Green Wheels

My car is now running on pure nitrogen.  Not in the fuel tank — they haven’t perfected that yet. I have nitrogen in my tires. Apparently, the technology has been around a while, but I didn’t know about it until my auto tech, Cindy, told me they had Nitro Fill.

It seems that race car drivers discovered that tires with nitrogen get more mileage and last longer than tires with regular air. One less pit stop makes a big difference to race car drivers, but whether the average driver needs to have tires filled with nitrogen remains a matter of debate. Some people say why spend the extra bucks as plain old air from the atmosphere is 80 percent nitrogen anyhow.

When Cindy suggested I switch to nitrogen, I couldn’t remember much about it, which shows how much attention I paid during science class. “Isn’t that explosive?” I asked, visualizing my car going up in a mushroom cloud during a fast takeoff.

“Oh, no, you are thinking of hydrogen,” she explained.

Well, that was a relief.

Actually, helium is the element I would really like to have in my tires. I could float away like a helium-filled party balloon or like Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang, the flying car in an old Dick Van Dyke movie. But helium can’t even keep a rubber balloon floating for very long before it passes through the rubber and the balloon goes flat.

Let’s get technical. The reason nitrogen is better in tires has to do with the size of the molecules in different gases. Nitrogen has fat molecules that can’t pass through the rubber tire as quickly as the skinny molecules of oxygen. I wondered why my tires kept getting low. I get them inflated and before you know it, the tire pressure warning lights are doing handsprings.

I really hate putting air in the tires myself. It involves getting down on some filthy parking lot or standing on my head while trying to measure tire pressure. Service stations have crummy air with water vapor that is really bad if it gets inside your tires, or at least that is what the nitrogen people say. With nitrogen, you can get them refilled at the dealership without feeling guilty or stupid.

Until now, I thought nitrogen was only good for fertilizing the garden or the lawn. It seems, however, that nitrogen comes in many different forms, including the gas in the atmosphere.  Using nitrogen in tires is supposed to reduce your carbon footprint and be good for the environment.

They are coming out with a lot of things to help the environment. The hydrogen that I can’t put in my tires can be put in my gas tank. I read an article about how Hyundai has developed a car that uses a hydrogen cartridge instead of gas. The hydrogen makes electricity and that runs the car. I’m not really sure I want to have a hydrogen bomb in the trunk, but I suppose it is no more explosive than the gasoline that we are all so fond of now.

I am going to hate missing out on the new tires that tweet when you reach the right pressure. Have you seen that ad on TV? I wouldn’t have to measure tire pressure any more. Hallelujah! It tells you when to quit. However, if they really want to invent something useful, why can’t they create a tire that uses carbon monoxide? Then my car could blow up its tires right from the exhaust pipe.

Anyhow, if you see a car with green wheels driving by, it will not be something new from Detroit. It will be me in my nitrogen chariot. I still think helium might be fun, though.

Copyright 2012 Sheila Moss

About Sheila Moss

My stories are about daily life and the funny things that happen to all of us. My columns have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and websites.
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