Everyone Can Do Something: Easy Automotive Changes That Have A Big Impact

Everyday people make hundreds of decisions.  Brown shoes or black shoes?  Mayo or mustard?  Gym or bike ride?  Side streets or toll road?  Some decisions have little effect on humanity at large, while others that seem insignificant at the time, have a monumental impact on the future.  Each person can only be held responsible for the choices that they make themselves, and it is for that reason that awareness is key, and it is only through education that people have the knowledge to do their part.

Around the world, the automotive decisions of millions are being affected as cities and countries implement zero-emission automotive mandates.  In a few short years, a more limited selection of fossil-fuel vehicles will be available as new automotive options will be more focused on an array of zero-emission vehicles: hybrids, electric vehicles and electric-hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.  In the meantime, each person has the ability to make decisions that can positively impact both today and tomorrow.

According to a 2016 survey by Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank that conducts public opinion polling and demographic research, “Among U.S. adults, 75% say they are particularly concerned about helping the environment as they go about their daily lives. But only one-in-five Americans say they make an effort to live in ways that help protect the environment all the time.”  With only 20% making a conscious effort on a consistent basis, there is significant room for improvement on the part of most Americans, even those who consider themselves to be individuals who are concerned about helping the environment.

When making automotive choices, the idea of “going green” can be daunting to some.  “Is a hybrid in my price range?”  “Don’t current EVs have a long charge time?”  “I’m not sure I know enough to make that kind of change yet.” So what are a few simple ways that you can help the environment until a zero-emission vehicle is part of your decision set?  Here are ten easy ways you can make a difference:

  1. Carpool to work. This cuts weekly fuel costs, reduces wear on your car, and may allow you to use less-congested High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes.
  2. Consider staggering your work hours to avoid peak traffic times or switch to a four-day workweek.
  3. Telecommute either part-time or full-time if your job allows. Even one day per week reduces your commute-related greenhouse gas emissions by 20%.
  4. Utilize public transportation around the city. Some suburban areas also provide trains as a way to travel into the city.
  5. Keep your vehicle properly maintained. Proper tire inflation, using the recommended grade of motor oil and tuning things that noticeably need repair can significantly affect your gas mileage. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing a faulty oxygen sensor can improve gas mileage up to 40 percent!
  6. Avoid carrying items on your vehicle’s roof as a loaded roof rack may increase aerodynamic drag. This can cut mileage by 5%.  When moving luggage from the roof to the trunk, avoid carrying unneeded items, especially heavy ones. An extra 100 pounds can decrease a car’s fuel economy by 1-2%.
  7. Don’t speed! Gas mileage declines rapidly above 60 mph. Each 5 mph increase above 60 equates to an additional $.10/gallon for gasoline. Also, avoid excessive idling and utilize cruise control.
  8. Plan ahead when running errands. Make one big trip around town instead of several, smaller trips.
  9. Rent a hybrid for an out-of-town vacation. You can also opt to travel via bus instead of airplane if time allows.
  10. Drive simply.  Use your vehicle’s air conditioner and other electrical components only when necessary.  They require up to 10% more fuel.

As the future draws near, individuals will have more options for zero-emission vehicles, options that will result in little to no pollution and run on electricity and/or hydrogen.  However, until people are ready to commit to the new automotive future, they can do their part today.  As the old Native American proverb says, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”  And we can all agree that doing our best for them is an easy choice.




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