How to make your next car purchase environmentally friendly
Climate change is an undeniable part of Australian life, and the cars we drive are one of the leading causes of CO2 emissions – a major contributor to rising temperatures.
The challenge of climate change has been widely recognised by car manufacturers, as well as the everyday Australian, and many of them are doing their part to produce viable alternatives to the standard combustion engine.
Over the last few months, Drive has run dozens of stories on the latest e-vehicle release announcements, far greater than at any other point of time in our history (VW has even promised 27 new e-vehicles by 2022). And while some of these green vehicles are a few years away, the electric car future is obvious.
With a recent survey of 37,000 Aussie drivers from Roy Morgan finding that more than half would consider buying a hybrid car, and more than a third would consider buying an electric vehicle, there is definitely a growing market for the new electric and hybrid vehicles arriving in Oz.
So, what can you do to make your next car purchase green?
While the best solution from an environmentally friendly standpoint is to invest in an electric or hybrid vehicle – for some Australians this just isn’t going to work right now. Depending on your individual situation, you may still need an unleaded or diesel vehicle – but that doesn’t mean you can’t find the greenest available option.
How do you define an environmentally friendly vehicle?
This isn’t as simple as it might first appear. Environmental friendly-ness can’t just be linked to tailpipe emissions and fuel consumption, you also need to consider the life cycle emissions, like manufacturing, transport, spare parts and vehicle disposal. For electric vehicles you need to look into how the power you’re charging the vehicle with is being produced and how much mileage that power will get you.
What you need to know about tailpipe emissions
The basics: Less CO2 is better – CO2 being one of the leading causes of climate change. The most environmentally friendly unleaded vehicles are likely to have the lowest CO2 tailpipe emissions. That being said, CO2 isn’t the only type of emissions to look out for.
Tailpipe emissions also include noxious gases that are considered bad for human health. Noxious emissions are linked to the air pollution standard or ‘Euro level’ of a vehicle. And with air pollution considered a major health risk across the world, this is certainly a measurement to pay attention to. So, if you’re concerned about the air quality effects of your new car, choose one with a higher Euro level. More on emissions here.
Diesel has a particularly bad rap when it comes to tailpipe emissions, with a much higher level of noxious gases released than unleaded petrol. It was an effort to mask these emissions that landed Volkswagen in hot water in 2015. We break down the future of diesel here.
All vehicles sold in Australia are tested to ensure they meet emissions standards set by the Australian Government and this information is available at www.greenvehicleguide.gov.au. The GVG includes all information on tailpipe emissions for new vehicles for sale, allowing you to compare emissions of similar vehicles and make an informed decision.
Fuel consumption is another major factor for the green-ness of any vehicle and it also has a large effect on the ongoing running costs of the car – this means you can make a green choice and save money at the same time.
Fuel consumption comes down to a range of factors but is heavily influenced by the size of the vehicle. So, choosing a smaller vehicle will often be a better green choice – as long as the vehicle can meet all your transport needs.
When you’re investigating the fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions of your next new car, ensure you compare vehicles of similar sizes to see what a good rating is for the type of vehicle you’re looking to buy.
To make things easier, both fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions can be found on a sticker on the front windscreen of all new vehicles for sale.
Alternative fuel types
Apart from petrol (we take a deep dive into different unleaded fuel types here) and diesel, there is another fuel type on the horizon.
Hydrogen is a clean burning fuel that has quite a few people in the automotive industry excited. When it’s used as a fuel, the only tailpipe emission is clean water – great from an environmental standpoint.
Unfortunately, the mass production of hydrogen is an energy intensive project. But, with leaps in renewable energy technology, we could be close to being able to mass produce hydrogen without any fossil fuels. We cover hydrogen fuel in detail here.
Measurements for electric vehicles
While I’ve already said that electric vehicles are the best choice for a green car, they are not by any means carbon neutral, as the power needed to charge them will often come from fossil fuel sources.
The GVG helpfully provides a couple of metrics to compare the performance of electric and hybrid vehicles too. With the energy consumption per kilometre metric and the fuel lifecycle metric, you can compare electric vehicles to find the most efficient (and greenest) option.
Another way to make your electric car even greener, is to invest in a solar power installation at home or look into green energy plans from your power company.
If you want to know more about the different types of electric and hybrid vehicles, check out the links to our in-depth articles below.
Finance options to make your car purchase greener
Green finance has risen in popularity as Australians become more environmentally conscious. While some banking institutions offer green loan products, it’s important to take a wider view of the institution you support.
When selecting a bank or finance service for your car loan, make sure you choose one that has a responsible lending policy that considers environmental impact in its approval process. This ensures you’re supporting a company that isn’t using its profits to aid environmentally negative projects. Some institutions have also divested from fossil fuel financing, which is a big step in the right direction.
Bank Australia is an example of one of Australia’s financial institutions leading the charge in green finance initiatives. Bank Australia operates as carbon neutral, they encourage divestment from fossil fuels, have created a conservation reserve, and actively fund a range of green projects.
Bank Australia also offers a unique green car loan product where it uses carbon credits to offset your car’s carbon emissions for the life of your loan, a great incentive for environmentally conscious new car buyers.
Bank Australia’s CEO,Damien Walsh, believes it’s essential to offer customers the ability to make green choices “Our green car loan is just one way we help Australians make a positive environmental impact. We’re committed to playing our part in fighting climate change and want to provide products to make choosing positive change easy for Australians.”
Find out more about Bank Australia’s green car loans and responsible lending here.