- Investing in an all-electric (EV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or low-emission vehicle can reduce your carbon footprint.
- Changing your driving habits can improve your car’s fuel efficiency.
- There may be financial benefits to driving a “greener” vehicle.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, vehicles account for 27% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, making it the single largest contributor to global warming pollutants in America. Here are the smartest ways to reduce your vehicle’s carbon footprint.
Drive an eco-friendly vehicle
In 2021, dealers sold 608,000 electric vehicles, both all-electric (EV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models. These figures represent a 138% increase in plug-in hybrid vehicles and 85% in electric vehicles from 2020.
Meanwhile, the Safer and Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles rule requires automakers to improve the fuel efficiency of new models by 1.5% per year between 2021 and 2026. Even without this mandate, fuel efficiency new cars has been steadily improving since 2004. These changes make it easier than ever to get a car that will reduce your carbon output.
Invest in a carbon-friendly vehicle
If you are looking to purchase a new vehicle, you may want to consider available state and federal tax credits, which could bring an EV or PHEV into your price range. A new EV or PHEV offers the best fuel economy and lowest emissions, so it might be worth checking car loan rates. You may be able to get favorable terms and manageable monthly payments.
Used Vehicle Considerations
If you go for a used car, you can get something that offers good gas mileage. If you find a reliable model, you might consider a used car warranty, which can help protect the vehicle for a year or more.
If you’re considering a used electric car, remember that most of these vehicles offer battery warranties that last eight to 10 years or 100,000 to 150,000 miles. If you can find a model that gives you time before you hit those thresholds, a used electric car could be a great option. You may also want to check the price of alternative fuel used cars, such as those that run on biodiesel, ethanol or electric batteries.
Change your driving habits
Maybe a new vehicle is too big an investment. Instead of opting for a more efficient set of wheels, you can improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon emissions by changing your driving habits and taking better care of your car. For many people, these may be realistic and achievable first steps towards reducing vehicle carbon emissions.
You can reduce the amount of fuel you burn (and the resulting emissions) by changing the way you drive.
- Driving at the posted speed limit uses less fuel than driving faster.
- Limit stops and starts, either by planning your routes or by anticipating traffic lights.
- Gradual acceleration requires less fuel than depressing the accelerator pedal and pulling away quickly.
Don’t stay idle
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, idling engines release one pound of carbon every 10 minutes. Depending on the size of your car, you can burn a gallon of fuel for every one to five hours of idling.
Even in winter, you can avoid idling by driving your car to warm it up. As long as you don’t rev the engine, this is a safe and effective option for warming up your car without idling.
Driving less may not be an option for some daily commuters, but there are ways to reduce your time on the road. You can plan errands to complete them all in one trip instead of multiple trips to the store or post office. Also, you can opt for public transport for some of your journeys or trips.
If you drive less, you can also save money. In addition to using less fuel, some of the best insurance policies have lower premiums for customers who don’t use their car often.
Maintenance can have a significant impact on your car’s performance, longevity and fuel economy. According to the Department of Energy, an engine tune-up can result in fuel economy improvements of an average of 4%. However, significant issues, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can increase miles per gallon figures by up to 40%.
If you want to make sure your vehicle is running as efficiently as possible, follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. Regular maintenance tasks that can have a positive effect on gas consumption and emissions include:
- Ensure proper tire inflation
- Change air filters
- Add the right variety of oil
Financial benefits of driving an eco-friendly vehicle
Driving green can also help you save money. You won’t have to buy as much gasoline with fuel-efficient internal combustion and hybrid cars. According to Consumer Reports, electric cars are 60% cheaper to power than gasoline-powered vehicles. However, there are also government incentives, tax breaks, and insurance discounts that can further reduce the cost of car ownership if you opt for an environmentally friendly vehicle.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 45 US states offer incentives for electric and hybrid vehicles. These range from reduced registration fees to tax credits and refunds.
In addition to tax credits for new vehicle purchases similar to the federal program, some states offer rebates or tax credits for installing electric vehicle home charging stations. The NCSL offers state-by-state summaries of all incentives for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, and charging.
US tax breaks
All PHEVs and EVs are eligible for a federal tax credit. According to the IRS, the EV tax credit is between $2,500 and $7,500. The credit starts at $2,500 for any vehicle equipped with a 5 kWh battery. You can get $417 added to this amount for each additional kWh. The EPA operates a site with information on the exact amount of credit for each qualifying vehicle. Remember that this is a tax credit, so you will not receive a check in the mail. Instead, the amount will be added to your tax refund or subtracted from the amount you owe the IRS.
Car insurance benefits
Electric cars generally cost more to insure than their gas-powered counterparts. This is because there are fewer technicians to repair them and the cost of components is generally more expensive than traditional vehicles.
However, the Insurance Information Institute highlights several ways insurers are offering discounts to owners of greener cars. Some companies offer rebates for hybrid vehicles, while others may reduce premiums for automobiles that use alternative fuels like biodiesel, ethanol, or natural gas.
There are also pay-per-kilometre programs for people who drive their vehicles less often. These policies require that you have a tracking device on your car that measures the distance traveled. You then only pay for coverage based on the kilometers traveled.
These incentives can make a green car a good choice for the environment and your wallet.
Choose an environmentally friendly vehicle and adopt better driving and car maintenance habits, and you can reduce your contribution to the greenhouse gas problem in the United States.
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