Dilemmas

Choosing a new car          


Choosing a new car

You have read that emissions from motor vehicles are a major cause of acidification. Your family is considering buying a new car. Which of the options below would you recommend? Discuss the pros and cons associated with each choice.

The car should be fitted with a catalytic converter.

Positive

Pros

A catalytic converter reduces emissions of acidic pollutants.

Negative

Cons

A catalytic converter significantly increases the price of the vehicle and its maintenance costs. It will quickly become damaged if poor-quality fuel is used. Also, even “clean” exhaust gases contribute to the greenhouse effect.

The car should be powered by natural gas.

Positive

Pros

The energy efficiency of a natural gas–powered engine is twice that of a standard petrol engine, and emissions of acidic pollutants are low.

Negative

Cons

The network of natural gas filling stations is still insufficiently developed. Also, the fuel tank takes up useful space in the back of the car.

The car should run on high-quality petrol with low sulphur content.

Positive

Pros

Using low-sulphur fuel will minimise emissions of sulphur, which contribute to acid rain.

Negative

Cons

Low-sulphur petrol is more expensive and is not suitable for all engines. Filling stations do not usually provide clear information about the sulphur content of their fuels. Vehicles running on low-sulphur fuel still emit acidic nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The car should run on diesel rather than petrol.

Positive

Pros

Diesel cars are more energy efficient than cars that run on petrol.

Negative

Cons

Diesel engines emit more particulate pollution, which is harmful to health. In addition, diesel engines are difficult to start in cold weather. New diesel engine models and special fuels and filters are currently being developed in order to overcome these problems.

New technological options should be explored, including hybrid, electric or ethanol-driven cars.

Positive

Pros

These technologies are by far the cleanest. Hybrid cars, for example, use electric power at low speeds (or in towns) and an ordinary engine at higher speeds, when it is more efficient. Electric cars operate without emissions, and ethanol-driven cars emit only water vapour.

Negative

Cons

Hybrid cars still produce emissions and are currently more expensive than other types of vehicle. Electric car production is still in the experimental phase and important questions remain regarding the source of power for charging vehicle batteries. Vehicles running on ethanol are not yet widely available in Europe.