Emissions from cars are a major culprit when it comes to air pollution, raising levels of global-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Advances in vehicle and fuel technology are helping to combat the problem, but it remains a serious issue – particularly in built-up areas – because of the sheer number of cars on our roads.
Petrol- and diesel-engine cars produce multiple pollutants, including:
- Carbon dioxide (CO2).
- Carbon monoxide (CO).
- Sulphur dioxide (SO2).
- Nitrogen oxides including nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
- Hydrocarbons– compounds of hydrogen and carbon.
- Particulates – airborne specks of metal, acids and soot.
To help you do your bit to protect our environment – and save money at the same time – we’ve come up with some top tips for greener driving, in keeping with the air pollution theme of 2019’s World Environment Day (Wednesday, June 5).
According to the United Nations, which organises World Environment Day, air contamination is “one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time”.
Greener driving means smarter driving
Following a decrease in the use of coal to generate electricity, most of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are now produced by vehicles – chiefly petrol and diesel cars. The Government plans to ban all petrol and diesel vehicle sales by 2040. Meanwhile, driving greener – and smarter – will reduce your fuel bills as well as your impact on the environment.
Here are our top tips for greener driving:
- Anticipate road conditions and drive smoothly. Avoiding sudden acceleration and heavy braking will not only save fuel but also reduce your risk of an accident.
- Keep rolling. Stopping and starting again uses more fuel than letting your car roll. Slow down in good time for traffic lights or when approaching a queue, and you might not have to come to a complete stop.
- Change up sooner. Avoid labouring the engine by changing up at around 2,500rpm (petrol) or 2,000rpm (diesel).
- Use your air-con properly. At low speeds, car air conditioning uses more fuel, so don’t leave it on all the time.
- Cut down on the electrics. Turn off your headlights, rear window heater and de-mister fan when you don’t need them.
- Keep to the speed limit. The faster you drive, the more fuel you use.
Other steps you can take for greener driving include moving off straight away after starting your car, rather than idling to warm up the engine, which wastes fuel. It’s also advisable to:
- Keep your car well maintained, with regular services.
- Make sure your tyres are inflated to the right pressure.
- Avoid short journeys – a cold engine uses nearly twice as much fuel.
- Take off roof racks when not in use – they increase drag significantly.
- Plan your journeys to avoid congestion.
- Switch off the engine if stuck in a traffic jam.
- Consider car sharing if you regularly use the same route as colleagues or friends.
How air pollution is damaging our health
Besides contaminating the environment, air pollution from vehicles poses a significant, direct health threat because it’s emitted as exhaust fumes at street level.
Air pollution kills 40,000 people a year in the UK, according to a 2016 report from the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
The health experts said air contamination was a major factor in many chronic illnesses, including:
- Heart disease.
The report called for the promotion of the use of electric and hybrid cars as an alternative to petrol and diesel vehicles, and added: “Real change will only occur when everyone accepts responsibility and makes a concerted effort.”
Research published in 2018 concluded that air pollution from cars and vans was costing the NHS and society at large £6 billion a year. The university researchers said the toll on health was highest in cities, and diesel vehicles were the worst offenders.
Worldwide, air pollution kills seven million each year, according to the United Nations. The UN says 90 per cent of the population is being exposed to harmful levels of air contamination.
Reducing environmental and health threats
Pollutants from cars contribute to long-term damage to the atmosphere, emitting a wide range of gases and solid matter that cause global warming and acid rain. Exhaust fumes also pose a major health threat.
We hope our top tips for greener driving will lessen your car’s impact on the environment while helping to reduce the health risks from air pollution.