In our journey to “go green” and be more environmentally friendly, we sometimes overlook the big picture in exchange for quick fixes. As you may have heard, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have mandated corporate average fuel economy reach 54.5 miles per gallon (MPG) by 2025. (This isn’t the actual mileage number you’ll see on the window sticker at the dealership, but rather the average number automakers must meet for their entire product line-up). These regulations are designed to lighten the impact of tailpipe emissions on the environment. While it’s true reducing emissions helps the environment, reaching this number doesn’t necessarily reduce your carbon footprint.
By only focusing on lower fuel consumption, we overlook the carbon footprint of a vehicle over its entire life, from manufacturing to when you, the consumer, drive the vehicle and how the vehicle is disposed of after it’s no longer driveable. For example, did you know there is an increase in greenhouse gases (GHGs) produced by vehicles made from alternative materials? By using alternative materials to cut weight to improve fuel economy, manufacturers end up raising emissions in other places, defeating the purpose of using alternative materials altogether.
What does this mean for you, the consumer? How can you do your part to help the environment?
When buying a new vehicle, you want to cover all of your bases, by choosing something that has low emissions over its entire lifecycle AND high fuel economy. You can easily see the MPGs on any given vehicle, but it’s a little harder for you to determine the lifecycle emissions of a vehicle. This is where steel can help. Choosing a vehicle made primarily with advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) is less harmful to the environment for a number of reasons:
- According to the University of California Santa Barbara life cycle assessment model, because of the large differences in material production emissions, building AHSS-intensive vehicles generates at least 40 percent fewer emissions than manufacturing vehicles with alternative materials, such as aluminum, magnesium and carbon fiber reinforced composites.
- According to WorldAutoSteel, building AHSS-intensive vehicles generates at least 40 percent fewer emissions than manufacturing vehicles with alternative materials, such as aluminum, magnesium and carbon fiber reinforced composites.
- Steel is 100 percent recyclable and the most recycled material globally, saving vital resources for future generations. Nearly all automotive steel is collected and recycled.
- Steel’s physical properties allow products to be recycled into any steel product without loss of quality. Competing materials must be recycled to the same grade or a lower-quality product (down-cycling).
- There are more than 80 million tons of recycled steel available per year for the manufacturing of new steel products.
The next time you are at the dealership, ask your sales person what your vehicle is made of and help the environment by choosing steel.