A history of greenhouse gases and our transition to emissions-free transportation

By: Anu Verma

What is greenhouse gas, why it’s a problem and why it’s blamed for global  warming and climate change? In 1827 Jean Baptist Joseph Furier realized that the atmosphere keeps us warm. Outer space is very cold and if it was not for the layers of gases that wrap the planet, we would all freeze.

He said, “earths gases are like the greenhouse’s glass walls.” Napoleon made  him a baron because of this scientific breakthrough. A few decades later John  Tyndall in 1850 showed that when infrared radiation strikes carbon dioxide  molecules with three atoms, they start shaking and trembling and carbon  dioxide molecules flap their bonds like birds. As they flap, they give off energy in the form of more infrared radiation. Some energy goes out in space and half of it returns to the Earth as heat contributing to the greenhouse effect. In April 1896, Arrhenius explained it in the London philosophical magazine that “we are evaporating our coal mines into the air” – published during the reign of Queen Victoria. 

“It’s as fatal as it is cowardly to blink facts because they are not to our Taste”  wrote Tyndall in“Science and Man”. 

Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, as we were burning and depleting  the planet’s fossil fuels, our planet has absorbed pollution and waste to a large  extent. Our oceans can absorb 1/4 of the carbon dioxide emissions that human activity generates each year and capture 90% of the excess heat and generate 50% of the oxygen. The forest absorbs and stores carbon for thousands of years earning a name of natural carbon sinks. Altogether the planet absorbs and emits hundreds of billion tons of carbon dioxide through its natural cycle, and it dwarfs humanity’s contribution which is 10 times more by burning fossil fuels. Now this extra chunk of carbon dioxide has tipped out the equilibrium of what was once a balanced cycle.  

Now that we know what the greenhouse effect is and what’s causing it, it’s easy to understand the need for reducing our carbon emissions. The Biden 

administration gave an upbeat news in the form of a blueprint of decarbonization of the nation’s transportation system. As the 83-page report  points out, transportation is now the largest source of greenhouse gas  emissions in the USA, responsible for 1/3 of all the emissions. Getting to net  zero, which USA has pledged to by 2050, will require more or less eliminating  these emissions. The passage of the IRA authorizing some 400 billion  dollars (about $1,200 per person in the US) on clean energy was a turning point and could produce emissions cuts as early as this year if the government can fast track implementation. Emissions are down only around 15% using 2005 as the baseline which leaves a 35% cut to be achieved in just 7 years.  

Electric school buses in Illinois can change the emissions drastically as the  current buses are the least efficient vehicles on the road because of long idling  period and diesel power contributing to poor air quality for the developing  lungs of young children.  

All this makes these buses an excellent candidate for electrification.  

Lion electric, a 900,000 square foot facility, the largest all electric U.S. plant  dedicated to medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicle production, sees only  upside in its future where it will be making 20,000 electric vehicles annually.  

At a press conference on July 19th our leaders from Illinois namely Governor  Pritzker, US senators Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth along with EV  advocates and stakeholders made an historic opening with a diesel fuel  hose (ribbon) cutting ceremony.  

Lion Electric is an innovative manufacturer of zero-emission vehicles. The  company creates, designs, and manufactures all-electric class 5 to class 8  commercial urban trucks and all-electric buses and minibuses for the school,  paratransit, and mass transit segments. Lion is a North American leader in  electric transportation and designs, builds and assembles many of its vehicles’  components, including chassis, battery packs, truck cabins and bus bodies.  Always actively seeking new and reliable technologies, Lion vehicles have  unique features that are specifically adapted to its users and their everyday needs. Lion believes that transitioning to all-electric vehicles will lead to major improvements in our society, environment, and overall quality of life.