The vehicle you drive and how you use it may have a greater effect on the environment than any other choice you make as a consumer. Over half of all the air pollution in Minnesota comes from vehicles. Vehicles that run on gasoline or diesel fuel emit many things out of their tailpipe, including:
- Carbon dioxide: Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases contribute to global climate change.
- Carbon monoxide: Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that takes the place of oxygen in our blood stream. Our bodies receive less oxygen if we breath carbon monoxide.
- Unburned gasoline vapors: These can contribute to formation of ozone, also known as smog. Unlike the protective layer of ozone present in the upper atmosphere, ozone produced at ground level can have serious health effects on people who suffer from lung diseases, asthma or emphysema.
- Other toxic air pollutants, including fine particles. Toxic air pollutants include a variety of chemicals known to cause cancer, poisoning and other ailments. These chemicals can be inhaled or may accumulate in the soil and human food chains.
You can reduce pollution and emissions from your car by choosing your car carefully, maintaining it properly, driving efficiently and reducing the number of miles you drive it.
First, choose the right size. When purchasing a vehicle, choose the size and type that meets your daily needs. If you only carry large loads a few times per year, consider borrowing or renting a large vehicle, trailer or car-top carrier for those occasions.
Then, choose the highest efficiency. Look for the miles per gallon rating on the label for new vehicles. The more miles per gallon a vehicle gets, the more efficient it is, the less pollution it will generate, and the more money you'll save.
Once you have determined the size and type of vehicle you will need, visit one of the EPA greener vehicle websites to compare models for fuel efficiency.
As you compare vehicle types, you may read about different engine types. Here are some of the greener vehicles options available to consumers:
- Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV) combine the benefits of gasoline engines with electric motors to increase fuel efficiency up to 50 percent (up to a combined 50 mpg). An onboard computer does the work switching between gas and electric motors. There are state incentives and federal tax credits for hybrid vehicles.
- Electric Vehicles (EV) store electricity in batteries to power cars. On-board generators powered by a gas can replenish the power to the batteries when a plug-in option is not available in some EV models.
- FlexFuel Vehicles (E85 ethanol) are capable of operating on E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline), only gasoline or a mixture of both. Local fuel production of ethanol decreases reliance on fossil fuel imports.
- Cleaner Diesel vehicles have lower emissions and higher mileage due to high fuel injection pressures-up to 26,000 psi. This pulverizes the fuel into tiny droplets that burn more completely and other technology improvements.
Another option for people who are considering a car is to try car sharing, rather than purchasing a new car. HourCar provides a car sharing service for people living in the Twin Cities metro area. This service provides access to a car when you need it without having to own it. The gasoline, insurance and maintenance costs are included in the user fee.
And remember, if you have more than one vehicle, use the most fuel-efficient one when possible.
Maintain your vehicle
Maintaining a car properly is one of the best ways to lower emissions of unhealthy air pollutants.
With today's sophisticated engines and on-board computer systems, it makes sense to leave the servicing of your vehicle in the hands of trained automotive professionals. They have the knowledge and tools to diagnose and correct problems and to put you on the road to safe, fuel-efficient driving.
As a rule, follow the maintenance instructions and schedule in your vehicles owner's manual. You shouldn't ignore your vehicle between scheduled maintenance checks, however! Two important things you can do to maintain your vehicle:
- Check your tire pressure. You will improve your gas mileage by up to 3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. That is an equivalent gasoline savings of up to 8 cents/gallon. Tires should be inflated to the pressure recommended for your vehicle. The recommended pressure is usually found on a sticker in the driver's side door jamb or the glove box and in your owner's manual. Do not use the maximum pressure printed on the tire's sidewall.
- Change the oil regularly and use the proper grade of motor oil. You can improve your gas mileage by 1-2 percent by using the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil.
Read more about keeping your car in shape at fueleconomy.gov
No matter what vehicle we drive, we can all reduce the total miles we drive and learn to drive more efficiently. Adopting these practices can improve your fuel efficiency by up to 10%!
- Drive the speed limit: Every 5 miles per hour (mph) over 60 mph reduces your miles per gallon by 7%.
- Avoid idling: Idling results in zero miles to the gallon. If you will be waiting for more than a minute or two it takes less gas to restart your car than to idle.
- Accelerate slowly: Jackrabbit starts and heavy braking waste fuel.
Reduce the number of miles you drive
The introduction of vehicles with better pollution control systems has meant that, in general, Twin Cities metro-area pollution from motor vehicles has declined over the last 40 years. However, at the same time, traffic increases are expected each year in the future. Minnesotans drive more than 123 million miles every day — that’s the distance to the sun and halfway back again — and that number keeps increasing. As a result, air pollution from motor vehicles is projected to increase over time, because even though cars are cleaner, Minnesotans are driving more every year.
There are many ways to reduce the number of miles you drive.
- Telecommuting is working from home or a remote location and connecting to the office via technology — internet, phone and mobile devices. This eliminates your commute! Often employees who telecommute are more productive and work with fewer distractions. Employers benefit from reduced overhead costs and the ability to attract talented employees. eWorkPlace is a state-sponsored program for Twin Cities metro area employers to provide the tools to help organizations start teleworking.
- Carpool and vanpool: Reduce the number of single-occupant vehicles on the road by trying out Metro Transit Rideshare. Metro Transit provides free, online ride-matching.
- Vanpools are like carpools, but a 15-passenger van is leased for the vanpool group, rather than taking personal cars. Vanpools can be set-up through Metro Transit Vanpool.
- Bus, bike or walk: You’ll get exercise and reduce your miles driven. Visit our bus, bike, walk page for tips and resources.