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The USA Going Green

How Green Are Today’s Cars (And Can You Do Better)

When it comes to the environment, few things are as notoriously harmful as vehicles. Famous for their carbon emissions, the move to a greener method of transportation has been a long term goal for many people. Now, with discussions of fully electric vehicles and driverless cars, much of this technology seems to be at the precipice of becoming widely adopted.

So, with this in mind, how green are today’s cars? Needless to say it is not a perfect technology so, if there are any areas that aren’t completely green or sustainable, it helps to know what you can do to improve the situation.

The Greenest Cars Available

The best example of a green car right now is the infamous Tesla 3. As an electric vehicle, or EV for short, this vehicle offers a zero-emission fuel source. Of course, this is in theory at least, as there are a few additional factors you might want to consider.

First of all, these vehicles use lithium-ion batteries. While this is certainly better than using fossil fuels on a regular base, lithium is not easy to collect. While this isn’t ideal, the batteries can at least be recycled. As long as demand doesn’t outweigh supply, this arguably represents some deal of sustainability.

Secondly, as a driver, you have more control over where your energy comes from. An EV uses power like any other electrical appliance, so how that power is generated will somewhat improve or decrease the car’s green status. For instance, if you’re sure your provider is using renewable energy like wind and solar power, than you’re charging your EV with a green fuel source. If your provider still uses coal or other unsustainable sources, then your EV is arguably contributing to more emissions.

The Price Divide

Another issue many people have with EVs is there availability and price range. Many of these vehicles are relatively new to the market, so their price is rather high, even when purchased as a second-hand car. Just look at the Tesla 3, with an asking price of around $35,000, which is certainly outside many people’s budgets.

As a compromise, there are some great hybrid cars available, but these have a mix of fossil fuel and electric power sources. Many of these vehicles only use the petrol or diesel engine for higher speeds, so this might be a perfectly viable green car for inner city driving. While these are cheaper than EVs, Edmunds reports that hybrid cars cost more than petrol cars by around 20%.

On the other hand, if you own a diesel powered car, you might be able to swap to biodiesel, which is one of the more popular alternative car fuels. This is legal in many countries, including America, and, as long as you stick to the regulations, you can even make biofuel at home. Just check that your diesel particulate filter is in the tail pipe, rather than the exhaust system cylinders. The former can often handle pure biofuel, the latter can not. Even if this isn’t an option, many commercial diesel fuels contain some percentage of biodiesel, so a wiser choice at the pumps can still improve the green status of your vehicle.

It’s Not Just The Car That Matters

It is also worth remembering that your choice of car, as well as its fuel source, are not the only green areas you should concern yourself with. When it comes to the daily use and maintenance of the car, there are a few areas worth improving.

First of all, being efficient with your fuel economy helps to save on fuel, as well as money. Even on an EV, using less electricity is still a good thing (especially if you’re unsure of how your electricity is generated). This is an entire topic in itself, but driving at 55mph (where possible and legally allowed) and bringing your car to a natural halt (rather than excessive braking) are two areas that can be easily adopted.

To support this, you can also improve your car’s dynamics and resistance. Excess weight simply uses up more fuel, so an overburdened vehicle isn’t exactly as green as it can be.The same logic can also be applied to your choice of tires. Pick tyres with low rolling resistance for a better fuel consumption rate.

Furthermore, when it comes to tyres and other car parts, these are still produced like any other product. Most car parts can be recycled and it is often vital that you do so. Tyre rubber, for instance, has a variety of uses and is often in great demand, while car parts have various metals. Even ‘green’ parts need to be recycled. A catalyst converter, for instance, contains rare earth metals such as rhodium, palladium and platinum. The fact is, nearly all car parts can be recycled, including rubber, glass, plastic and metal components. Just make sure you send your old parts (and car) to the right recycling industry, rather than just dropping the entire vehicle off at a scrap yard.

Some companies are already achieving some success in this area. Ford, for instance, produces at least 30,000 F-150 truck bodies from recycled aluminium each month. Recycling is entirely viable in the automotive industry, but it requires existing car owners to recycle their own cars to help sustain this demand for material.

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