Keeping old cars around longer can help the environment more than buying new electric cars, study finds
(StudyFinds) – Old cars have a bad reputation for being “gas guzzlers,” which only makes global warming worse. However, a startling new study reveals that trading in your old car for a brand new electric vehicle may actually do more harm than good. Researchers in Japan claim that choosing to keep and drive your old gas-powered car longer results in reduced emissions to the environment.
A team from Kyushu University says most of the debate over gasoline and electric cars centers on fuel efficiency and the CO2 emissions they produce. Although electricity and hydrogen are cleaner energy sources, the study reveals that it still takes a lot of energy to build these vehicles. Specifically, the researchers found that keeping older, fuel-efficient cars on the road longer significantly reduces CO2 emissions rather than accelerating the global transition to green technologies.
“The faster you replace a car, the more CO2 it emits. It’s no different with electric cars, because when the demand for new cars increases, manufacturing emissions increase,” Shigemi Kagawa, a professor at Kyushu University’s Faculty of Economics, said in a statement. ‘university.
The life of a car is far too short
In Japan, producing and replacing cars is an incredibly fast process. Researchers have found that the average lifespan of a car, from production plant to scrap, is only 13 years. In addition, new cars only stay with their first owner for seven years.
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This rapid turnover means that factories are constantly producing more harmful emissions as more and more cars (even electric ones) roll off the assembly line. The team adds that in Japan, the mass consumption economy and costly vehicle inspection system also contribute to this environmental dilemma.
“A car’s carbon footprint goes far beyond the fuel it uses. To produce alternative fuel cars to reduce emissions from driving, you need iron, nuts and bolts to construction, factories for assembly and mega-containers for transportation – all of these points in the supply chain produce CO2.
Considering the production of greenhouse gases in Japan, cars contribute about 9% of the total emissions, of which 40% is due to the combustion of gasoline when driving new cars and 24% to the process manufacture of these vehicles.
“Our hypothesis is that driving current internal combustion engine vehicles a little longer during the transition to green vehicles is a viable strategy to help the environment,” Kagawa says.
How long should you keep your car?
The team used economic statistics to examine Japan’s new and used car population between 1990 and 2016. The data allowed them to model the impact of “replacement behavior” on the country’s carbon footprint.
The results reveal that if car owners left their vehicles on the road 10% longer before scrapping them, the cars’ overall carbon footprint would decrease by 30.7 million tonnes. This is the equivalent of a one percent reduction in CO2 emissions. The researchers say the reason is that manufacturing new vehicles actually produces more greenhouse gases than continuing to drive existing cars, even if they use gasoline.
The environment would also see a benefit if new car owners kept their vehicles longer before trading them in. The study authors claim that there would be a 1% drop in carbon footprint if new car owners kept their journeys 10% longer.
“That means we can reduce CO2 emissions just by keeping and driving the cars longer,” Kagawa concludes. “Also, if the car we keep is relatively new and fuel efficient, the effect is greater. So the next time you’re thinking about buying a new car, maybe ask yourself if your current car still has a few kilometers to go.
The study appears in the Industrial Ecology Journal.