Published on August 7th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro9
Are New Cars Really Cleaner Than Old Cars?
August 7th, 2014 by Christopher DeMorro
I’ve long been a proponent of the idea that the greenest car is the one already on the road, and with an estimated 1.2 billion vehicles already roaming the Earth’s surface, I think that point is more important than ever.
Yet there is a strong argument to be made that in today’s age of efficient hybrid and electric vehicles, a new car can actually be quite a bit cleaner than one that’s already been built. At least that’s the gist of a recently published article over at Green Car Reports, and even though I still prefer the car on the road to the one not-yet-made, even I have to admit we’re reaching a point where that argument may no longer hold weight.
The old argument is that manufacturing a car is an energy and material-intensive process, and that a newer, greener car takes many years to undo the damage from building it. Studies have found that between 68% and 75% of a vehicle’s lifetime emissions come from burning fuel, while manufacturing accounts for between just 6% and 22% of said emissions, with the remainder coming from production and transportation of said fuel.
As cars become even more efficient, the discrepency in fuel consumption and emissions only grows; a 40 MPG car driving 15,000 miles a year will use about 375 gallons of gasoline, compared to an older car getting 30 MPG, which will use 500 gallons of fuel. Over a ten year span, you’re looking at 1,250 gallons of fuel difference, or about 2.5 years of operating the less-efficient car, As cars increase in fuel economy, that discrepancy is only going to grow.
You also have to consider that manufacturing processes are incorporating more recycled materials, like soda bottles and even old cash, into modern vehicles. The car-building process itself has been streamlined and made more efficient, with new paint processes and green factories adding environmental credibility to new cars.
Ultimately though, the greenest car is the one that uses no oil at all, and automakers are finally taking electric cars as seriously as they should. To me that means the greenest car is an old, already-built vehicle, but with a modern electric drivetrain.
Tesla-powered Buick Riviera, anyone?
Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.
Haven’t taken our 2016 reader survey yet? Do so now!