Disencumber yourselves of all attachment to this world and the vanities thereof. Beware that ye approach them not, inasmuch as they prompt you to walk after your own lusts and covetous desires, and hinder you from entering the straight and glorious Path.Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, sec. CXXVIII
by Joseph Thomas Pawlowski and Christine Muller
In many areas in the US, it’s almost impossible to live without a car. Therefore, many people are confronted with the problem of buying a car, which raises many technical and ethical questions. How can I minimize environmental harm in my choice of car?
In general, it is best to hold on to your old car as long as you can, and to keep your driving to the minimum. The manufacturing of a new car has a huge impact on the environment. The environmental impact comes not only from the amount of energy consumed by the vehicle over its operating lifetime and the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the energy source but also from the GHG impact of the manufacturing and recycling/disposal processes. The impact is generally proportional to the weight of the vehicle.
If you must buy a new car, here is some information: SUVs and trucks are the worst possible environmental choices, although they are – unfortunately – the most popular vehicles in the USA and Canada.
Electric cars are certainly much better than a SUV, particularly if the electricity comes from clean energy sources such as from the solar panels on your roof. However, the manufacturing of electric cars also has a huge impact on the environment, especially because of the rare minerals required for their batteries such as lithium and cobalt, and the increased vehicle weight.
Buy a lightweight fuel-efficient vehicle with the smallest wheels. The smaller the car the better! Many people don’t realize that an increase of wheel diameter from, for example, 17 inches to 19 inches results in about 6% lower fuel economy!
A good choice is a Prius Hybrid rated at 54 miles per gallon. When adjusting your driving habits to a hybrid car, you can even increase the mileage, or, with bad driving, decrease it.
And don’t make short car trips – the worst emissions come from cold engines.
If you want to help the environment, it is always best to walk, ride a bicycle or e-bike (but not too fast for your safety), take public transit, carpool, and participate in a car-share program where available.