Making Cars Lighter

free essayPurpose. Ten years ago, Kleimann recalled Magic Nano, an air spray bathroom cleaner, because of consumers’ complaints concerning difficulties with breathing, which they alleged the product caused. A three-day public accessibility of the product resulted in about 100 cases of the acute reaction. The aerosol contained silicate nanoparticles. However, experts from the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), who investigated the case, diverted the public attention from the risks associated with nanotechnology by bungling the definition of a nanoparticle. Obviously, the commission breached articles 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the Code of Ethics of Engineers.

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Problem. There is evidence that nanoparticles easily contaminate air; they can penetrate into the human body through the skin; they damage human’s lungs, liver, and brain. However, to meet the target that the government sets for the fuel consumption, BMW make some of its mass production cars lighter thanks to the extensive use of the carbon fiber reinforced composites in their production. Hence, official authorities must come up with effective incentives for engineers engaged in the PR campaigns in the field of the automotive industry in order to comply with the Code of Ethics of Engineers.
Scope. This paper limits the scope of reasoning to providing only examples. Modern cars not only have more efficient engines than its predecessors had but also are heavier than their ancestors were due to the added features in order to preserve or shorten the fuel consumption. However, the fact that currently, cars are responsible for 30% of all emissions in the developed world is going to influence this tendency drastically since people cannot get energy primarily from fossil fuels anymore.
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Theory. Before consuming the energy, the humankind converts it for several times in a row from one form to another. The energy people get prior to conducting any power transformation is called the primary one. There are eight sources of the power that the humanity uses today. They are fossil fuels, nuclear power, solar energy, winds, ocean waves, moving water, thermal energy stored in the interior of the Earth, and biomass. However, the amount of primary energy received from fossil fuels is, at least, ten times larger than the one provided by any other sources. Such pattern of sourcing energy results in the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of the planet. Unfortunately, in the past, industrial activities of the developed countries gave rise to emitting such a huge amount of this gas that today, any similar activities of developing countries will cause irreversible changes in the climate unless people do not take care of this matter within a decade. Remedial measures could presuppose either the development of large-scale technology to subtract carbon from the atmosphere with subsequent its storage or the switch to the new main source of primary energy. However, storing massive amounts of carbon dioxide is extremely challenging due to the following reasons. A leakage of the stored gas from the underground is dangerous for human lives; moreover, such a quantity of this substance in the oceans can cause the disappearance of fish (see Appendix A). However, the recent creation of the first porous liquid brings hope for the breakthrough in this field. Specifically, the value of this liquid for handling the climate change consists in its ability to dissolve abnormally large quantities of carbon dioxide in its pores. Placing such a substance on the top of a factory chimney can prevent the carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere and results in the storage of the otherwise emitted greenhouse gas. As for switching to a new type of primary energy, only nuclear power and solar energy have the potential to become the main source. Although solar energy is the richest power mine, it is available only during the day time. To use it as the main source of primary energy, humankind needs to develop and industrially master the affordable technology of the large-scale energy storage. One cannot take advantage of photovoltaic technologies in this case since they assume the use of noble metals, which are too expensive for such a widespread usage. Unfortunately, other existing scientific know-hows for the power storage do not fit the scale of the problem. However, nature suggests that chemical bonds are the proper place to store energy got from the Sun thanks to the following. Annually, the photosynthesis reaction that occurs in organisms provides storage in the amount that exceeds all human needs in energy by several times. This input holds out hope for a breakthrough in this direction. As for the nuclear power, people cannot afford to construct a sufficient number of breeder reactors due to the threat from Islamic terrorists who protect the interests of Saudi Arabia, which is one of the largest oil and gas exporters as for today. Another option in this direction presupposes the construction of a reactor that will produce energy thanks to the reaction of nuclear fusion. However, the pattern of financing the research of this matter does not fit the time constraint imposed by the imminent global irreversible change in climate. Hence, humankind needs time and finances to escape the global change. International negotiations between developing world and rich nations should regard limiting the emissions on the part of the former aimed at proving the global society with these resources. Unfortunately, developed states are hesitant to provide poor nations with required funds due to concerns of their ultimate use. As for the developing countries, they are reluctant to accept emission quotas since they believe that the developed world has to bear the main burden of handling the climate change issue. However, experts suggest that focusing on the principle of the fair access to sustainable development could resolve the issues mentioned above. Such a focus implies linking the infrastructure improvement in the rich world with adopting the latest technologies on the part of the developing countries. Besides, it assumes delegation of decision-making to people with knowledge concerning the main drivers of the emissions on the local scale. Obviously, the fuel that cars consume is among such drivers. One way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that cars emit without compromising the quality of a human life demands to switch to hybrid cars. In addition to a gasoline engine, such vehicles have an electric one. The latter replaces the former during the slow motion or small acceleration. A driver often experiences these conditions since they depend on the traffic congestion. Besides, the electric engine helps the gasoline one in times of heavy loads, for example, the one that occurs while climbing a steep slope. Moreover, while lowering the vehicle speed, a part of its kinetic energy converts in the one stored in the battery of the electric engine. This feature satisfies all needs in energy on the part of the electric motor battery. The technology allows spending only one gallon of fuel per 28 miles of travel. However, such a performance is far poorer than 55 miles per gallon that the authorities in the developed world set as a target for 2025. Nevertheless, one can reach 100 miles per gallon by installing the plug-in conversion system. Unfortunately, in this case, the driver has to recharge the motor battery from time to time. However, the plug-in hybrid allows traveling at high speeds exclusively in the electric mode. Such a feature is valuable for those who frequently take a superhighway travel. Since additional engine increases the vehicle weight drastically, making cars lighter has a value. Besides, this innovation is going to cut the emissions further since a lighter car has smaller kinetic energy, with other parameters being equal. Mechanical properties of the carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRPs) better suit the requirements of the massive parts of a vehicle than the ones made of ordinary metals. Besides, CFRPs are much lighter than ordinary metals (see Appendix B). Hence, the replacement of the latter with the former gives rise to the production of a much safer and lighter car.

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However, there are famous automakers that prefer the use of aluminum or titanium for the vehicle weight reduction. The example of the Ford Motor Company is especially valuable since this corporation “has experienced serious misconduct in the past” (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, p. 5). For instance, to create “additional trunk space,” the design of the Ford Pinto model assumed placing its “gas tank” precisely “behind the rear axle instead of above it, with only nine inches of space between the gas tank and axle” (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, p. 5). Moreover, company’s engineers put bolts in a close vicinity of “the gas tank, increasing the risk that they could puncture the tank in an accident” (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, p. 5). In addition, the car maker’s employee created “the fuel filler pipe design” that resulted in “a high probability that the pipe would disconnect from the tank and cause gasoline to spill out in rear-end collisions” (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, p. 5). In the 70s of the past century, the company enjoyed high sales of this model until serious controversy regarding Pinto’s design arose (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, p. 5). Specifically, in 1972, a Pinto experienced a rear-end collision that gave caused the part of the vehicle burst into flames (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, p. 5). The outcome was the death of one passenger and a severe injury of the other. The survived passenger sued the Ford Corporation for damages (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, p. 5). His attorney asserted “that they had uncovered evidence that Ford had” been aware of “the design flaw since it first started selling the Pinto but did not change the design due to the high costs involved” (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, p. 5). In 1977, mass media informed the public about the design flaws (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, p. 5). The court verdict made the company compensate the plaintiffs with $125 million (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, p. 5). In 1978, the car manufacturer initiated recalling the Pinto. Unfortunately, soon after the start of the process, another rear-end collision in Pinto cost three youngsters their lives. Their relatives received info about the recall only in 1979 (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, p. 5). In this case, it was “the prosecutor from Elkhart County, Indiana, […who] “sued Ford for reckless homicide” (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, p. 5). Although “Ford was found not guilty to these charges due to lack of evidence’ (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, p. 6); nowadays, “many believe the Ford Pinto design made it riskier in rear-end collisions” (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, p. 5). Currently, the company exerts significant efforts to restore its reputation. It tries to meet the fuel consumption target by the use of aluminum in the vehicle construction (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, p. 5). Similarly, Ferrari takes advantage of aluminum in order to lower the weights of its production models (Carney).

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In fact, setting 55 miles per gallon by 2025 target for fuel consumption of a passenger car, the American government encourages the automakers that currently lag behind in such a performance to use CFRPs due to the following fact. 1000 kg reduction in the weight of the car results in the 38 miles per gallon increase in the targeted performance of a vehicle (see Appendix C). One can achieve a huge reduction in the weight of the car either through switching to the extensive use of CFRPs in the production process or through getting rid of a large number of features that customers value. It seems that experts in the fields of engineering, journalism, and marketing, who have vested interests in the widespread adoption of the nanotechnology, misled not only the public but also the authorities regarding this matter. Specifically, Ebeling argues that these professionals artificially construct “financial potentials of nanotechnologies” and promises “of high returns for investors” to lure investing in this field (335). This way, they cope with the risks described above that this technology imposes on a person’s health in the hope of translating “the technologies in a profitable industry” (Ebeling 335). Engineers who engage in such activities put at risk the well-being of numerous people by issuing false public statements intentionally. Therefore, they violate the Engineer Ethic Code, in particular, articles 1 and 3. The recent study suggests that scientists need incentives to comply with the Code of Conduct for the Responsible Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies Research (Dorbeck-Jung and Shelley-Egan 55). For instance, the Dutch government required “researches in nanosciences to comply with the Code in order to receive funding” (Dorbeck-Jung and Shelley-Egan 67). Hence, the American government has to replace the target of 55 miles per gallon by 2025 with the one that does not provide incentives for the use of CFRCs in the production process. For instance, the target could focus on the requirement of installing the plug-in conversion system in every car that travels at high speed. Moreover, the experience with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies Research indicates that the authorities have to make increased efforts to adhere to the Code of Ethics of Engineers.

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Summary. To lower the weights of their production models, the industry leaders such as Ford Motor Company and Ferrari use aluminum in the construction process. In view of the widespread awareness of outstanding mechanical properties of CFRCs, this fact indicates that CFRCs are extremely harmful to human health. The recent experience with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies Research suggests that the government has to provide scholars with incentives to comply with this code. However, the American government currently make engineers engaged in the PR regarding the passenger car production violate the Code of Conduct of Engineers. Specifically, the government requires the car manufacturers to meet the requirement for the fuel consumption in the amount of less than 1 gallon per 55 miles of travel by 2025. Plug-in hybrids conform to this requirement, however, at the expense of the driver’s comfort since he or she has to recharge motor batteries regularly. Unfortunately, hybrids that do not require recharging of the electric engine power supply lag the established target very much. Only reducing the weight of the car drastically can help satisfying the requirement. One can achieve the reduction through the extensive use of CFRPs in the production process. Unfortunately, such a use leads to adverse health effects due to the contamination of the atmosphere with nanoparticles. Therefore, engineers who have to communicate their professional judgment about the cars made with the use of CFRPs are under pressure of violating the Code of Ethics of Engineers.

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Ethical Issues. Setting the target of 55 miles per gallon for the passenger car fuel consumption, the government initiates the global change. In view of the time constraint for avoiding irreversible changes in the climate, one could argue that it is ethical despite unfavorable consequences for the human health. However, there are other effective options to achieve the required performance that do not entail putting people at risk. One of them is the transformation of the existing cars into plug-in hybrids.

Recommendation. In the frequently occurring situations, replacing the fuel consumption requirement for 2025 with the one regarding the use of a specific technology could alleviate the pressure that engineers experience and that force them to violate the Code of Ethics of Engineers. Moreover, the government has to offer some incentives for engineers to adhere to the Code of Ethics of Engineers.