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Earth Dr Reese Halter's Blog

NATURE'S BLUEPRINT

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With a global fleet of over 700 million automobiles, burning fossil fuels is not only expensive but it contributes to at least 20 per cent of the rising greenhouse gases on Earth.

Clean air is essential for all life around the globe. Our bodies need oxygen that air contains – not dust, fumes, smoke or any other particulates that may be floating in the air. Pollutants damage our lungs and make it harder for them to work.

Automobile executives understand this concept and along with the volatile OPEC oil prices, they have made some significant inroads to wean our society from its insatiable dependence of fossil fuels.

Most of us are familiar with Toyota’s Prius. It combines a gasoline powered internal combustion engine with a nickel-metal hydride battery-powered electric motor. At up to 15 mph the Prius runs near silently on its electric motor. At higher speeds the combustion engine kicks-in giving it 46 miles per gallon fuel economy.

Toyota is to be congratulated because in addition to recently celebrating its one-millionth sale of Prius over the past 5 years they have single handily prevented 4.5 million tons of CO2 from being omitted.

Mercedes-Benz and BMW recently unveiled in Paris their new full-size luxury hybrid models with long-lasting lithium batteries, the S400 Blue Hybrid and the 7-Series hybrid, respectively. The S-400 is powered by 275-horsepower, 3.5 liter V-6 and a 15 kilowatt electric motor and a lithium battery pack.

The second biggest car company in the world, General Motors, has taken some significant lumps lately, but don’t believe for a second that U.S. pride and innovative technology is going to take a back seat to its overseas competition: Quite the opposite.

GMs Chevrolet 2009 Silverado pick-up truck has a “two-mode” hybrid system. One mode allows the use of electric drive or gas-engine power, or a mix of the two, for lighter loads and lower speeds; the second uses an electric boost for efficient highway traveling or hauling heavy items. This new line of Silverado gets over 30 miles per gallon.

Both BMW and Honda have developed cars for hydrogen fuel. The BMW Hydrogen Series 7 car combines oxygen in a fuel cell to produce electricity to power electric motors, as does the Honda FCX Clarity. So far, the shortcoming resides in the fact that there are only about 150 hydrogen-refueling stations worldwide.

In 1991 Sony changed the electronic world. They switched their battery pack to utilize lithium-ion and so began a quiet revolution in electronics. Today, all cell phones; laptops and now electric cars are powered by this technology, which is set to burgeon one more time.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have lower CO2 emissions than regular cars even if the electricity they are charged with is generated using soon to be antiquated fossil fuels.

Savvy investors including General Electric and Google and the country of Israel are betting on the emerging global solar play to power the new generation of electric automobiles. After all if trillions of leaves across the face of the Earth can harness the sun’s energy then why can’t we follow Nature’s flawless model.

The Tesla Roadster has a 248 horsepower electric engine, which is powered by a 450-kilogram lithium-ion battery. This snazzy sports car has the ability to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds. Tesla’s CO2 footprint is less than 8 cents per mile as compared with gasoline costs ($2.40 California), which is more than 26 cents.

Renault will be releasing 40,000 mid-sized electric sedans called Fluence in early 2011. GMs electric Volt, which boasts an incredible 100 miles per gallon and can be charged at home, is slated for release of 10,000 cars in early 2010.

Mitsubishi is also ready to release its electric car with powerful lithium batteries – the i-MiEV also has an astonishing 100 miles per gallon efficiency.

Subaru’s R1e electric car is a real beauty. This good-looking two-seater was developed in partnership with Tokyo Electric Company and is currently being trialed in New York City. It zips along at 70 mph with a range of about 60 miles between charges. A 15-minute quick charge will rejuvenate the battery by 80 per cent and a full over-night charge using a standard household electrical outlet takes 8 hours.

The service life of the Subaru high-density, lithium-ion battery is about 10 years or 130,000 miles.

What is clear is that an unstoppable automobile race has begun. Automobile pollution and dependence upon 19-century fossil fuels will soon be a thing of the past.

In the meantime consider planting a tree for every member of your family. Remember that in a year’s time, one mature tree gives off enough oxygen for a family of four and at the same time trees help suck out of the air CO2 – a potent rising greenhouse gas.

Dr Reese Halter is a public speaker and founder of the international conservation institute Global Forest Science. He can be contacted through http://www.DrReese.com

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