Vehicle emissions are one of the most significant sources of pollution globally. Vehicle emissions cause health problems due to low air quality and contribute to global warming. Fortunately, several technologies are allowing us to fight back.
Electric cars are going to be one of the most critical technologies for lowering vehicle emissions. Even a hybrid vehicle, which runs on either petrol or electricity depending on its speed, significantly improves emissions compared to conventional petrol-fuelled cars.
However, electric vehicles are not a magic bullet. If the electricity that we use to charge them doesn’t come from renewable sources, we are merely hiding the problem from view. Fortunately, most countries are now transitioning to renewable energy sources. Battery technology is also improving, enabling electric vehicles to go further on a single charge.
Autonomous vehicles are another technology that could help us to reduce emissions massively. No one knows what form autonomous cars will take or how long the necessary technologies are going to take to mature. But, depending on how we implement them as a society, driverless cars could help us to reduce emissions in several ways.
First and foremost, computers drive more efficiently than people do. Autonomous vehicles won’t just be able to work out the fastest route between two points, but they will also factor in what other vehicles are doing.
Combining driverless vehicles with smart city technologies would enable cars and traffic lights to communicate. This technology would be game-changing for managing traffic in urban environments.
More Efficient Braking Systems
Air brakes are mostly used on buses and other heavy vehicles. Most lighter vehicles use hydraulically actuated disc brakes instead. When most people think of vehicle emissions, they think of the engine and the exhaust. Not many people think about the brakes. But when the brake pads in a disc brake vehicle press against the tire, there is significant friction even with lubricating brake fluid.
Friction creates heat and causes atoms on the surface of the tire to break away. This effect is why tires go bald over time. Every time you apply your brakes, the release of material depends on how much heat the friction generates. If you are slowing down from a high speed, the release can be significant.
More efficient braking systems will have an important role to play in reducing vehicle emissions. For disc brakes, more efficient materials are a promising solution. For vehicles that use air brakes, more efficient air management units are a popular choice. Units like this Air Management Unit by MAN ensure that vehicles aren’t emitting more noxious gases than they need to be.
These three technologies will be some of the most important in our fight to reduce vehicle emissions. However, they are just a small selection of the many other technologies that are now coming to fruition.
Ella Woodward, contributing writer