Road transport is historically one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and so also a major cause of global warming. In the UK alone, road transport accounts for over 20% of total carbon dioxide (CO2) emission, and with the increasing number of vehicles on the road this figure is only set to rise. Pollutants from road transport include hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides which all have a hugely detrimental impact on the environment, people and animals alike. Scientific research has found clear links between exhaust emissions and human health issues such as lung diseases and cancer. It is claimed that air pollution, which is largely produced by vehicle emissions, is responsible for 24,000 premature deaths a year in the UK.
Traditionally cars and other road vehicles are run on petrol or diesel, and it is the burning of these fuels that produces the greenhouse gasses which are damaging to the environment. Electric Cars, such as the smart eco car, however, could be the cars of the future. Electric cars and hybrid cars are propelled either entirely or partially by electricity. For this reason they don’t produce any (or only extremely low) CO2 emissions from the car itself, unlike traditional cars. They run on electrical energy stored in rechargeable batteries and in theory seem the perfect alternative to petroleum powered vehicles.
The major downfall of electric cars however, is although they produce almost no CO2 emissions from the car itself, the electricity has to be generated somewhere. Unfortunately most of the electricity needed to charge electric cars originated from coal plants, and so the air pollutant emissions are only really moved to the site where the electricity is generated. However, this is still good news for cities as the people in them will benefit from cleaner air and a reduction in illnesses from breathing heavily polluted air.
A better alternative altogether would be for people to walk or cycle, or even get public transport to reduce the number of cars on the road. However, in reality these healthy options are normally side-lined for convenience.