Open Thinkering


Tag: cars

Hang on to what you’ve got?

Dithered black-and-white image of a car exhaust

Three years ago, when we came to the end of our lease of a Toyota Auris hybrid, we tried to get another one. For one reason or another (poor customer service, delays on shipping from Japan) that didn’t happen. So we bought a 2013 diesel Volvo V60. It’s a lovely car, but it’s now at the age where it’s started to need things doing to it. Things that cost £££.

Given the climate emergency, our reflex was to investigate leasing or buying a new hybrid. Over the long-term, that is obviously the right thing to do. But for us right now I wanted to do some investigation. After all, cars don’t appear out of thin air, and manufacturing them causes carbon to be emitted. Living near the centre of town and working from home we don’t use our car for commuting or taking the kids to school. So should we switch? Or should we repair what we’ve got?

I used a carbon calculator to work out that driving 12,000 miles in our car emits 2.96 tonnes of CO2 per year. As we don’t have a drive and there’s no EV charging points on the road where we park, we’d have to go for a hybrid such as a Toyota Corolla. We literally couldn’t plug in a fully-electric car.

Manufacturing a mid-sized EV with an 84-mile range results in about 15 percent more emissions than manufacturing an equivalent gasoline vehicle. For larger, longer-range EVs that travel more than 250 miles per charge, the manufacturing emissions can be as much as 68 percent higher.

Source: The Green Age

From what I’ve read, it can take up to two years or 50,000 miles for a fully-electric vehicle to ‘pay off’ the increased manufacturing emissions compared to cars with internal combustion engines. For hybrids, that figure will of course be higher.

So although we’d love a new car, it doesn’t make much sense to get a new one right now. We’ll be hanging onto our Volvo V60 for the foreseeable, even if it does have a diesel engine. Sometimes the best thing for the environment might to hang on to what you’ve got and keep it going.

Of course, the ideal scenario thing would be for forward-thinking councils and governments to show leadership in this area. To re-instate subsidies. To install more than 12 EV points in an entire county in a year. To encourage transport via mass transit such as buses and trains. To create more bike lanes for safer cycling. But while we’re atomising our transit choices, and paying for it all individually, these are the trade-offs we have to make.

Image adapted from a photo by Matt Boitor