How to reduce car-related emissions and pollution

June 23, 2015

Although gas-fuelled cars are bad news for the environment, today's cars are 10 to 20 times cleaner – in terms of emissions – than cars in the 1970s. In the meantime, driving carefully and looking after your car will minimize its environmental impact.

How to reduce car-related emissions and pollution

Reducing emissions

  • Buy a new or late-model car and think small! On average, the smaller and newer your car, the less polluting it will be.
  • Check the fuel information label before you buy.
  • Have your car serviced regularly. Expert maintenance will ensure the engine is tuned so that it runs at an optimum level, delivering power without burning excessive fuel. The service should include checking components such as spark plugs and air filters, which are crucial to an engine's efficiency.
  • Make sure your tires have the recommended air pressure. Under-inflated tires offer more resistance, so your engine has to work harder, using more fuel and emitting more carbon dioxide. Check the tire pressure about once a month. For an accurate reading, check your tires when they are cold (when you drive your car, the tires heat up and the pressure increases).
  • Avoid gas spills at the pump – don't overfill your tank. Spilled gasoline is especially polluting because it evaporates straight into the atmosphere. On average, to emit the same amount of hydrocarbons in your exhaust as you would release by spilling one litre (1/4 gallon) of gas, you'd have to drive 12,000 kilometres (over 7000 miles).

Avoiding pollution

  • Before entering a long tunnel and in a traffic jam, close your windows and either turn off the air-conditioner or set it to recirculate the air already inside. Otherwise, the pollution levels inside the car can build up to more than ten times the levels outside.
  • Turn off the car engine in a lengthy traffic jam or when waiting for someone.
  • Don't run your car engine in enclosed spaces, where poisonous fumes can build up. The deadliest exhaust gas is carbon monoxide, which is colourless, odourless and poisonous. It is slightly lighter than air, so it floats away rather than builds up from the ground.
  • If you can, use trains more often.
  • Walkers and cyclists have significantly lower levels of exposure to benzene compared with car commuters and significantly lower levels of exposure to nitrogen dioxide than bus commuters.
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