Until then, we can all drive greener and save money while saving the planet.
Although Doc from Back to the Future may have been right when he said “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads,” a lot has to happen before we get there. And the same is true before we achieve clean air through the widespread adoption of zero-emission vehicles, Electric Vehicles (EVs), or super ultra-low emissions vehicles (SULEVs). Although there are many reasons to root for the Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt, and other EV (and plug-in hybrid) models, the reality is that they are not going to dominate the automobile market in the US or elsewhere anytime soon given that the most ambitious countries (the UK, France, China and India) are mandating/planning transitions away from gas-powered cars over the next twenty-two years. And so long as our electric grids are dependent upon gas and coal, EVs (and plug-ins) are not going to be as green as many would hope.
If we want to make meaningful progress in cleaning our air and curbing automobile-related greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, therefore, we must focus on making gas-powered cars as fuel efficient as possible today, while markets and governments continue to work together to increase EV and zero emission vehicle adoption over time. Aiding this transition is core to our mission at Driving2Save. If we can help increase miles-per-gallon on existing cars through changes in driving behavior and upgrades in aftermarket gear, we can improve air quality and public health (fewer particulate matter emissions), curb climate change (fewer greenhouse gas emissions) and save drivers money – a lot of money. That’s a win-win-win!
With all the buzz around EVs and their expanding numbers and ranges, why focus on improving the fuel economy of gas-powered vehicles? First, gas-powered cars are incredibly durable. The average car in the U.S. now lasts more than 11 years. And when we are done with them, we ship them overseas. These cars will be burning fossil fuel for a long time to come.
Second, EVs are a very small part of the automobile market today (less than 1%), and even the most bullish predictions suggest that they will achieve relatively modest market share in 2025, even in eco-friendly states like California, Oregon and Washington. Why? They are expensive compared to gas powered cars and will be for quite a while, especially if gas remains cheap. EV and hybrid sales are very sensitive to gas prices. If government subsidies are removed, the forecast for EV purchases looks even worse. So, we should not expect price-parity between EVs and traditional cars before 2025 – 2029. Moreover, EVs are not yet practical for certain types of long-distance driving, and this will be true until there are far more charging stations and re-charging times can be reduced significantly without degrading battery performance over time. Fortunately, there is a company with a sharing-economy solution to the charging station shortage. EVMatch has developed an app that allows EV drivers to reserve and pay for the use of private charging stations. This innovation promises to reduce range anxiety and promote faster adoption of EVs in the years-to-come.
Third, until we generate more of our electricity from fully renewable sources, EVs are not necessarily as environmentally-friendly as people would hope, and may not be greener than a good hybrid. The environmental benefits of an EV are directly related to where you live and what time of day you charge. This is one of the reason why proposed bans on gas-powered vehicles in Europe and elsewhere are set to take effect in 2040, when grids will (presumably) be much cleaner.
EVs and other zero emission vehicles have the potential to radically reshape particulate matter and greenhouse gas emissions from the automobile sector. Thus, we need to keep planning for these vehicles, creating the necessary infrastructure, and transitioning owners to cleaner charging sources. However, this process is going to take decades. During this time, gas-powered cars are going to dominate the market (and the roads). But we don’t have decades to clean our air and tackle climate change. So we need to make gas powered cars as fuel-efficient as possible. The higher our MPG, the lower our particulate matter and greenhouse gas emissions. It’s that simple.
The good news is that it is simple and easy to improve your MPG. We have dozens of tips for increasing your fuel efficiency by making very small changes in your driving behavior, such as removing your unused roof rack and checking your tire pressure every two weeks. You can find our favorite five tips here. If you want to tackle our top ten tips for increasing your MPG, click here to maximize your mileage and save big at the pump. Even if you already own an EV or plug-in hybrid, there are things you can do to make your green car drive even greener.
For anyone driving a gas-powered car, you can also upgrade your gear and save even more. For example, if you drive a Prius, Insight, or any type of hybrid or traditional sedan without a rear spoiler, and you want to get an extra 2-8 MPG, all you have to do is get a little more aero. If you want to save gas by reducing your AC usage, invest in a good sunshade. The right aftermarket gear can substantially increase fuel economy.
And when you are in the market for your next car, think about a hybrid, plug-in, or EV. If you cannot find one that meets your needs, look for a gas-powered car that has auto stop-start or other fuel saving technologies. Radically more fuel efficient new cars have the potential to make a huge dent in greenhouse gas and other emissions while we wait for electric grids and EVs to catch-up.
To paraphrase Marty from Back to the Future, “I guess we aren’t ready for a world full of EVs, but our kids are gonna love it.” And they’ll love it even more if we drive a little greener until then.