A new year means new cars, trucks and SUVs at auto shows across the country. But even as we get excited for these great new vehicles, we can’t help but wonder how they will affect the environment.
As the premier sponsor of the 2016 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) is using its exhibit space to challenge the automotive industry and regulators to consider how truly “green” these cars and trucks really are.
As savvy consumers, we’ve been taught to focus on mileage to determine whether or not a car is environmentally friendly. So what’s the real story? What matters more than mileage?
The answer is “almost everything.” Current industry regulations focus on tailpipe emissions. However, in reality, the impact of producing materials, before a car or truck is sold, has a major impact on the environment. Specifically, material production is responsible for about 30% of the total emissions for internal combustion engines and hybrid electric vehicles and can go as high as almost 50% for battery electric vehicles. Ironically, as vehicles get more fuel efficient, the environmental impact of materials production take an even bigger share of your car or truck’s lifetime environmental impact.
Reality Check: Steel-intensive vehicles provide greater value in meeting fuel economy regulations and do so with significantly lower CO2 emissions. Production of aluminum in North America emits four to five times more carbon dioxide than steel. These production emissions will not be offset during the driving life of the vehicle.
Reality Check: Vehicles made with steel or aluminum will achieve the same fuel economy target for their class (required by federal fuel economy regulations) so their emissions during driving will be equal. Automakers have more effective options to improve fuel economy than mass reduction, including engine and transmission technology and improved aerodynamics.
Reality Check: There are approximately 2.8 million pick-up truck bodies produced annually. Making these from aluminum would produce the same amount of CO2 equivalent to the emissions from consuming 1.35 billion gallons of gasoline.
As an environmentally-conscious consumer, you might wonder how you can cut through the clutter and make sure the great new car or truck you’re considering truly is as gentle to the planet as possible. The easy answer is “Just Choose Steel.” Steel-intensive vehicles provide greater value in meeting fuel economy regulations and will do so with significantly lower CO2 impact.
Stay tuned during NAIAS for some special announcements from SMDI including more information on the environment and the 2nd Annual Men and Women of Steel awards.