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Car carbon footprint: do carbon neutral cars exist?


Phrase ‘neutral carbonis becoming increasingly popular as car companies call for proof Sustainability logins of their latest models.

But what does ‘carbon neutral’ really mean? What manufacturers can do to offset their carbon footprint emissions? And can cars really be carbon neutral over a lifetime? Keep reading as we answer these questions and more in this car carbon footprint guide.

What are the average CO2 emissions produced by cars in the UK?

According to the latest figures recorded for 2020, a UK car generates 221.4 grams of CO2 a mile – a bar you can compare to your car, although keep in mind that house figures production is usually grams of CO2 per kilometer rather than per mile – and you can expect that number to have dropped since those figures were compiled.

CO2 emissions per car have decreased every year since 2001 thanks to the introduction of technology including small capacity turbochargers, plug-in hybrid and EVs.

How do I calculate my car’s carbon footprint?

If you see math class as an opportunity to look out the window and daydream about more interesting things, you may find calculating your car’s carbon footprint can be tricky. You need to convert miles to kilometers, gallons to liters and then calculate based on the fact that one liter Petroleum produces 2.39kg CO2 for every liter burned or 2.62kg CO2 for diesel.

Thankfully, there are plenty of online tools that can work out the numbers for you. All you need is annual mileage, fuel economy in MPG and the fuel your car uses, and an online calculator can do the rest.

And it will come up with some eye-opening numbers. Let’s say you drive a 1.0-litre petrol car Ford Fiesta 10,000 miles a year with an average manufacturer-reported fuel consumption of 58.9mpg – equivalent to 1,845kg of CO2 emissions.

And in a more thirsty car? One Porsche Cayenne Turbo fits that bill. Its 20.9mpg fuel economy means its CO2 output beats the scales at a whopping 5,199kg over the same 10,000 miles.

What is carbon offset?

Want to fix the wrongs of your car CO2 emissions? Then it’s time to talk about carbon offsets. Carbon offsetting allows you to offset your CO2 emissions by funding a project that reduces emissions elsewhere. You can use your carbon offset to compensate for things like your energy emissions or flybut the same principle can be used for your car as well.

How do I offset my car’s emissions?

As you can imagine, offsetting automobile (or any) emissions is becoming big business – as we become more aware of our own impact on the environment, many in us want to do something to reverse it.

Many companies offer this service. They allow you to calculate the CO2 emissions of your car (or all) and then pay to offset them – your money goes towards schemes like planting trees (trees convert CO2 into oxygen) and Renewable energy sources help reduce the need for CO2-producing power plants.

Zero emission car decal

So how does it work? Well, you choose your company, enter your CO2 emissions details into its online calculator and then you will be presented with many options on how to offset your CO2. They cover everything you can imagine – from planting trees in Kenya to building solar panels in the UK and providing more efficient cooktops in Nicaragua – you just have to choose the program that most appeals to you or your wallet.

How do manufacturers offset carbon emissions to make claims that their cars are carbon neutral?

Automakers can offset their carbon footprint in a way that individuals can, just on a much larger scale.

Land Rover has been praised for its carbon neutrality by investing in energy-efficient projects such as solar panels and LED lighting for its facilities. As a result, its operating CO2 emissions are reduced by 74% (compared to 2007) and the energy used to build a vehicle has been reduced by 37%.

Does carbon offsetting work?

Carbon offsetting is effective – but it is only considered effective if CO2 emissions are reduced more than without it. However, different types of carbon offsets may be more or less helpful.

For example, building a wind farm is a very effective way to reduce CO2 emissions because every watt of electricity generated by wind is potentially a watt of electricity that has not yet been produced by burning fossil fuels. However, planting trees can be less effective; If all goes to plan, great, but a wildfire can wipe out your entire CO2 offset in just one stroke.

What is a carbon credit?

Carbon credits earned when an automaker builds a car that produces less than 50g/km of CO2 – such a car counts as 1.33 cars with an internal combustion engine. In other words, the sales of 3 ultra-low emission cars will be equivalent to 4 conventional cars sold.

The more emission cars a manufacturer sells, the more credits it earns – these credits can then be used to offset excess CO2 emissions from the company’s more polluting models. production created. Or trade with other manufacturers who need to reduce the average CO2 emissions of their fleets but don’t sell low-polluting cars to do so.

What if a company doesn’t meet its CO2 target? Things get expensive… A company will be fined £86 for every g/km exceeding its annual CO2 target, multiply it by the number of cars sold that year and you can look at an amount very heavy fines.

What are the limitations of carbon credits? They only take into account the emissions from a car’s exhaust, not the CO2 emitted when the car is built or disposed of.

Can cars be carbon neutral?

Cars may be carbon-free to some extent. Electric Car are technically carbon neutral because they do not produce CO2 locally as emissions. Having said that, the electricity they use can be produced at a power plant that produces CO2. On top of that, you also have to consider the amount of CO2 emitted during the manufacture and disposal of the car – which will account for most of the CO2 generated over its lifetime.

Symbol ULEZ

Another view is that any car can be carbon-free if you are willing to spend money to offset its CO2 emissions as discussed above.

How much CO2 is emitted during the production of cars?

A lot of CO2 is released in the process of seeing the raw materials transformed into a finished car – you have to take into account not only the energy used to build the car, but also the amount of CO2 emitted in the vehicle. manufacturing and shipping raw materials to you. to that point.

Experts estimate building a car is like Volkswagen up! emits 6 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, while a midsize car like BMW 3 Series will be nearly 17 tons and big SUV in the shape of a Land Rover Discovery Will release up to 35 tons.

A more obvious note is that the amount of CO2 emitted during the production of cars has decreased by more than a quarter on average between 2006 and 2021.

Can cars really be carbon neutral over a lifetime?

Can cars be carbon neutral in one life cycle? The short answer is no, not yet, however the EV . brand Polestar aims to produce the first carbon-neutral or carbon-neutral car by 2030 as part of the Polestar 0 project.

How? By working with our partners and suppliers to remove greenhouse gas emissions from the supply chain.

Polestar admits: “We will have to rethink almost everything we already know about building cars. From the innovative design to the round battery. From recycled materials to renewable energy throughout the supply chain. The results of this mission will not only benefit the Polestar 0 project, but also help contribute to other aspects of society. “

Other manufacturers have also taken steps to reduce emissions during the use and construction of cars. BMW iX and i4 electric cars are built using clean hydroelectric power, while Mercedes plans to use green steel – produced without using fossil fuels – to build cars by 2025. Nissan and Volkswagen meanwhile, aim to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Looking for a car that produces no localized emissions? Read our list of the best electric cars on sale



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