What is the Problem?

What is the Problem?
‘Analysing the future of automotive powertrains to comply with the government emission standards’.

CO2 emission levels are continually increasing, and the transport industry contributes to a massive 37% of emissions in Scotland.  Road cars and vans are the largest polluters, and a change must be made, but how? The Climate Change Act passed by the Scottish government was put in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) significantly and become net-zero by 2045 [1]. This is an ambitious strategy and for this to work, the necessary infrastructure must be put in place to encourage people to transition from petrol to electric cars. Currently there are still a lot of risks for electric cars including the range anxiety drivers may experience.

Within this blog, I hope to address the issues that petrol and diesel cars pose on our world and how introducing electric cars will help reduce the GHG emissions. I will critically analyse the pros and cons of both types of vehicles to establish a way forward, that can appeal the general public. What changes can be made to the current combustion engine to meet emission standards set by the government until the full transition to electric is viable?

The car industry has evolved drastically over the past 100 years in design, engineering and functionality. At first, the car was a novelty and provided a faster mode of transport from A to B, whereas today we ask for so much more within the car for example: electronic wing mirrors, cup holders, boot space, 7 seats, spare tyres and heated seats. With the customers’ requirements the average mass of cars has grown by 10%, over the last 15 years, from 1,268kg to 1,392kg [2]. The additional mass of the car effects the energy required to move the vehicle due to inertia and higher rolling resistance and therefore more fuel will be used to move the heavier vehicle. Car manufacturers are trying to produce faster, rapid acceleration and fancy features in cars to attract buyers however, at the consequence of this cars are heavier and require top of the range brakes and suspension to compensate for upgraded features. The heavier the car the more fuel required to power it.

With the addition of a turbocharger, the reduction is CO2 emissions in the petrol car decreases massively. This route is currently being explored by many car manufacturers and could be a sensible choice until we can fully transition to electric. It will be discussed later in detail in blog post 3.

Mass of Vehicle

CO2 Level

Standard vehicle

Increase of 8.5g/km of CO2 emissions overall

Reduction of 100kg for standard internal combustion engine (ICE)

Reduction of 5.4g/km of CO2

Reduction of 100kg for a turbocharged engine

Reduction of 6.9g/km of CO2

How long can we continue to produce fuel as fossil fuels we eventually run out?

If we continue burning fossil fuels at our current rate, it is generally estimated that all our fossil fuels will be depleted by 2060 [3]. It is unclear as to the exact date these resources will run out as it depends upon many factors and it is likely we will find some new reserves before this point, but we cannot deny the inevitably that they will run out and we need to make necessary changes way before this.

Fuel cost comparison: [4]

  • Electric – 3.7p per mile
  • Petrol – 14.2p per mile

Electric vehicles provide a reduced cost in fuel compared to petrol, the only downside to the electric vehicle is requiring a home charging unit. Government grants are available to support the cost of installation, however you would likely require having a driveway or space in front of your property for the charger to be installed. Therefore, electric modes of transport are the most sensible option due to their low running costs and minimal maintenance requirements, nonetheless, they do take longer to refuel. There are many adjustments that can be made to the petrol cars in order for them to meet emission standards and I will discuss all the possible solutions throughout the continuation of this blog.

How big is current car industry?

In 2020, 343 different car models were sold across Europe. Within the top 10 cars sold, only 2 of them were electric [5]. My evaluation of this statistic is that people are comfortable with petrol cars as they are endless choices of models, suitable infrastructure, cheap and are second nature to us now, they are our normal. More advertisement and models are needed to persuade those people in the comfort zone bracket. We need to show them electric cars can provide the same features but will reduce CO2 emissions. Although, the electric transition will not happen overnight and so we should offer multiple solutions, to offer a step by step move towards electric for those in reservation.

[1] https://www.transport.gov.scot/media/47052/national-transport-strategy.pdf 


[3] https://octopus.energy/blog/when-will-fossil-fuels-run-out/#:~:text=If%20we%20keep%20burning%20fossil,will%20be%20depleted%20by%202060


[5] https://carsalesbase.com/european-car-sales-analysis-december-2020-models/?fbclid=IwAR26bN_v2VTsIPtlUqOU25Pm3Ww8Ig_zb8Mp3snoHAsVLS0AKiWFxtUMx2Y

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