In this day and age, when it comes to being green, looking at the end result is never enough. You have to take a life cycle approach to assessing how green something is, which in the case of cars, means looking at how they are manufactured and delivered to your driveway.
Unfortunately, most cars produced overseas, including top selling hybrids like the Toyota Prius, are shipped over on huge cargo ships, the kind that produces as much air pollution as roughly 50 million individual cars.
While automakers have little choice towards alleviating this issue, it’s good to see that Toyota, at least, is trying to. A few years back the automaker installed 328 solar panels on the roof of the cargo ship Auriga Leader, which brings the Prius and other Toyota and Lexus models to the U.S.
The panels can generate up to 40 kilowatts of electrical power, which helps to reduce demand on the ship’s diesel engines by running a number of ancillary features and thus cutting emissions and fuel costs. According to the owner of the Auriga Leader, NYK Line, the solar panels help to save around 12 tons of diesel fuel per trip--admittedly, a fraction of the total amount of fuel used by such ships.
Solar Panels On Auriga Leader
However, one of the biggest problems is that the supply of solar power isn't stable as it depends largely on weather conditions.
In response, the ship has now been fitted with a massive array of nickel-metal hydride batteries and its onboard generator modified to run on low-sulfur diesel. The batteries, which can be charged by solar power or the generator, will help stabilize the fluctuating levels of the solar power and minimize output fluctuations from the generator and secure a stable power supply.
If tests of the new setup prove successful, NYK Line, together with Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., hopes to develop an even larger solar power generation system for cargo ships and eventually commercialize the system.
Interestingly, Nissan is also using an eco cargo ship for transporting its zero-emission Leaf electric car. Called the ‘The City of St. Petersburg’ (no that’s not a typo), the special ship features a spherical front-end designed to reduce drag. According to Nissan, the ship uses about 15 percent less than a conventional one.