A lot is being made of going green lately. From the government to the auto industry, it seems like everywhere you turn someone is hammering you with information about fuel consumption, emissions, new automotive technology and your responsibility as a driver. However, what do you really know about being eco-friendly when it comes to vehicles? Is there a “greenest” vehicle? What does eco-friendly even mean? Let’s take a look at the answers to some of your questions.
What Does Eco-Friendly Mean?
This one might seem easy to answer, but it’s really not. There’s no answer that’s accepted by 100% of people. For some, being eco-friendly means driving with attention to fuel economy and emissions reduction. For others, it means rushing out and buying a hybrid vehicle, or perhaps a fancy electric car. For still others, eco-friendly means keeping their old junker running as long as possible and making sure it’s maintained properly.
In reality, all of these are elements of the concept. Eco-friendly really means nothing more than doing what you can to limit your impact on the environment, whether you do that by running your vehicle on an alternative fuel or carpooling so that you don’t have to drive at all. There are many, many different ways that you can be more eco-friendly, and not all of those ways will be right for everyone.
Now, let’s take a look at the recent glut of “eco-friendly” cars that have hit the market. You’ll find everything out there from cars with high fuel economy ratings to hybrid vehicles and electric cars. How eco-friendly are they? Is there a “best” choice? First, let’s address something – there is no single vehicle that can be unanimously declared as the best. Every type of vehicle has its benefits and its downfalls.
High MPG Traditional Vehicles – Traditional vehicles (as opposed to hybrids or electric cars) offer better fuel economy, but they don’t cut out gas like electric cars do. They can save you money by reducing the number of trips to the pump you have to make, though. They’re also much, much more affordable than their newer cousins. They also require less in the way of natural resources to manufacture. Hybrid Vehicles – Hybrids span the gap between traditional internal combustion engines (ICE) and fully electric vehicles. Hybrids can reduce your fuel consumption in many instances (but not all), and they can save you money at the pump. However, they’re far more expensive than a standard vehicle, and they require rare earth elements in the manufacturing process (for the batteries) that require extensive mining and refining, both of which emit plenty of toxins into the atmosphere.
Electric Vehicles – If you want to cut out the use of gas completely, then an electric vehicle is the best choice for you. They require no gasoline at all – just plug them in, let them charge and off you go. That’s also their downfall, though. Electric vehicles, while using no gas and putting out no emissions, have a very limited range on a charge. Not only that, but you’re still using fossil fuels.
Unless you charge your car up with solar panels, that electricity is coming from the power grid. Your electricity provider gets their power from traditional power generation technology (coal, hydropower, nuclear, etc.). In, fact, charging your car actually puts a greater demand on the power grid, so you’re really increasing the amount of emissions.
As you can see, there’s no “perfect” solution. The best advice is to be mindful of your impact on the environment and do what you can to limit it.
Don Elfrink is the owner and operator of AutoMatStore, an auto flooring company based out Columbia, Missouri. Before AutoMatStore, Elfrink was the operator of an automotive production site. AutoMatStore focuses on all-weather, logo, carpeted and molded car mats.