Green Cars – A Brighter and Cleaner Future

More and more cars are on the road every day, and it is estimated that more than a billion cars will be on the roads by the year 2020. With more and more cars hitting the roads each year, many people are beginning to look for greener options for their vehicles; in fact, governments are even beginning to put pressure on car manufacturers to develop cars that are friendlier to the environment. While in the past green cars were something that most people only dreamed about, today there are a variety of options available for those who are looking for a car that is environmentally friendly.

Several Different Technology Choices

Today as more and more people become environmentally conscious, there are a variety of greener alternatives that are beginning to show up in show rooms in the United States and even in Europe. For those looking for a car that runs green, there are now several different technology choices to consider, including alternative fuels, battery cars, and of courses the ever popular hybrids.

- Alternate Fuels – Perhaps the most futuristic technology when it comes to vehicle propulsion is alternative fuels used in fuel cells, which actually happens to be the cleanest form of vehicle transportation. Several car manufacturers are investigating hydrogen powered vehicles as well as cars that are powered by ethanol instead of gasoline. Vehicles with fuel cells have great potential, although it has not been fully explored. In the past infrastructure for these fuels have been a barrier to their product, but Honda has recently opened a station in California that actually is a hydrogen fueling station. Their goal is to show how alternative fuels can perform, offering consumers a new way to look at transportation.

- Battery Cars – Another type of technology that is employed when it comes to green cars is the electric battery. Actually battery cars have a long and extensive history, and they have been researched for some time. However, it has only been recently that they have shown to be viable in the mass vehicle market. As battery technology continues to improve, more cars are being introduced into the market with battery technology. There are many green advantages to battery operated cars, including great energy efficiency and no pollution; however, until recently they have been very limited, both in speed and electric charging.

- Hybrids – When it comes to cars that are friendly to the environment, the most popular and promising technology is the hybrid technology. Hybrids are unique, in that they use electric motors and an internal combustion engine as well. Fuel efficiency is boosted, since the electric motor can take over and help to lower the usage of fuel. Since the electric motor offers support, the gasoline engine is a lot smaller and much more efficient as well. In fact, in parts of travel, the gasoline engine may shut down altogether. The energy from the gas engine also helps to charge the battery, so you don’t have to worry about recharging it, like you have to with electric battery cars, and the emissions are significantly lower than other gas powered vehicles. Probably the two most popular hybrid cars on the market today include the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight.

Greener Cars for 2007 and 2008

Today there are a variety of options available when it comes to green cars. There are far more options than there were a few years ago. So, let’s take a closer look at some of the cars that have the best green performance in 2007 and 2008.

One of the greenest cars out there on the market today is the Toyota Prius. This car has a pair of electric motors along with a four cylinder engine. The Prius has the best fuel economy of any mass market car in the United States. The Honda Insight is fairly close to the Prius as well, and also has a lot to offer. You’ll also find that another great car for the environment is the Smart For Two car. It is a small car that only needs a very small motor – a 3 cylinder engine, which gets about 33 mpg around town. The Nissan Altima Hybrid is also an excellent car which is friendly to the environment and is tuned to get great fuel economy in the city.

Of course these are just a few of the environmental cars that are now available on the market for purchase. It is easy to see that the technology around greener vehicles is ever expanding, and no doubt in the next few years, you will continue to see great strides made in this area of technology as well.

The British Touring Car Championship – All The Thrills, None Of the Frills!

The F1 season with all its glitz and glamour might have started in earnest recently, with the running of the Australian Grand Prix; but for many motor-sports enthusiasts, the real thrills of motor-racing can be found much closer to home with the British Touring Car Championship (or BTCC), due to get underway at the end of March.

It’s well known that F1 is a millionaire’s sport – the cars are the result of millions of pounds of technical research; the drivers are paid a king’s ransom, and both the teams and drivers are subject to multi-million pounds sponsorship deals by global corporations. Money talks in F1 and purists argue that the sport isn’t competitive anymore, as races are now won and lost in the pit-lane, rather than on the track, while the larger teams such as McLaren and Ferrari spend the kind of money that the smaller teams such as Super Aguri can only dream about.

Recent years has seen the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) flourish in terms of both competing teams and spectator numbers. The sport itself operates on a fraction of the budget afforded to the F1 world; yet what it lacks in glamour, it more than makes up for in thrills! The BTCC season comprises of ten rounds – beginning and ending at Brands Hatch – held between March and September, and visiting nine different circuits. Each round consists of three races, making a thirty round competition.

The teams which compete in the BTCC are a mixture of manufacturers’ works teams (currently SEAT and Vauxhall are the only manufacturer teams) and independent teams such as Team Halfords and Team RAC. The independent teams usually comprise of ex-works cars which have been purchased from manufacturer teams when they update their own cars’ chassis. While this then might appear to give the ‘new’ cars an edge, as works teams can provide expert motoring advice [] about new developments surrounding their entries; there are in fact strict limits to modifications that can be made to any competing car in order to keep costs down and elicit an element of fairness in the sport. For example, all competing cars have to use the same tyre – called a ‘control tyre’ – which currently is supplied by Dunlop. Cars can also be modified to use different fuel types, with recent cars having run on liquefied petroleum gas, bio-ethanol fuel and even diesel, which made its first appearance in a BTCC race in 2007.

Races in the BTCC calendar are normally run over a weekend. Saturday comprises of two practice sessions, followed by a half-hour qualifying session which determines the first race grid for the Sunday. Like F1, the grid is sorted by time with the fastest driver lining up in pole position. Depending on the length of the racing circuit, each race will normally consist of between 16 and 25 laps, and the race result then determines the grid order for the next race with the drivers lining up according to their finishing position for race two.

For race three, starting positions are determined by a ‘draw’ which sees part of the grid reversed. This means that depending on the draw, drivers who finished in the minor placings could start in pole position. For example, if position 6 was drawn, the driver who finished in 6th place would be given pole position, with 5th place in second position and so on. Drivers who finished above the ‘draw’ result would occupy the position where they finished race two.

Also, at the end of the first and second races, the cars which finish in the major placings are handicapped by having additional weight – known as ballast – added to them for the next race at the meeting. Drivers’ standings after the third race of each meeting also determine the amount of ballast to be carried in the first race of the following meeting.

There are some aspects of BTCC which are shared with F1; for example the safety car and pit lane speed limits. However, unlike F1, spare cars cannot be used, and teams can only use a maximum of 4 engines per season per driver. If additional engines are used, teams are subject to point deductions.

All this adds up to some fantastic thrills on the racetrack as the rules make racing much more competitive and open, with cars’ technological advantages negated by additional weight or luck of the draw. Collisions are commonplace in BTCC as drivers push their cars – and themselves – to the limit throughout each race; it isn’t uncommon to witness high-speed collisions involving multiple cars, while the attempts to equalise the cars means overtaking manoeuvres can occur anywhere throughout the race – even on the tightest of corners!

So, while the F1 world buys its thrills, motor-sports enthusiasts can rest easy; safe in the knowledge that BTCC thrills come free with the package.