicles (hydrogen, compressed air, etc)  don't reduce pollution as much as move the source of the pollution out of sight.  This has been shown to be vrey effective in our culture of instant gratification.

We are masters at fooling ourtselves into believing that nothing is wrong....

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree with some of what you guys are saying about the tradeoffs and qualifiers on the technology. But don't you think, from an urban development perspective, that shifting pollution out of the cities is a good thing, even if it is peter-paul in the big picture?

I agree that the urban equation has much more weight on wallet issues and lifestyle issues. But don't you think that after 30 years of growth, pollution will be a lot worse, considering Charlotte is a landlocked piedmont city in the sunbelt, which is already one of the smoggiest cities in the country. I'm thinking that it won't be THE deciding factor, but it might be a major consideration for people wanting to live intown or in meck county.

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"I agree that the urban equation has much more weight on wallet issues and lifestyle issues. But don't you think that after 30 years of growth, pollution will be a lot worse, considering Charlotte is a landlocked piedmont city in the sunbelt, which is already one of the smoggiest cities in the country. I'm thinking that it won't be THE deciding factor, but it might be a major consideration for people wanting to live intown or in meck county."

I would rather see Charlotte spend the next 30 years moving away from a car based model of transportation. I would like to see several more light rail lines, as well as several commuter lines, street cars, and rapid bussing lines as well. I would also like to see the city fully develop the greenway proposals, and dramtically increase the number of bike lanes throughout the city.

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