The Impact of Driving a Car on the Environment

Cars have an undeniable impact on our environment; from production through disposal they consume resources create pollution damage ecosystems contribute global warming emissions. Learn how you can reduce its impact.

The Impact of Driving a Car on the Environment

Vehicle pollutants can have a detrimental effect on our health and contain greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Burning gasoline and diesel fuel creates by-products such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, benzene and formaldehyde, as well as carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas. Cars have a large environmental footprint, from emissions to road infrastructure. Cars can provide a sense of freedom and movement, but they can also have a big impact on the planet.

Here are some key areas to consider. Cars consume a lot of energy before they hit the road. Automotive production requires materials such as steel, rubber, glass, plastics, paints and many more to be created before a new car is ready to roll. Similarly, the end of a car's useful life does not mark the end of its environmental impact.

Plastics, toxic acids from batteries and other products can remain in the environment. Fortunately, junkyard accumulations are getting smaller than they were in the past. About three-quarters of the current average car, including most of a steel frame, can be recycled. Production, recycling and disposal costs for the environment are difficult to quantify and are largely beyond the control of most consumers.

It's also true that most of a car's environmental impact, perhaps 80 to 90 percent, is due to fuel consumption and emissions from air pollution and greenhouse gases that climate scientists say are driving global warming.Fortunately, the level of that impact is well under the driver's control. Petroleum products raise environmental red flags before they even burn. Extracting them from the earth is a process that consumes a lot of energy and can damage local ecosystems. Transporting fuels can also consume a lot of energy and create an occasional environmental disaster, such as an oil spill.As global demand increases and unconventional fuel sources, such as oil sands, become more economically viable, the ecological impacts of oil extraction could also increase dramatically.

That's one more reason why fuel efficiency is so important. It's also partly why electric vehicles can help reduce environmental impacts, because they don't burn fossil fuels.Vehicles are the biggest factors compromising U. S. air quality, and they produce about one-third of all U.

smog, carbon monoxide and other toxins emitted by vehicles are of particular concern because they leave exhaust pipes at street level, where humans breathe polluted air directly into their lungs.That can make car emissions an even more immediate health problem than toxins emitted high in the sky from industrial chimneys. Also difficult to quantify is another associated impact of cars: the construction of roads to support them, as well as the urban expansion that tends to follow in its wake.This problem can be difficult to eliminate from other factors such as population growth and resource consumption but it is not easy to address it with technological advances such as fuel efficiency and electric propulsion.Road Construction Has a Big Impact on Emissions and Wildlife: Car pollution is one of the main causes of global warming. Cars and trucks emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases which contribute one-fifth of total U. pollution from global warming.Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere causing temperatures to rise without them; the Earth would be covered in ice but burning excessive amounts of fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel has led to an increase of 0.6 degrees Celsius or 1 degree F in global temperatures since pre-industrial times.This will continue to increase in the coming decades; warmer global temperatures affect agriculture wildlife sea levels.A car exhaust releases hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides which together react with sunlight to increase ground-level ozone car exhaust also releases carbon monoxide which threatens human health and carbon dioxide which contributes significantly to global warming.Emissions are also released as gasoline evaporates particularly during the hottest hours of the day and while the car is hot from operation according to the EPA (see Reference).Our personal vehicles are one of the main causes of global warming taken together cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all U.

S emissions emitting about 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other gases that heat the Earth for every gallon of gas.Approximately five pounds come from extraction production and delivery of fuel while most heat-trapping emissions (more than 19 pounds per gallon) come directly from a car's exhaust pipe.In total US transportation which includes cars trucks planes trains ships and cargo produces nearly thirty percent of all US global warming emissions.In addition manufacturing a car and extracting raw materials to create it produce emissions (see Reference).It also contributes to Toyota Motor Corporation's new “Less Emissions” concept where the more you drive the cleaner the air becomes also clean your car regularly so as not to carry a heavier load than necessary causing your car to burn more fuel.If that “weight” is you it is either energy you spend (walking or cycling) or energy you spend something else for example a car these substances cause a variety of environmental problems such as air pollution and global warming which is why people say cars are bad for the environment.Fuel production generates significant amount emissions which drivers support by filling their tanks with gasoline it is said that around year 2035 more than half world's cars will be zero-emission vehicles.If you're looking for new car look for vehicle with strong SmartWay certification score EPA Green Vehicle Guide website when considering total average emissions produced over life cycle car fuel production accounts for nineteen percent.


Cars have an undeniable impact on our environment; from production through disposal they consume resources create pollution damage ecosystems contribute global warming emissions.


  • Choose vehicles with strong SmartWay certification score on EPA Green Vehicle Guide website
  • Clean your car regularly so as not to carry heavier load than necessary causing your car burn more fuel

Kristine Althouse
Kristine Althouse

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