When it comes to getting a greener vehicle, how eco friendly are they really? Are they really that much better than a low emissions car that runs on petrol or diesel? The simple answer is that electric, and to some extent hybrid cars are very green, but they do still have an impact on the environment. This is mostly in the production process. We’ve outlined the environmental impact of such cars in more detail below.
How Green is Your Car?
If you own a petrol or diesel vehicle, you know that it won’t be as environmentally friendly as a hybrid or electric car. Diesel CO₂ emissions tend to be lower than petrol cars, with hybrids ranking second best, and electric cars coming up top. But even electric cars do have a carbon footprint.
Electricity and the Environment
One of the main considerations with electric cars, in terms of their environmental impact, is how their energy is produced. Electricity itself isn’t always emissions free. If coal is being used to create electricity, or any other means that results in carbon emissions, running your electric vehicle may not be as green as you think. Essentially, electric grids need to get much cleaner before you can class any vehicle as emissions free.
The Impact of Raw Materials
Another thing to think about when it comes to the impact an electric vehicle has on the environment is the raw materials used. While the body of the car will essentially be the same as any other type of vehicle, the battery that allows the vehicle to run can be problematic. These are lithium-ion batteries, which rely on a number of raw materials. One of these is cobalt, which has been linked to various environmental concerns. Mining cobalt produces waste products which may leach into the environment, and extracting the metals requires smelting, which can emit sulfur oxide, as well as other harmful air pollution.
Electric Cars and CO₂
The good news is that when driving an electric car, as fuel isn’t used, there are no CO₂ emissions. According to Science Daily, the average yearly CO₂ emissions per person, for food alone, is around two tons. So when you factor in travel as well, we all have a huge carbon footprint. Almost 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, with the average vehicle emitting about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. These statistics are certainly worth considering when deciding on the type of vehicle you purchase next.
More Cars on the Road
As electric cars become cheaper, there’s a good chance that more people will buy them - even people that previously didn’t own a car due to environmental concerns. And more cars on the road is never a good thing. As discussed above, the production of the vehicles, particularly the lithium-ion batteries, generates greenhouse gases. And according to a 2019 government study, around two thirds of pollution produced by cars comes from tyre, brake and road dust.
An article from the Guardian also points out that too much reliance on vehicles will often lead to a sedentary lifestyle. This can come with a whole host of health problems. So rather than promoting electric vehicles, we should be more focused on using public transport where possible, as well as walking and cycling.
Easy Ways to Go Green
If you’re not yet ready to get a hybrid or an electric car, there are a few simple things you can try in order to make your vehicle more eco-friendly. And even if you do have a car that’s better for the environment than others, these tips can’t hurt!
Drive More Slowly
While it can be tempting to drive as fast as possible, especially if we’re running late, this not only costs more money in terms of fuel, it’s also worse for the environment. Driving above 60 miles per hour results in higher emissions hitting the atmosphere, increasing your carbon footprint. And when it comes to fuel consumption, driving more slowly can help you save on your fuel economy by up to 15%.
Replace Your Air Filter
Another thing that helps with both the environment and your vehicle costs is regularly replacing your air filter. You may be able to improve your car mileage by as much as 10% simply by doing this, not to mention the fact that you’ll be helping to protect your car’s engine. Replacing the filter is incredibly straightforward too - there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube that will show you how to do it yourself.
In terms of the environmental impact an air filter can have, a worn filter means your car will be taking in and emitting impurities and various particles - these will then enter the atmosphere.
Clear Out the Boot
It’s not uncommon to store a few bits and bobs in the boot of your car, just in case. And while it’s always good to be prepared, keeping things like a blanket in your car for emergencies, additional weight can make your vehicle less efficient. The engine has to work harder to reach the same speed. Having a lighter load means your car uses less fuel, and is more efficient overall.