A zero-emissions vehicle, or ZEV, is a vehicle that emits no tailpipe pollutants from the onboard source of power. Harmful pollutants to the health and the environment include particulates (soot), hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, ozone, lead, and various oxides of nitrogen. Although not considered emission pollutants by the original California Air Resources Board (CARB) or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) definitions, the most recent common use of the term also includes volatile organic compounds, several air toxics (most notably 1,3-Butadiene), and global pollutants such as carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Examples of zero emission vehicles include muscle-powered vehicles such as bicycles; gravity racers; battery electric vehicles, which typically shift emissions to the location where the electricity is generated e.g. coal or natural gas power plant; and fuel cell vehicles powered by hydrogen, which typically shift emissions to the location where the hydrogen is generated. Hydrogen-powered vehicles are not strictly zero-emissions, as they do emit water or water vapor, although they are still usually included in this category. Emissions from the manufacturing process are ignored in this definition, although the emissions that are created during manufacture are of an order of magnitude that is comparable to the one of the emissions that are created during a vehicle's operating lifetime.
The term zero-emissions or ZEV, as originally coined by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), refers only to tailpipe pollutants from the onboard source of power. Therefore, CARB's definition is accounting only for pollutants emitted at the point of the vehicle operation, and the clean air benefits are usually local because depending on the source of the electricity used to recharge the batteries, air pollutant emissions are shifted to the location of the electricity generation plants.
In a similar manner, a zero-emissions vehicle does not emit greenhouse gases from the onboard source of power at the point of operation, but a well-to-wheel assessment takes into account the carbon dioxide and other emissions produced during electricity generation, and therefore, the extent of the real benefit depends on the fuel and technology used for electricity generation. From the perspective of a full life cycle analysis, the electricity used to recharge the batteries must be generated from renewable or clean sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, or nuclear power for ZEVs to have almost none or zero well-to-wheel emissions. On the other hand, if ZEVs are recharged from electricity exclusively generated by coal-fired plants, they produce more greenhouse gas emissions than if not.
Other countries have a different definition of ZEV, noteworthy the more recent inclusion of greenhouse gases, as many European rules now regulate carbon dioxide CO2 emissions. CARB's role in regulating greenhouse gases began in 2004 based on the 2002 Pavley Act (AB 1493), but was blocked by lawsuits and by the EPA in 2007, by rejecting the required waiver. Additional responsibilities were granted to CARB by California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32), which includes the mandate to set low-carbon fuel standards.
As a result of an investigation into false advertising regarding "zero-emissions" claims, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK ruled in March 2010 to ban an advertisement from Renault UK regarding its "zero-emissions vehicles" because the ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Code rules 5.1.1, 5.1.2 (Misleading advertising) and 5.2.1 (Misleading advertising- Evidence) and 5.2.6 (Misleading advertising-Environmental claims.)
Greenhouse gasses and other pollutant emissions are generated by vehicle manufacturing processes. The emissions from manufacture are many factors larger than the emissions from tailpipes, even in gasoline engine vehicles. Most reports on ZEV's impact to the climate do not take into account these manufacturing emissions.
Considering the current U.S. energy mix, a ZEV would produce a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Given the current energy mixes in other countries, it has been predicted that such emissions would decrease by 40% in the U.K., and 19% in China.
Types of zero-emission vehicles
Apart from animal-powered and human-powered vehicles, battery electric vehicles (which include cars, aircraft and boats) also do not emit any of the above pollutants, nor any CO2 gases during use. This is a particularly important quality in densely populated areas, where the health of residents can be severely affected. However, the production of the fuels that power ZEVs, such as the production of hydrogen from fossil fuels, may produce more emissions per mile than the emissions produced from a conventional fossil fueled vehicle. A well-to-wheel life cycle assessment is necessary to understand the emissions implications associated with operating a ZEV.
Other zero emission vehicle technologies include plug-in hybrids (e.g. ICE/electric battery) when in electric mode, some plug-in hybrids in both recharging and electric mode (e.g. fuel cell/electric battery, compressed air engine/electric battery), liquid nitrogen vehicles, hydrogen vehicles (utilizing fuel cells or converted internal combustion engines), and compressed air vehicles typically recharged by slow (home) or fast (road station) electric compressors, flywheel energy storage vehicles, solar powered cars, and tribrids.
Segway Personal Transporters are two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered machines that are eleven times more energy-efficient than the average American car. Operating on two lithium-ion batteries, the Segway PT produces zero emissions during operation, and utilizes a negligible amount of electricity while charging via a standard wall outlet.
Finally, especially for boats (although Wind-powered land vehicles operating on wind exist (using wind turbine and kite) and other watercraft, regular and special sails (as rotorsails, wing sails, turbo sails, skysails exist that can propel it emissionless. Also, for larger ships (as tankers, container vessels, ...), nuclear power is also used (though not commonly).
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Subsidies for public transport
Japanese public transport is being driven in the direction of zero emissions due to growing environmental concern. Honda has launched a conceptual bus which features exercise machines to the rear of the vehicle to generate kinetic energy used for propulsion.
Due to the stop-start nature of idling in public transport, regenerative braking may be a possibility for public transport systems of the future. After all, public transport costs councils money, so money well spent on saving fuel is money saved.
Subsidies for development of electric cars
In an attempt to curb carbon emissions as well as noise pollution in South African cities, the South African Department of Science & Technology (DST), as well as other private investments, have made US$5 million available through the Innovation Fund for the development of the Joule. The Joule is a five-seater car, planned to be released in 2014.
- List of electric cars currently available
- Future of the car
- Coda Automotive
- Hybrid vehicle
- Low-carbon fuel standard
- Low emission vehicle
- Miles per gallon gasoline equivalent
- Partial zero-emissions vehicle
- Personal automated transport
- Plug-in hybrid
- Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle
- Renault Z.E.
- Tesla Motors
- Tier (emission standard)
- Electric rickshaw
- Ultra Low Emission Vehicle
- Who Killed the Electric Car?, a documentary
- Zero carbon city
- Zero emission
- ZENN (Zero Emission, No Noise)
- Optimal Energy Joule
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