Improvements That Can Make All Cars Greener

How green is your car?

Michael Graham Richard

In the first part of this series about sustainable transportation, I described many alternatives to cars that we will need to expand if we want to substantially decrease the negative environmental impact of transportation. That's goal #1.

I also wrote about how we're going to have to improve cars, because it doesn't seem like they're going away any time soon. That's goal #2.

This installment of the series, as well as the following ones, will take a look forward and see how we can achieve this second goal. Not because goal #1 is less important, but because there's a special urgency with car-related innovation that isn't present with most other ways to get around; if we build lots of those alternatives to cars (like trains and buses and bike sharing programs) without improving on current technology, we'll still be making things better. But if we build lots of cars without greatly improving on current technology, we'll be making things worse. Much worse.

So how do we do that? How do we make cars a few orders of magnitude greener? Let's start at the beginning and work our way up to progressively more advanced (and greener) technology.

This is a dual clutch transmission. It's much more fuel efficient than traditional automatic transmissions, and even beats manuals in certain vehicles. Photo: Creative Commons

Level 1: Improvements that Apply to All Types of Vehicles

Before we talk about engines and electric motors and various types of hybrids and electric vehicles, let's have a quick overview of improvements that can apply to all vehicles.