Fact Checked

What is a Zero-Emission Vehicle?

Ava Einsley
Ava Einsley

The emissions from gas-powered cars are not only a cause of the diminishing ozone, but they the American Lung Association has said that it is a frequent cause of lung disease. This, in addition to waning fuel supplies and increased gas prices, has lead automobile manufacturers to begin making zero-emission vehicles. A zero-emission vehicle, also called a ZEV, is an automobile that does not create pollutants.

Zero-emission vehicles can be powered by two different sources: electricity or hydrogen. Some forms of both electric and hydrogen cars, particularly those that are powered by fossil fuel plants, also pollute. The true types of zero-emission vehicles run on solar or wind power.

The first zero-emission vehicle was the electric car. When powered by batteries that are recharged with solar or wind power, electric cars emit dramatically fewer pollutants than those powered from a fossil fuel power plant.

Zero-emission vehicles can also be powered by hydrogen. Those that use fossil fuels may produce just as much pollution as gas-powered cars. Hydrogen cars that use solar power to generate hydrogen from water do not produce emissions.

Solar-powered cars require sunshine.
Solar-powered cars require sunshine.

Vehicles such as hybrids are not true zero-emission vehicles. Hybrids are cars that operate both by gas and environment friendly means, such as electricity. These are called partial zero-emission vehicles because, though they produce far less pollution than traditional fuel-powered vehicles, they still emit pollutants.

One problem that has hindered the production of zero-emission vehicles is the cost associated with producing solar and wind power. The pressing need for vehicles powered by a source other than fuel has consistently been lowering the additional costs.

Another problem in manufacturing solar-powered cars is the need for sunlight. Solar-powered cars need sunlight to run, so factors like weather, time of day, and time of year must all be considered in order to ensure a consistently powered vehicle.

The burning of fossil fuels increases the ground-level amount of ozone-creating volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
The burning of fossil fuels increases the ground-level amount of ozone-creating volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Buyers interested in purchasing a zero-emission vehicle should start their search early. Companies that manufacture hydrogen and electric cars do so in small numbers, and there are usually waiting lists. Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, Chevrolet, and General Motors all manufacture some form of zero-emission vehicle.

Buyers may also be encouraged to become zero or partial-emission vehicle owners due to the associated tax breaks. Some states in the United States provide driving benefits to zero or partial-emission vehicle owners; that is, single drivers of zero or partial-emission vehicles in some states may drive in the carpool lanes.

It should be noted that though these vehicles are emissions-free, they don't minimize the level of pollution produced in the manufacturing process, and the effects of pollution caused by wear on the car have not yet been determined.

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Discussion Comments


@Drentel - I drive a hybrid SUV and I find that there is really little inconvenience in terms of recharging the vehicle. It is as simple as remembering to plug in the car. And there is always the backup of gas, so even if the battery isn't charged I can use the car. I think it is simply a matter of time before hybrids overtake gas vehicles in sales. Of course, we may have to wait much longer before true zero-emission cars are as popular.


I think most people would choose zero-emission vehicles if all things were equal between them and fossil fuel vehicles. However, all things are not equal. This article gives some of the biggest problems that have kept alternative cars for catching on as quickly as we would have liked.

Most people don't have extra thousands of dollars to buy a environmentally friendly car when they can get a gas powered car cheaper, and the cars that run with gas are more convenient to refuel. Until environmentally friendly cars become more wallet friendly and more convenient to operate they are not going to replace cars that run on gas.


When I hear the word hydrogen, I automatically think of the hydrogen bomb. I'm not sure I want a car that is running off of hydrogen or that uses hydrogen to recharge the battery. This just sounds dangerous to me. I'm all for helping out the environment when I can, but I'd rather do it without blowing myself up in the process.


The idea of all cars being zero-emission cars is something I support fully. We, people all over the world, are finally starting to realize that pollution effects everyone. When industries and governments in one country allow mass pollution this effects everyone. After all, smoke and fog don't just stay in the country where they are produced. The pollution and harmful chemical released into the air have no boundaries.

And pollution isn't just inconvenient. This article plainly points this out when it talks about the relationship between lung cancer and automobile emissions. We all need to take responsibility for our environment and the damage we are doing to it and to ourselves.

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    • Solar-powered cars require sunshine.
      By: miiko
      Solar-powered cars require sunshine.
    • The burning of fossil fuels increases the ground-level amount of ozone-creating volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
      By: designua
      The burning of fossil fuels increases the ground-level amount of ozone-creating volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
    • A zero-emission vehicle does not create pollutants.
      By: Mastrofoto
      A zero-emission vehicle does not create pollutants.