"This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness." Dalai Lama

A Guide to Green Cars

by Staff

FILED IN: Issue 11 · Sustainability

A genuinely green car is, of course, impossible. Moving a tonne of steel and plastic around could never use no energy at all and even the zero emissions hydrogen fuel cell cars will require prodigious amounts of energy to produce the hydrogen in the first place.

Buying Green – The “No-Compromise” Options
PZEVs & Hybrids
PZEVs, or partial zero-emission vehicles, include the now familiar Toyota Prius and more than a dozen other vehicles.
Car companies are promoting these cars as having better performance—and sales prove that as performance has soared so has popularity.

The Honda Civic Hybrid, for example, out-accelerates its petrol-only version and it also requires fewer stops at the service station. Public demand for the new Toyota Prius, which gets over 21. 25km per liter, has outpaced production since it was introduced in 2001.

Hybrids and PZEVs look like regular cars, but under the hood they have sophisticated technology that reduces health-threatening tailpipe emissions by 90%, and evaporative emissions (the gas vapors that escape from the fuel tank) to near zero. PZEVs typically cost significantly more than their conventional counterparts.

PZEVs burn petrol so efficiently that their exhaust is cleaner than the air in some smoggy areas. PZEVs can help reduce urban smog which so badly affects the health of city dwellers, especially children and the elderly.

Cars for People Who Want to Get off Oil or Reduce Climate Change Even More
Climate change is no longer a theory, it is a scientifically proven fact. Thirty percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the major source of global climate change, are from transportation. Fortunately, there are several ways of reducing CO2 emissions from your car.

The easiest option is to look for the most fuel efficient hybrid or PZEV vehicle. CO2 emissions are directly proportional to the amount of petrol you use, so a 20km per liter car emits just half of the CO2 of a 10km per liter car.

You could reduce your CO2emissions even more if you powered your vehicle with an ‘alternative fuel’ such as compressed natural gas (CNG), liquid propane (LPG), biodiesel, or ethanol. These fuels have the added advantage of reducing, often to almost zero, the use of oil, over 50% of which is imported. Let’s look at each alternative fuel option.

Biodiesel, a favorite fuel in the US bus and trucking industry, is beginning to make inroads in our local bus industry. Biodiesel is made from an oil-rich plant, such as soybeans, and can be run in a conventional diesel engine. Because it gets thick when cold, and ignites at a lower temperature than diesel, it is normally blended with diesel in cold climates. B20, the usual mix, is 20% biodiesel and 80% diesel, though 100% biodiesel (B100) can be purchased. Additionally, waste cooking oil can be run in a diesel vehicle if you have an additional tank and other simple modifications.

There are several conversion kits on the market. (See www. greasecar. co. za, for example). B100 will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 77% (because the plants, when growing take CO2 out of the atmosphere) and reduce dependence on foreign oil by 68% (unless the plants are grown with no chemical fertilizers, and tractors run on biodiesel, in which case 100% reductions could theoretically be achieved. )

B20 reduces CO2 by 28% and fossil fuel use by 13%. While biodiesel offers a great opportunity to use waste cooking oil and surplus soybeans, many are concerned that if crops were grown specifically for fuel production that food producing land would be displaced and degraded.

Compressed natural gas
Compressed natural gas vehicles have been used extensively in Canada and Australia. In the US they have been used most extensively by companies that have a fleet of ten or more vehicles. These companies usually install a CNG fueling station at their facility so they can refuel easily.

CNG is a naturally occurring, clean-burning fossil fuel. It emits 13% less CO2 than a similarly fuel-efficient vehicle.

Ethanol has been extensively used in Brazil for decades. Ethanol is an alcohol made from plant material that has a high sugar content. In Brazil, the waste from making sugar is the main feedstock. Research is being done on the potential of other waste plant materials to produce ethanol less expensively. A favorite of US Midwest farmers, ethanol is usually blended with petrol. E85 is 85% ethanol and 15% petrol.

Ethanol is usually used in “flex-fuel” vehicles—vehicles that can be run on either petrol or ethanol. An estimated 2. 5 million ethanol flex-fuel vehicles are in use in the US today, but only a small percentage actually are using ethanol. E85 reduces CO2 emissions by 22%, and reduces fossil fuel use by 34%.

Propane, a by-product of natural gas production and oil refining, is used by fleet vehicles. It is estimated that there are approximately 275,000 propane-powered vehicles in the US today. Propane reduces CO2 emissions by 15%, but does not reduce fossil fuel use.

Hydrogen-powered vehicles have been much in the news, and have many attractive characteristics. They have the potential of making fuel choice a non-issue, since hydrogen can be produced from just about any fuel.

All car companies have hydrogen-powered prototype vehicles—but don’t expect them in the showroom anytime soon, because there are still many technical challenges in making, storing, and transporting hydrogen, as well as using it in conventional internal combustion engines or in fuel cell vehicles.

Hydrogen’s environmental advantages and its ability to compete in the market place will be determined by how it is made. Hydrogen can be made by electrolysis, using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. If the electricity to make the hydrogen were produced by wind, solar, or other zero emitting fuels, we could produce environmentally friendly zero emission hydrogen-but many feel this is not economically feasible. .
If, however, it were made using electricity from today’s power plants, CO2 costly emissions would increase–and we would need to build new power plants to produce enough electricity to meet the demand for hydrogen.

Hydrogen can also be extracted from other materials that have a high hydrogen content, such as natural gas—many people feel this would be the best approach—but it does not get us away from using nonrenewable fossil fuels, or take CO2 emissions to zero.

Electric Vehicles
Like hydrogen, electricity can be produced from any fuel, and like hydrogen, electricity is only as clean as the fuels used to create it. For example, if a car ran on electricity produced from today’s coal-fired plants, CO2 emissions would be greater than those from petrol car. But if the electricity were produced from wind and solar, CO2 emissions would approach zero.

Most car companies have tried to produce full-size electric vehicles that meet consumer demands for a car that can be refueled quickly and have at least a 160 kilometer driving range. Nevertheless, electric vehicles are becoming popular in niche markets such as airports, mines, and warehouses, and smaller electric vehicles are entering the consumer market.

Some people believe that battery technology will advance soon to a point where full-size electric vehicles could play an important role in the consumer market and deliver better value than hydrogen vehicles. Only time will tell.


  • Honda makes first hydrogen cars Japanese car manufacturer Honda has begun the first commercial production of a zero-emission, hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicle. The four-seater, called FCX Clarity, runs on electricity...
  • Fuel for thought The diesel engine was intended to run on peanut oil—allowing farmers to grow their own fuel and small craftsmen and artisans to compete with large...
  • Greasecar When my fuel gauge starts heading for the red, it’s not a petrol station I start looking for, but a fast food restaurant! Being a Vegetarian...
  • 90 Biodiesel Reactors for South Africa Green Star Products has announced that it has signed an agreement with De Beers Fuel Limited of South Africa to build 90 biodiesel reactors. Each of...
  • Biofuels could add to greenhouse gas emissions A new paper suggests that biofuel production may be contributing to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.The lead author and Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen and...
  • Job creation to help the environment Ideas to simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save foreign exchange and create many jobs Wouldn’t it be nice if some-body developed a project which simultaneously reduced...


  1. do you acctually expect me to believe all this stuff about the difficulty in producing hydrogen powered vehicles, Hydrogen the most abundant element on earth that God has provided for us to use. and this hybrid vehicle rubbish ,just to suck a bit more money from the public before the hydrogen vehicle has arrived ,even to say that it takes so much energy to start the hydrogen engine up, rubbish! the technology to produce hydrogen has been around since the boer war when the British used hydrogen balloons to spot the boers. a bit of calcium hydroxide and a glass of water and a low grade hydrogen was made,about the same explosive power as butane gas. The Germans converted their airforce to gas fuel as their fuel supply was bombed. If hydrogen explodes 10times faster than natural gas whats the real difference. Absolutally nothing.
    Its all part of the commitees bull hey’

    Comment by Robert

  2. re green cars.
    Does anyone have plans or know where and how I can test the 2HO technology on my car? There is just so much gunk out there that Id love to hear from someone who has actually done the conversion. Thanks

    Comment by john

  3. With the use of biodiesel, the smoke generated becomes very clean instead of the traditional diesel. And thus, can make our car last longer. So what would you prefer?

    Comment by unparalled60

  4. ….….

    Comment by unparalled60

Leave a comment

Subscribe to comments on this post


Cover of Issue 28

Issue 29 of Biophile is going electronic and will be available soon. It will also be available to our international readers. Stay tuned or contact us for more details! find out more


I was just checking the website of the SEXPO which has just visited SA, this is what the Cape Town site says. . . . “The world’s largest Health, Sexuality and Lifestyle expo is coming back to Slaapstad and it’s bigger and sexier than ever! continue reading


Biophile magazine is published every two months by Biophile cc. The magazine is edited by Chris Lautenbach, while subscriptions and advertising are managed by Lindsay Mitchell.
The telephone number is 076 9055 004 and you can send faxes to 086 514 9668.


Visit Ecotelly.com for more videos


Award Web

Biophile recently received recognition for its contribution to the print & internet category at the 20th SAB Environmentalist & Environmental Journalists of the year Awards. Congratulations to a dedicated team!