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The Green Light: What Actually Makes A Vehicle Environmentally Friendly?

Green” has no doubt become a buzz word of sorts, although if the word itself has lost some meaning after being repeated so often, the driving force behind it has not. Green products and practices are everywhere; more and more companies and manufacturers are stepping up to the plate to meet the demand of a nation that not only hopes they reduce their negative impact on the environment, but requires it. Environmentally conscious practices are now

Image Credit: Author Owned

Image Credit: Author Owned

seen as a responsibility, especially for the major corporations who contribute to most of the pollution and waste. In no other industry is this as complicated and important as in the production of automobiles.

Fuel Economy

One of the most common ways to determine just how environmentally friendly a vehicle can be is to determine its fuel economy. This simply refers to the relationship between how far or long the vehicle has driven, and how much gas it required to do so. There a number of factors that influence a vehicle’s fuel efficiency—it simply depends which method auto-makers choose to employ when designing a particular model. Engines that are smaller, but simultaneously use more power (turbocharged) will be more fuel efficient, for example. Or vehicles that utilize lighter-weight materials to improve the ease with which it functions. Continuously variable transmissions, or hybrid vehicles, pave the way for the future of vehicles that run on less gas, and do less harm to the environment while they are out on the road. The government recently set forth a new goal to produce vehicles that run a standard 54 mpg by the year 2025.

Emissions Standards

Most cars produce greenhouse gases, primarily CO2. CO2 emissions are the number one contributor to climate change and global warming. The amount of CO2 produced by any vehicle is a function of the amount and type of fuel that is consumed. The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, has strict regulations for emissions, which require that automobile manufacturers produce vehicles that meet the standard in each weight class. California has more stringent emissions standards, which are set by the California Air Resources Board, also known by its acronym “CARB”. California’s automotive market is one of the largest in the world, and as such, CARB has an enormous influence over the emissions requirements that all major automakers must meet if they wish to sell in that state. Honda dealers in Los Angeles rejoice in the major manufacturer’s commitment to both fuel efficiency and meeting emissions standards, as California simultaneously has the most drivers on the road, and is the most aware of these environmentally conscious innovations.

clean air

Cleaner more efficient cars means cleaner air for all. Image credit: Kevin Dooley Creative Commons license

Life Span

A solidly built vehicle that meets emissions standards and has decent fuel economy will always be better for the environment than one that has a shorter life span, because a shorter life span means more people will require a new vehicle sooner. The higher the demand for vehicles, the more that will be produced, and it is in the production process that most of a cars carbon footprint is made. Many who are environmentally conscious may feel compelled to buy a new hybrid vehicle in an effort to be more green, but if you own a vehicle that is still running just fine, the most responsible thing to do is continue driving it with any necessary repairs.

The next time you find yourself in a position to purchase a new vehicle, educate yourself on what would be the most environmentally responsible choice- the planet will thank you.

Hannah Whittenly

Hannah Whittenly

Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She graduated from the University of California-Sacramento with a degree in Journalism.

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