THE VEHICLE INDUSTRY AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTENANCE
Vehicles record 22% percentage of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.K (Environmental Protection). Road transport is one of the key sources of global environmental degradation (Accut and Dodgson, 1996). With the overwhelming universal concern for environmental protection, stricter laws have been formulated to limit the extent of carbon emissions by the new car models being manufactured particularly in the U.S and the U.K (Environmental Protection). The European Union in collaboration with national governments have formulated and implemented regulations in relation to vehicle manufacture and environmental protection (Roth, 2002; Environmental Protection). Car engines, particularly diesel engines are the ones which cause much emission.The transport emissions by the EU transport currently accounts for about 3.5% of the overall global carbon dioxide emissions (Mulvey, 2007). According to Wrisberg (p.163), carbon dioxide contributes the largest percentage to global warming, among other harmful emissions. Adopting better transport forms with less impact on the climate is a very essential step that is intended to protect our environment for future generations (Short and Kopp, 2005; Hilden et al, 2004; Hine, 2004).
Reduction of the environmental impact of emissions by car manufacturers
Currently, the carbon gases emitted by vehicles are dependent on a voluntary agreement between the auto manufacturers and the EU, unlike the U.S obligatory controls (Roth, 2001; Perez et al, n.d; U.S Department of Transportation). The agreement is aimed at reaching an average carbon dioxide emission of 120gram per kilometer for all new passenger cars by 2012.
The vehicle manufacturers have employed the exhaust-after treatment system whereby the new diesel models are fitted with particulate traps that meet the Euro 5 standards. Most of the latest commercial vehicles are utilizing Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) in combination with a urea-based additive to assist in reduction of nitrogen emissions (one brand is ‘AdBlue’).
Manufacturers of trucks have reduced nitrogen and particulate matter emissions by 86% and 95% compared to those trucks manufactured from the early 1990s. Over the past 10 years, the exhaust emissions of trucks have reduced by 35% despite the 30% increment of the work load. The emissions of 100 new model cars are equivalent to the emissions made one old model car (dating back to the 1970s). This is a significant advancement by the vehicle industry. Moreover, the particulate matter filters are capable of reducing the emissions of particulate matter from the diesel vehicles by 99%.
The automobile industry is conducting research on how to advance the air conditioning system. The Acea records indicate that the refrigerants which are lost from the air conditioning systems are regarded among the contributors of the global warming effect. The research is aimed at improving the tightness of the air conditioning system so as to improve air quality. This will require improvement of the servicing processes and minimization of the losses of refrigerants through design optimization. Otherwise, the industry could also consider utilization of alternative refrigerants which have lesser global warming implications. These two alternatives need thorough analysis and assessment in relation to cost implications. The research will be based on the situations of different countries with regards to the economic backgrounds and the differing climatic conditions.
Acea sees the possibility of developing a cost-effective and safe solution to the air-conditioning system. The conservative system employing R-134a are perceived to be providing the best benefit-and-cost outcomes owing to the fact that the society is not economically stable to provide cheaper options of avoiding the green gas emissions. Thus the industry is only working towards improving the R-134a air conditioning system which combined with the other efforts will bring substantial environmental gains. The leakage rate has been reduced through the improvement of technology and employment of better quality elements. For instance, redesigning has occurred through lowering the permeation rates of hoses, improving the connections, reducing the length of the flexible hoses and production of “hermetically sealed” designs. The R-134a system can now be recovered and recycled when the vehicle is being serviced or disposed (ELV stage). Moreover, the dealer practice and operator training have been improved so that drivers are acquainted with enough background information about the vehicle and how to handle it carefully with regards to the environment (Acea, 2003).
The vehicle manufacturers are working hard to meet the European emission standards in their respective states (Wrisberg, 2002, p. 163). The penalties are so stringent that non-compliant vehicle manufacturers can not find market for their vehicles in the European Union states. Wrisberg notes that these limitations are aimed at reducing the consumption of fuel and the subsequent emissions of carbon dioxide. It is fortunate that the current regulations are not applicable to already existing vehicles. There is no mandate for specific technology to meet the required standards. All the new models are required to meet the current standards. Thus car manufacturers are attempting to meet the emission standards in order to find market for their vehicles (Resources Magazine; Wrisberg, 2002).
Previously, car manufacturers in the UK voluntarily agreed to employ a more ‘consumer-friendly’ color-coded label displaying carbon dioxide emissions on all new cars from 2005, with a comprehensible indication of the amount of carbon dioxide emissions. The new ‘green label’ is aimed at giving consumers precise information about the environmental performance of different vehicle types. Most European Union member countries are in the process of developing labels that are consumer friendly(Resources Magazine; EC, 1993).
Vehicle manufacturers are making use of catalytic converters which are essential for removing three dangerous chemicals-sulphur, nitrogen and carbon-from exhaust gases. Vehicle engines have been redesigned to meet the environmental demands (Orasch and Wirl, 1997; Advenier et al, 2002). Electronic ignition has been developed to replace the conventional sources of power. Manufacture of plug-in electric vehicles which use rechargeable battery packs. These packs can be charged from the electric grid or power from regenerative braking and the internal combustion engine.Hybrid vehicles such as hybrid electric vehicles which utilize two or more separate sources of power have been developed. Such vehicles combine one or more electric motors and an internal combustion engine. Some vehicle manufacturers are utilizing alternative sources of fuel in replacement of the conventional pollutant fuels. The manufacture of vehicles which do not use conventional fuels based on local availability and conditions is an ongoing process. Such vehicles which utilize flexible-fuel and natural gases such as hydrogen are recommended (Hill et al, 2006). Moreover, computerized management of engines is being encouraged to boost efficiency (Proost and Dender, 2011).
Manufacturers have invented water based paints which have replaced solvent-based paints in order to reduce the emission of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) that are basically crude solvents discharged from paintshops. The amount of VOC emissions was reduced by 14.3% per vehicle (Hodac, 2011). Wrisberg (p.163) states that VOC emissions, have the second largest percentage of global warming effects and that automobile paint is the main source of these emissions.
The European auto manufacturers have substantially decreased the impact of vehicle emissions on the environment (Hodac, 2003). Energy consumption and water, and emissions of carbon dioxide and VOC per unit have all reduced. The results are basically dominated by the volume of production at the industry level. There was a remarkable improvement in environmental efficiency between 2005 and 2007. This was marked with reduction of overall emissions and consumption at the industry as well. Manufacturers are consistently working towards advancing the efficiency of energy in order to balance between consumer and environmental demands. The ultimate energy consumption per vehicle manufactured has reduced by 6.5%. The emissions of carbon were reduced by 5%. The manufacturers worked successfully towards reducing the amount of waste produced by 4.8%. The consumption of water per unit car was reduced by approximately 23%. This marked significant development in the vehicle industry due to the utilization of re-circulation inventions which permit water to be reused.
Acea indicates that the greatest challenge facing the vehicle industry currently is the European Commission’s introduction of more stringent limitations without any incentives for the new cars manufactured. There have been several debates over the latest Euro V and Euro VI for commercial vehicles and Euro 5 and Euro 6 standards for cars. According to Acea (2011), the European Commission did not conduct a thorough assessment on the costs for the industry to reach the expected targets. The new vehicles will definitely increase price levels thus discouraging consumers from buying them. The automobile sector has made such numerous efforts to ensure that the vehicles produced are environmental friendly (Schipper, 2007). However, there are contentions that the Commission did not put their recent regulations on thorough and transparent assessment about the implications of such regulations before implementing them.
The carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles have indicated substantial reduction in the recent years from 21% of the total emissions in 1990 to 28% of total emissions in 2004. Currently, there are Euro standards which impose limitations on carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles. The current Euro limitations for petrol and diesel models on carbon dioxide emissions are a bit stringent. The European parliament is regarding the introduction of obligatory carbon dioxide emission standards to replace the voluntary commitments and labeling. The European Commission proposed new law limitations on carbon dioxide emissions from cars in 2005. This proposed bill was more stringent than that of the Western Union considering the fact that the emissions were limited to the equivalent of 400kg CO2/MWh which would effectively preclude the construction of any traditional coal-fired power plants.
Pollutant emissions such as nitrogen and particulate matter from cars, vans, buses and trucks were significantly reduced by the recent exhaust after-treatment systems and engine technologies. This boosted air quality in the cities and towns. Vehicle makers have continued to innovate ( Hodac, 2003). Hodac (2003) proposed for the limitations set by the European Commission not to be implemented unless there was a proper impact assessment that weighed the costs and effects of any new target on market and environmental balances. According to Hodac (2011), objectives that were unrealistic could threaten competitiveness and discourage carbon dioxide diminution endeavors. Roth emphasizes that any regulation must regard the consequent cost and benefit outcomes (2001). Instead of regulatory laws, the relevant authorities should provide incentives for renewal of fleets in order to ensure protection of air as well as reduction of overall costs (Hodac, 2011).
The vehicle industry has argued that absolute replacement of the older vehicles with the new models is enough to solve the issues of environmental pollution rather than imposing obligatory limitations. Gasoline cars according to Acea and the CAFÉ Programme’s findings (Roth, 2001) indicate the potential of nitrogen and VOC emissions reduction by 90% come 2020, even without Euro 5 limitations. Acea considers the imposition of taxes for new cars by some governments as a wrong approach. The industry is of the perception that member states should be supported to speed up the renewal of fleet. Additionally, issuance of incentives by the government will accelerate the removal of old models from the market and the demand for new cars will increase. Incentives can be awarded in form of penalties or rewards so as to encourage the reduction of pollution (Roth, 2002). Roth further asserts that economic based incentives depending on policies are capable of allowing industries to react to reduction of pollution positively through development of technology, modification of the product and process change.
The European Union entered into contracts with motor vehicle manufacturers with the aim of reducing average carbon emissions from new cars. Nonetheless, the fact that traffic levels are bound to increase over time washes away any optimism of carbon emission reductions (Environmental Protection). Manufacturers should also aim at balancing the modal transport facilities with the contemporary passenger demands so as to induce prospective car users into adopting public transport facilities (Lopez-Pita and Robuste, 2003). Moreover, IDEA, 2006) recommends a balance in the distribution of contemporary urban transport demands to enhance the reduction in the number of motorized journeys and length of travels.
Regulatory organizations such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the European Union have established the Portable Emissions Measurement System (PEMS) for testing and assessing source emissions which include cars, buses, trucks, cranes, and trains among others. These tests are aimed at ensuring compliance, regulation and proper decision-making.Despite the advances in vehicle and engine technology at reducing the implications of GHG emissions, the insufficiency in meeting the emission goals set by the European Commission is still felt. Proost and Dender (2011) remark that there is a high probability of the greenhouse gas emissions increasing with time. There must be thorough assessment and planning with respect to cost implications in order to meet the intended policies of shifting to more sophiscated technology (Proost and Dender, 2011).
Emphasis should be made on adaption of other transport modes that are cost-and-benefit conscious and regulation of the use of land to discourage the volumes of road transport in order to meet the environmental protection goals(Proost and Dender, 2011; Perez et al, n.d), .Development of technologies to detoxify the exhausts is imperative to emissions control (Pacala and Socolow, 2004). Shifting to multimodal logistical facilities is another way of promoting environmental-friendly transport modes (Schafer and Victor).
The European Union in collaboration with national governments have formulated and implemented regulations in relation to vehicle manufacture and environmental protection.The vehicle industry has argued that absolute replacement of the older vehicles with the new models is enough to solve the issues of environmental pollution rather than imposing obligatory limitations. The vehicle industry has made remarkable attempts in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions by manufacturing new vehicle models which have up-to-date features. The greatest challenge facing the vehicle industry currently is the European Commission’s introduction of more stringent limitations without any incentives for the new cars manufactured. Various recommendations have been made in line with reduction of the vehicle industry environmental pollution activities such as adaption of other transport forms that are cost-effective and environmental-friendly. The rising concern for environmental protection for the future generation will definitely see to the reduction of global warming and climatic change.
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