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The carbon footprint of our cars


kiva667
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I am sometimes accused of using an old, smelly internal combustion engine car that leaves a heavier carbon footprint than the Prius, Focus, Tesla, etc etc modem vehicles.

 

 Consider that our cars were produced 50 years ago, more or less, and have been rolling along ever since. I suspect that the NKs and 02s now have a collective carbon footprint that is relatively small in comparison with the vast amount of energy that goes into the production and operation of a modern vehicle line. Mile vs mile.

 

Surely there are some experts on this forum who could confirm or refute my suspicion? That using one of our old cars leaves a smaller footprint than running a new one (electric or not)?

Edited by kiva667
Grammar
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23 minutes ago, kiva667 said:

Prius, 

 

 

I dunno if I'd give them very much credit ... they are the leading producers of excessive-methane-vapor-self-analyzation-syndrome and smug pollution.

 

In all seriousness, the simple reality is that the measurement processes of measuring the carbon footprint is purposefully flawed.  There is no calculator that integrates longevity and reusability (shoot, the EPA's own vehicle calculator only extends back to 2008).  I had a physics professor who tried including a couple basic longevity-based variables and then ran the numbers on long-lived hardgoods vs. short-lived modern digital/electric hardgoods (things like refrigerators, lawnmowers, cellphones, etc.) the result was staggeringly in favor of longer-lived more basic goods.

 

 

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Anyone who has seen a crude oil tanker purge it's tanks after unloading doesn't worry about what their car is adding, there is literally a 2 sq mile cloud of vapor that you can't see through for every tanker that unloads. 

 

PS your car is already made so it manufacturing footprint is a done deal. not so if you buy a new car.

Edited by Son of Marty
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I’m pro environment. That said…buying a hybrid or electric car has a lot more variables added to the carbon footprint than just MPG. Have you ever seen a lithium mine? The biggest part of the equation, which is true of any car you replace, is you haven’t eliminated that cars emissions you’ve just transferred them to someone else unless the car was destroyed ala cash for clunkers. 
 

I did see a comparison between a hummer and a Prius sometime ago and the hot rod magazine claimed the hummer was more environmentally friendly because it could go to 300k miles where as the Prius needed a new battery at 100k. Obviously a biased source but their point was to look at the bigger picture, including the environmental impact of a Prius being brought over from Japan on a ship burning bunker fuel. 

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In about 10 years this subject will have changed radically with more and better electric cars on the market, Ford has made a huge move toward this this week and more cars will drive the industry to better battery's and more efficiency. With the price and availability of new cars I would hang tight for as long as I could.  

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36 minutes ago, Son of Marty said:

In about 10 years this subject will have changed radically with more and better electric cars on the market, Ford has made a huge move toward this this week and more cars will drive the industry to better battery's and more efficiency. With the price and availability of new cars I would hang tight for as long as I could.  

In 10 years we should have hydrogen fuel cell cars, that's the real answer.

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I recently read an article where the author posed the question: 

Supose every car in the US was replaced over night with an electric vehicle, what do you think would happen? 
They claimed the power grid would collapse, that it could never handle the load .

Granted, an extreme, unlikely scenario but it does make a point.

Energy cannot be created, only converted from one form to another, it has to come from somewhere at some cost. 
No one knows the true impact  of switching to  electric vehicles, 
The only real answer is less cars , less people.

There, I said it. The 800 Lb gorilla  in the room that’s political suicide for a politician to even mention so they just dont.

An apparent human disconnect from reality on a global scale.
I’m cool with the carbon foot print  from  my 02 especially since I did not reproduce, not even just a replacement.

I figure that put a lot of credits in my  carbon account.😁

Edited by tech71
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The best thing for the environment would be a car for life, or life times, regardless of the fuel, and stopping the cycle of buying the latest shiny thing and throwing away the old (recycling a car must be quite a hit to the environment). So in that respect we're all ahead of the curve 🙂

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Wow, good job FAQers, this is about the sanest discussion I've ever seen on this matter, thank you! My personal opinion echoes that of many already shared here, i.e. you can consider the environmental cost of producing the 02 both a 'sunk' cost and also one that's already fully depreciated.  On a new Tesla though, you need to account for the full thing.  This makes the comparison *just* the operating cost of the 02 vs. the production PLUS operating cost of the Tesla.  Since the operating cost of the Tesla is lower, these two curves will eventually cross, but my suspicion is that it's a good number of years off in the future, probably something like 20, and I SERIOUSLY doubt that most EV drivers will still be driving those same cars 20 years down the road.  And as soon as you trade it in for a newer one, then you need to lump in that initial production cost again!  All boils down to less-consuming = lower footprint.

On the other hand, the shift from IC to electric drive for newly manufactured transportation I think does make a lot of sense, but I don't like the current trajectory very much as it still focuses on every individual commuting alone in their own personal vehicle.  I always say it's REALLY easy to spot people who ACTUALLY care about environmental impact: they're the ones to go to work on bikes, busses, trains, and on foot.

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Just for the sake of discussion, let's say that the average car owner trades in his/her car every 3 years for a new one.  Or let's be even more conservative and say every five years.  I've been driving the same 2002 for 52 years, so that's the equivalent of 17.3 (at 3 year trade intvervals) or 10.2 (at 5 year intervals) cars I didn't buy.  And while I've poured lots of gas and oil into the car over the years, I would have done the same with the 10 or 17 cars I would have bought in the same time frame.  And even the parts replaced over the years still wouldn't equal one car, much less 10--or 17.  So I have no qualms about Wolfgang's carbon footprint--or Ludwig's for that matter.

 

As for electric cars:  I would buy one for a back and forth commute to work, but it's still not gonna get me to Mid America or Vintage without several 40 minute recharges versus a ten minute pit stop at the Speedway station.

 

mike

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My carbon buttprint has 2 cheeks-

 

one is tiny, because I have never purchased a new car, and most of the

used crap I do buy would have gotten scrapped if I didn't get it running again.

 

The other one's big and fat, because what I buy is relatively emitty-  BMWs and Ferd

pickups get shit mileage for what they do.  Plus, while the commuters in the fleet are 

emission- compliant for their date of manufacture, the tractors, lawn mowers, older cars,

etc dump things worse than pure hydrocarbons out their collective stack.

 

We heat with wood. (gasp)  But the wood comes from downed trees

and other sources that are both renewable and would be felled anyway.

So the carbon is going to be released no matter what.  The other stuff?  Well,

the stove has a catalyst...

 

As above, all of the silver bullets have a tar bottom:  hydrogen's made how?

 

Electric cars can win because they're capable of being 80% efficient or better,

versus 15% for gasoline.  If the electricity comes from coal, the electric car

still pollutes significantly less than the gas.  They can charge at times of low

demand, in theory, thus not really straining the (pathetically under- developed)

grid all that much.  Except maybe in Texas.

But they require people to change a little, and that's like asking a toddler to give up a sucker.

And NiMH batteries are soooo much less of an environmental dump...

....but they still suck.   Perversely, lead- acid wet batteries, for being the toxic swamp

that they are, are almost 100% reusable, and probably pollute far less in a long-

term traction scenario- say, like, in an electric forklift.

 

t

commutes in an electric forklift,

but wants an e-golf

 

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17 minutes ago, TobyB said:

But they require people to change a little, and that's like asking a toddler to give up a sucker.

But...its their constitutional , god given right to never ever have to change. At all, evah!

This is getting too deep, disconnect activated..

Wood-Fired-Pizza.jpg

Edited by tech71
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