Machines that change climate: Porsche 911 Turbo vs. Toyota Prius
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This activity shows students that decisions they make can significantly alter the amount of greenhouse gases they release to the environment. Students make back-of-the-envelope calculations to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide released to the environment by different autos. The students also learn about exponential growth by calculating how the money saved by purchasing an inexpensive car can be invested to great advantage.
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- To have students do back-of-the-envelope calculations.
- To have students calculate exponential growth.
- To allow students to explore the environmental and economic implications associated with transportation choices.
- To help students gain a sense of the magnitude of the enormous mass of carbon dioxide emitted by automobiles.
Context for Use
The exercise is designed for a class consisting of non-science majors to illustrate important concepts for understanding global warming. It can be modified for higher-level courses and adapted to other courses related to global change. The activity is a homework problem that will take about 40 minutes. The students should be exposed to similar calculations in class.
Description and Teaching Materials
Activity Description (Microsoft Word 22kB Jun29 05)
Teaching Notes and Tips
Teaching Notes (Microsoft Word 28kB Jun29 05)
- Teaching suggestions
- Additional directions for discussion
- Related problems and resources
Solution Set (Microsoft Word 22kB Jun29 05)
References and Resources
Fuel Economy.gov - mpg ratings, emissions information, scorecards and calculators
Web site for unit conversions:
Glover, Thomas J., Pocket Ref, Sequoia Publishing, 2002.
Harte, Consider a Spherical Cow, University Science Books.