Keeping Old Cars Longer May 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 surprising new study reveals that swapping out your old car for a brand new electric vehicle can actually do more harm than good. Japanese researchers say that choosing to keep and drive your old gasoline car longer results in reduced emissions to the environment.
A team from Kyushu University says most talk about gasoline and electric cars focuses on fuel efficiency and the CO2 emissions they produce. Although electricity and hydrogen are cleaner sources of energy, the study reveals that it still takes a lot of energy to build these vehicles. Specifically, the researchers find that keeping older, fuel-efficient cars on the road reduces CO2 emissions much more than accelerating the global transition to green technologies.
âThe sooner you replace a car, the more CO2 it emits. It is no different with electric cars, because when the demand for new cars increases, manufacturing emissions increase, âsaid Shigemi Kagawa, professor at the Faculty of Economics at Kyushu University, in an academic statement.
The life of a car is far too short
In Japan, the production and replacement of cars is an incredibly fast process. Researchers find that the average lifespan of a car, from production plant to scrapyard, 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 factories are constantly releasing more harmful emissions as more and more cars (even electric ones) roll off the assembly line. The team adds that in Japan, the country’s mass consumption economy and expensive vehicle inspection system also contribute to this environmental dilemma.
âA car’s carbon footprint goes far beyond the fuel it uses. To produce alternative fuel cars to reduce driving emissions, you need iron, nuts and bolts for construction, factories for assembly, and mega-containers for transportation. All of these points in the supply chain produce CO2.
When it comes to greenhouse gas production in Japan, cars contribute around 9% of total emissions, of which 40% are due to the combustion of gasoline from driving new cars and 24% from the fuel process. manufacture of such 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,” says Kagawa.
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 âreplacement behaviorâ on the country’s carbon footprint.
The results show that if car owners keep their vehicles on the road 10% longer before scrapping them, the overall carbon footprint of cars would decrease by 30.7 million tonnes. This is the equivalent of a one percent reduction in CO2 emissions. Researchers say the reason is that making 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’s authors claim that there would be a 1% drop in the carbon footprint if new car owners keep their trips 10 percent longer.
âThis means that we can reduce CO2 emissions just by keeping and driving the cars for longer,â Kagawa concludes. âPlus, if the car we’re keeping is relatively new and fuel efficient, the effect is bigger. So, the next time you are planning to buy a new car, you might be wondering if your current car has a few miles left.
The study appears in the Journal of industrial ecology.