NEWS

Eco-friendly cars are key to cleaner future

While motorists in America wait for months to pick up hybrid ecological cars, in Greece sales for these cars are negligible. Once again it appears that technological advancement and environmental awareness are lagging in the country. At the same time as so-called hybrid cars are conquering the biggest markets in the world and are being hailed as the best cars of the year (such as the Toyota Prius for 2005), in Greece the technology is almost unknown, even though pollution levels in Athens and other big cities are among the highest in Europe. What’s more, the state appears to be doing little, if anything at all, to promote environmentally friendly technology. What is a hybrid car? A hybrid car features a small fuel-efficient gas engine combined with an electric motor that assists the engine when accelerating. Its main pioneering feature is an electric motor powered by batteries that recharge automatically while you drive; when you slow down your car, the brakes convert motion energy to heat energy. Hybrids capture that energy by converting it to electricity, which can be stored. In this way, the hybrid car has overcome the obstacles of early electric-powered cars; it uses gasoline, has good acceleration and can reach speeds as high as regular cars. The success of hybrid cars in the US, Japan and some countries of Europe, is attributed to the fact that they burn a lot less gasoline (up to 40 percent less), thus significantly reducing their emissions and lightening the burden on drivers’ pockets. The use of gasoline is limited because the electric motor kicks in when you start the car and when you’re driving slowly in traffic, while it switches off automatically at traffic lights. Both engines work simultaneously only when you need a boost of speed. At the same time, advanced driving systems make a ride in these cars a pleasant experience. The hybrid car is the only answer currently available for environmentally friendly driving; at least until fuel cell vehicles using hydrogen produced from natural gas are launched, but that looks to be at least a decade away.