How to Make Your Older Car More Eco-Friendly

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You may be tempted to exchange your old car for a shiny new hybrid to reduce your carbon footprint, but if you really want to help the environment, consider ways to make your old car green.

Due to the entire product cycle, purchasing new products typically harms the environment. Automobiles impact the environment at all stages of their product cycle, from extracting raw materials to production to driving to disposal. In many cases, it’s better to extend the life of your current car instead of purchasing a new one.

Although new hybrids cars get better gas mileage and have lower emissions, the batteries used to store energy are not environmentally friendly. Also, all-electric cars are only emission-free if the electricity comes from a renewable energy source instead of a source such as a coal-burning plant, which is often the case.

  • Unless you’re racing in the Daytona 500, drive at the speed limit and avoid gunning the accelerator when leaving stop signs and stoplights. Driving at the speed limit isn’t just for seniors — it saves you a lot of gasoline. It may be obvious, but the use of the gas pedal is the biggest factor in determining your gas mileage. How many times have you seen somebody in a hurry, speeding while weaving their way through traffic, only to line up right behind the speedster at a light a few miles down the road?
  • Upgrade your old car for better performance with synthetic oils, high-flow air filters and new spark plugs. Try synthetic oils with energy conserving compounds — they come with an “Energy Conserving” label approved by the American Petroleum Institute. Synthetic oils help your car run more efficiently. Also, a faulty oxygen sensor significantly reduces your gas mileage. If appropriate, get a new catalytic converter and exhaust system, as well.
  • Getting rid of a gas guzzler is a great way to go green, but if you want to reduce global warming, consider buying a used car. Hybrids get excellent gas mileage, but it takes 113 million BTUs of energy to produce a Toyota Prius. A gallon of gasoline has approximately 113,000 BTUs of energy, so a Prius has consumed the equivalent of 1,000 gallons of gas during the production process. It’s a carbon debt which takes about 46,000 miles to pay off. Buying a used car has a substantial advantage; the original owner has already paid off its carbon debt.
  • Cruise control gives you much better gas mileage while on the freeway, and if it’s properly set, you’ve eliminated the chance of getting a speeding ticket. Don’t increase your speed on behalf of your passenger; they probably won’t volunteer to pay the speeding ticket. Cruise control smoothes out small increases and decreases in engine speed, significantly increasing your MPG. However, if you’re driving in a hilly area, an engine on cruise control may surge to power up the hills, so it’s best to turn the cruise control off.
  • Regular maintenance on your old car helps keep it running smoothly and efficiently and polluting less. A tune up increases your fuel economy.

make your old car green

  • Unless it’s really hot outside, roll down the windows. The air conditioner uses up energy. Park your car in the shade even if you have to walk farther to the mall.
  • Combining errands into one trip saves gas and reduces pollution.
  • Turn your engine off if you expect the car to idle for more than 30 seconds. There’s no need to have the engine on while you’re blocking the street and chatting to a neighbor. Idling also puts tailpipe emissions in the air. Some cities and states even have regulations against excessive idling.
  • Get rid of unnecessary things in your trunk. Extra pounds make the engine work harder and lowers your fuel economy.
  • Keeping your tires properly inflated increases your gas mileage. A plaque inside the driver’s door provides the recommended size and air pressure for your tires. A tire pressure gauge is one of the most inexpensive tools you can own.

Dr. Charles Perry and his team at Middle Tennessee State University developed a kit which turns any car into a plug-in hybrid; it costs from $3,000 to $5,000. Perry and his team increased the gas mileage of a 1994 Honda station wagon from 50 to 100 percent using a wheel-hub motor plug-in hybrid kit. Cars equipped with the kit have electric motors in each rear wheel and a large lithium-ion battery mounted in the rear of the vehicle. The electric motors in the back wheels of the car don’t necessitate changing bearings, brakes, suspension or anything mechanical. Perry and his team have proved feasibility; with sufficient funding they believe they can deliver the product. It may prove to be the ultimate way to make your old car greener!

[CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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