What are the greenest cars?

LEAF: The  Nissan Leaf charged from solar electricity is a clear winner

LEAF: The Nissan Leaf charged from solar electricity is a clear winner

What are the greenest cars if you take into account the environmental costs for building the vehicles and for distributing the fuel?

Lindsay Wilson on Renew Economy has analysed the top 8 technologies, using the Nissan Leaf as the EV for comparison.  As you might expect, the Leaf charged from solar electricity is a clear winner (and you could substitute wind, hydro or other low carbon source), at 79 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilometre (79 g CO2e/km). However the ranking from then on is not what you might expect.

The next best is an EV charged from gas fired electricity at 160 g/km but followed closely by a petrol vehicle achieving 4.7 L/100 km fuel consumption for overall emissions of 170 g/km. There are several small petrol or diesel cars available, and hybrids, that achieve this figure or better.

After that we find a petrol vehicle at 5.9 L/100 km and 203 g/km, then an EV charged by oil-fired electricity at 217 g/km, followed by petrol car achieving 7.8 L/100 km and 257 g/km, an EV charged from coal-fired electricity at 259 g/km and finally a petrol vehicle doing 11.8 L/100 km and 366 g/km.

So the “order of merit” is:

Vehicle/fuel Fuel consumption L/100 km Emissions grams CO2 equivalent
EV charged by renewable electricity N/A 79
EV charged by gas fired electricity N/A 160
Petrol car (eg Fiat Panda) 4.7 170
Petrol car (eg Peugeot 2008) 5.9 203
EV charged by oil fired electricity N/A 217
Petrol car (eg Honda Odyssey) 7.8 257
EV charged by coal fired electricity N/A 259
Petrol car (eg Jeep Wrangler) 11.8 366

What do you think? Do you think electric cars are going to be the low carbon vehicles of the future?  How about next-gen biofuels or hydrogen fuel cells?

How long could Australia thrive if our oil supplies were cut?

Australia's Liquid Fuel Security

FUEL FOR THOUGHT: we are heavily dependent on imports of refined petroleum products and crude oil to meet our liquid fuel demand but Australia continues to adopt a “she’ll be right” approach to fuel security.

Australia is the world’s ninth-largest energy producer and there are many renewable and non-renewable energy resources in our country. Despite this, we are heavily dependent on imports of refined petroleum products and crude oil to meet our liquid fuel demand.

With such a spread-out population, Australia relies heavily on road transportation to move goods and services around. Our transport system is more than 95 per cent dependent on oil.

Did you know that if the oil stopped coming, goods and services could dry up in just over a week?

According to research carried out for our report, If Australia’s oil supply was cut:

  • dry goods could run out within nine days;
  • chilled and frozen goods could run out within seven days;
  • retail pharmacy supplies could run out within seven days;
  • hospital pharmacy supplies could run out within three days; and
  • fuel available to the public could run out within three days.

Australia needs to develop an alternative fuels industry – and only then, could we ween ourselves off our world oil dependency.

It doesn’t help that Sydney will have no refining capacity after 2014. The Clyde refinery closed last year and Kurnell will follow soon. If our supplies are cut off due to disruption to our shipping lanes, we would find ourselves in a crisis situation very quickly.

Australia continues to adopt a “she’ll be right” approach to fuel security, relying on global oil and fuel markets.

These markets have proven to be volatile with fluctuations of up to 60 cents per litre for unleaded fuel prices at the pump seen in the space of just six months. The reason for dramatic fluctuations can include conflict in the Middle East and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

This report is another wake-up call for governments to get serious about developing an alternative fuels industry.

Are you concerned about Australia’s oil dependency? Would you like the Government to do more to develop our alternative fuel industry?

The NRMA’s Australia’s Liquid Fuel Security report can be downloaded at: http://www.mynrma.com.au/about/reports-and-submissions.htm.

Unleaded petrol now to remain past 2012

Update from October 2012: The NSW State Government has changed the E10 requirements again. The phase-out of straight unleaded petrol (ULP) has been abandoned but the mandate that fuel suppliers must sell 6% of their total petrol sales as ethanol has been retained. Therefore you may continue to see ULP in service stations, although reports to NRMA indicate that it is hard to find. A reminder also that E85 is available at a limited number of servos – you must not use this fuel unless your vehicle is suitable for it, for instance all current model Holden Commodores, the Saab Biopower models and a limited number of current Chrysler models.

The NSW Government recently announced that it was abandoning the phase-out of standard unleaded petrol (ULP) from 30 June 2012. This means that ULP may remain available well after 2012. However, in many areas, particularly in and around Sydney, straight unleaded petrol (ULP) is now difficult to find, so vehicle owners may wish to switch to E10.

Before using E10, vehicle owners must check if an ethanol blend is suitable for their vehicle – this information can be found in the owner’s manual, by contacting NRMA Motoring Advice (call 13 11 22) and on the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries website.

For cars that cannot use E10, premium-grade unleaded petrol without ethanol will continue to be available.

Our May 2010 blog post about unleaded petrol contained several comments that owners found their vehicle had much higher fuel consumption when using E10 compared with ULP. If your vehicle is in good condition you should not experience much more than the theoretical 3% increase in fuel consumption.

However, if you try E10 and experience an unusually high impact on fuel consumption, here are some possible causes and things you can do about them:

  • Was there water in your fuel tank from earlier contaminated petrol? If so, the E10 will take the water into solution and your car may run roughly until the first tank of E10 is used up.
  • Is your fuel filter clogged? Ethanol is a powerful solvent and may loosen residues in your fuel system. Try changing the fuel filter after the first couple of tanks of E10.
  • Is your ignition system in good condition? A slightly misfiring spark plug may be exacerbated by E10 leading to a severe misfire and increase in fuel consumption. If you feel your vehicle is running roughly, have your vehicle serviced if it has not been done recently.
  • Is there an engine check or warning light showing on your dash? Your engine management system and fuel injection system need to be in good condition. Modern vehicles are designed to monitor oxygen in the exhaust and should be able to adjust to E10. However a malfunctioning oxygen sensor or other component may mean that your vehicle is not achieving this. Have your vehicle serviced if it has not been done recently.

Does the extension of the phase-out date of ULP help you?