Emissions Continue to Decrease as Automakers Focus on Green Goals
Future generations of cars will look vastly different from the vehicles you’re used to driving. Business leaders across industries are focused on combating climate change, and the automotive industry is a key player.
Automaker sustainability goals will be a significant factor moving forward, from electric cars to carbon credits. Here’s how manufacturers plan to decrease emissions and focus on green goals.
How Do Cars Contribute to CO2 Emissions?
Since the Model T, cars have been a mainstay in the United States and worldwide. They’re essential for transportation and are vital for hauling goods long distances. However, the environmental impact in the last century has been negative. Data shows that highway vehicles emit nearly 1.4 billion tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) annually. Most emissions come from carbon dioxide (CO2), contributing to climate change.
CO2 is a necessary GHG because the Earth would freeze without it. However, too much causes global temperatures to rise. CO2 emissions have increased significantly in the last century. For example, in 1940, the world emitted 4.85 billion metric tons. In 2021, CO2 emissions set a record with over 37 billion metric tons of emissions.
One factor that has inhibited automakers’ sustainability goals is their reliance on the oil and gas industry. For over a century, most cars on the road have been internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, requiring oil and gasoline. This sector is one of the most destructive to the planet. However, burning fossil fuels for cars and powering buildings is in high demand worldwide. In 2020, fossil fuel combustion was responsible for 73% of GHG emissions in the United States.
How Are Manufacturers Going Green?
Since the late 19th century, the world has rapidly become more industrialized. Technological advancements have made life easier for people but at a high environmental price. Automakers are going green because they see an opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint and operating costs. Here are some automaker sustainability goals for the 21st century.
The most significant pivot for auto manufacturers has been with electric vehicles (EVs). EVs operate on a battery instead of gasoline or diesel, so there aren’t any tailpipe emissions. The concept of a battery-powered vehicle (BPV) goes back to the 1800s.
However, the world didn’t see a mass-produced EV until the turn of the 21st century with the Toyota Prius. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, plug-in hybrids from Chevrolet, Nissan and more became popular.
Going fully electric is the standard moving forward. For example, Ford announced a $50 billion investment in EV technology. The Dearborn, Michigan, manufacturer says one-third of its vehicles will be fully electric by 2026.
Tesla is the leader in the EV market. The California-based automaker has led the way in fully electric vehicles since 2008 with the Roadster model. Nowadays, Tesla offers the Model S, Model 3, Model X and Model Y, which sold over 130,000 units in the third quarter of 2021.
Carbon credits are another step in automaker sustainability goals. Manufacturers haven’t gone fully electric yet, so they still need to worry about tailpipe emissions. Carbon credits allow a person or organization to emit 1 ton of CO2 for a set price. Companies, including automakers, receive credits as an incentive to reduce GHG emissions. Not using carbon credits means the manufacturers can sell them to others for a profit.
Carbon credits are a significant source of revenue for automakers like Tesla, which used them to garner over $500 million in revenue. Tesla only produces EVs, so it doesn’t need to use carbon credits.
Renewable Energy Sources
EVs don’t have tailpipe emissions, but what about the manufacturing process required to build these cars? There are hundreds of plants and manufacturing facilities in the U.S., many of which operate 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
Some automakers have announced plans to use renewable energy in their operations. For example, General Motors (GM) says it will only use renewable energy sources for its American facilities by 2030. By 2035, this policy will extend to its sites worldwide.
Toyota is another manufacturer leading the way in renewable energy goals. The Japanese automaker is one of the largest in the world, so its dedication to green initiatives is critical in reducing emissions. Toyota says it plans to make its facilities carbon-neutral by 2035. It wants to eradicate all CO2 emissions at its plants by 2050.
What Are Other Automaker Sustainability Goals?
The 2010s were a turning point in the road to sustainability. Nearly 200 countries signed the Paris Agreement in 2015. This landmark treaty changed how most nations view climate change and what they can do about it.
Governing bodies have passed legislation requiring industries like auto manufacturing to adhere to emission standards. For example, in August 2021, the White House announced plans to make 50% of new passenger vehicles electric by 2030.
The world is quickly moving toward sustainable processes in many industries. The automotive sector must find ways to improve its environmental policies. Countries like the U.S. depend on cars, so reducing carbon footprint is essential for human and planet health.
Toyota, Ford and GM are only the tips of the iceberg. These four examples show automaker sustainability goals extend worldwide.
Mercedes-Benz is among the most ambitious of all manufacturers. In 2021, the German automaker announced that all its new vehicles would be electric in 2025. It said there would be an electric alternative for every model it produces.
Volvo is another manufacturer with lofty automaker sustainability goals. In 2021, the Swedish company unveiled plans to phase out ICE cars and entirely shift its focus to EVs. Volvo will only sell EVs effective in 2030. It plans to make half its new vehicles fully electric, with the other half hybrids.
Traditional passenger vehicles aren’t the only ones going electric. In 2022, sports car manufacturer Ferrari announced its plans to go electric. Ferrari’s first EV will debut in 2025. About 40% of the prancing horses will soon be EVs, and the company plans to reach 80% by 2030.
Volkswagen is another German automaker with ambitious green goals for this century. The company aims to have its entire vehicle fleet be zero-emission EVs by 2040. Its short-term goal is to go half electric by 2030 and fully carbon neutral by 2050.
Automaker Sustainability Goals for a Greener Future
The world changes by the minute — sometimes, it’s out of necessity. The world needs to reduce its carbon footprint and strive for a healthier planet. Auto manufacturers are guilty of CO2 emissions, but they’re quickly turning the tide with sustainability goals. If you haven’t driven an EV, prepare to take the wheel of one by the next decade.