ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING

No Fast Route to Greener Cars

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Science  14 Nov 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5648, pp. 1119
DOI: 10.1126/science.302.5648.1119a

The environmental impact of cars is immense, primarily due to the emissions as they are driven rather than their manufacture, but given our dependence on and preference for light-duty vehicles, can they at least be made “greener?” MacLean and Lave point out several of the challenges to creating a greener automobile fleet. One is the increasing demand, at least in the United States, for larger and less fuel-efficient sport utility vehicles, and a second is the unwillingness to pay a premium for greener cars. A further challenge is conflicting societal goals—for example, using fuel-injected diesel engines would save fuel but clash with strict emissions controls, and making light yet crashworthy cars would be expensive. A final obstacle is that the costs and benefits of materials, processes, and consequences can be difficult to quantify. Nevertheless, their analysis of different fueling and power plant options (diesel, ethanol, battery power, gas-electric hybrids, and hydrogen fuel cells) shows that no one of these options scored highly on all of the potential measures of greenness. — PDS

Environ. Sci. Technol. 10.1021/es034574q (2003).

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