With the announcement of new fuel economy standards last week, the Obama administration made sure that the days of car company battles against fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles are safely in our rear-view mirrors. Numerous studies have shown that 75%+ of the energy used by a car over its lifetime is consumed in the operation of the vehicle, so this focus on efficiency is well-placed. But we shouldn’t forget about the other 25% of energy use or the environmental impacts that come with it – hazardous chemicals that off-gas when our cars sit in the sun, components that are difficult to recycle, and loads of plastics made from petrochemicals among them.
Green building practices are successful because they consider every aspect of how a house is built. Energy systems such as furnaces, water heaters, insulation and renewable energy options are important, but so too are sustainably harvested woods, countertops made from recycled materials, and paints or adhesives that don’t harm our health. Shouldn’t we expect the same from our cars, with their thousands of components sourced from around the world?
The good news is that manufacturers are starting to take the challenge of building efficient AND sustainable cars seriously. Ford Motors, for instance, highlighted the following initiatives last week: