Next Generation Transportation Technology

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The big success of the Cash for Clunkers program with consumers proves that many people are eager to trade in their gas dependent cars for next generation transportation technology.

Actually, drivers have been interested for a long time, especially as they watched the price of gas zoom up. The problem was that the new cars were too expensive and not mass-produced. Finally the new cars are on the way and becoming more affordable. The next generation of transportation is here in hydrogen and electric cars.

Hydrogen cars use hydrogen, one of the elements that create water, to power and propel the vehicle. Technically, hydrogen is an energy carrier not an energy source. It has proven to be good as an electro-mechanical converter in fuel cells.

This is one of the methods used to covert hydrogen’s chemical energy into mechanical energy, producing water and electricity. The other method is combustion, and hydrogen is used similarly like gas in traditional gas combustion engines.

Car manufacturers have created several hydrogen cars including the Ford Edge and the GM Sequel. However, it seems that some will be redirecting their efforts to advancing electric car technology.

This could be caused by several factors including a prediction that hydrogen cars may not be feasible for another forty years, and also the US government announcing in May 2009 that it is cutting off funding for hydrogen vehicle development.

There are other vehicles that use hydrogen technology, including golf carts, motorcycles, wheelchairs, and bikes, and commuter vehicles like buses, trains, and planes. Probably the most famous hydrogen vehicle is the Space Shuttle, which uses it to propel into space.

Electric cars were actually popular a long time ago, but by the 30’s gasoline powered cars had become cheaper and faster, and took over the market. Electric cars reappeared as consumers tired of gas prices that kept rising, and looked to electricity.

An electric car is powered with fuel cells and electric motors, which replaces the gas powered engine. The controller runs on rechargeable batteries, and it powers the electric motor. Today these batteries are in packs, but future electric cars will have ultra capacitors which store kinetic energy. These are also called spinning flywheels.

Electric cars may be more expensive at first, but owners should make that up with reduced maintenance costs. They also are more energy efficient. They have lower carbon dioxide emissions, cutting air pollution, and are almost silent, reducing noise pollution.

Many people today drive hybrid cars, which use both gas and electric power. Generally the internal engine is powered by gas, or fossil fuel, and the electric motors are used when the car is at low speeds or idling. They also use a braking technique called regenerative braking to make the car more efficient.

One of the best known hybrids today is the Toyota Prius, and the Chevy Volt is scheduled to hit the market soon. With the prices coming down, coupled with governmental incentives, we should see many more electric cars on the highways in the next few years.

For more information, visit GreenSmart Forum.

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