GreenLaurel: Does Your Next Car Make a Difference to Our Climate?

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An electric-fueled (EV) car charged at a home switched to cheaper-than-BGE-electricity is emission-free.


The average two cars that your family tootles around in contribute about 40 percent of your family’s 48,800 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year (see below). Check out how your car’s emissions stack up, and consider switching to a sedan, a hybrid or an electric vehicle to lighten your CO2 load. Then, take two minutes and switch your home to green energy and you’ll be part of the solution. These individual actions can’t come at a more critical time for our climate. The planet just hit historic CO2 levels.

Good News: Vehicles’ MPG Hit Record Highs

For cars weighing less than 8,500 pounds, miles-per-gallon averages hit a record-high this year at 25.5 MPG. Electric vehicles are now more common. Toyota, Hyundai and Honda hybrids zip around everywhere. Yet, the top three selling vehicles last year were trucks: Ford’s F150, Chevrolet’s Silverado and RAM trucks.

Through executive action, President Obama increased corporate average fleet emissions (CAFE) MPG standards to 36 MPG by 2025. A little problem, though: President Trump’s administration and the auto industry are considering rolling this target back.

CAFE fuel efficiency standards were enacted by Congress after the 1975 oil crisis.

How Does Your Car’s Tailpipe Stack Up?

Each year, the average U.S. car drives 13,500 miles. If your car isn’t listed below, visit Terrapass and calculate your car’s emissions. Terrapass is a credible nonprofit that funds additional greenhouse gas-reducing projects that cancel out carbon emissions.

CO2 pounds for 12,000 miles per year, 2015 models, basic engine, and 2WD. Source:

The Goal: Take Action to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint to a Minimum

At a high level, excluding air travel, the chart below lists the key sources of carbon pollution for an average three-person Maryland family living in a single-family home. Cars account for 41 percent. A 3,000-mile plane flight in economy class contributes 880 CO2 pounds.

An average Marylander’s starting point is a sky-high 48,800 pounds of CO2/year. Source: calculator, 12,000 kilowatts, 91 cfu natural gas and perfect recycling assumed. 

Switch SUV to a Sedan/Hybrid Cuts Yearly Carbon Footprint by 11 Percent

The Winning Carbon Footprint Chart

As the charts above illustrate, Maryland’s coal-fired and nuclear-fueled electricity generate 30 percent of your family’s carbon footprint. If you choose an electric vehicle, or switch to a fuel-efficient car, take the two minutes and switch your home’s electricity source to renewable. We tell you all about how to here.

Reducing your carbon footprint by going solar or geothermal (or just switching your home’s electricity source), plus choosing a better car, makes a difference. In this example, the homeowner cut gas by reducing waste through leaks. 

Laurel Peltier
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  1. My wife and I already choose an all renewable electric provider and drive two small cars averaging 30-40 mpg, and we’d like to switch to an electric car, but because our townhouse in Owings Mills has head-in street parking, we’re not sure how we’d charge at home. I’d love to see a story about the infrastructure needed to charge at home.

    • Thanks for the question and the idea for another post. I know just the person to ask for expert EV charging know-how as charging stations vary based on building type and location. If you have more detailed questions, feel free to email the questions to me at [email protected]. I have an EV, and had installed a 240 volt outlet designed for autos in our garage. The thick cord is about 20 feet long. At the time of install the charging station state rebate program was unfunded. But it seemed to be included in the latest budget. You’ll hear from me soon.

  2. I have an EV, and I will -never- go back. The convenience of plugging in at night and waking up to a charged car is too good to pass up. Since I am an inherently lazy person, I didn’t bother with a charger– I just plug into the normal outlet. I drive about 15,000 miles a year, and even with charging almost entirely at home (using 100% wind courtesy of Green Mountain Energy), I have never been without battery power when I need it. I don’t understand why everyone with a driveway isn’t doing this.

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