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Car Size & Environmental Impact: A Modern Vehicle Guide

Environmental concern is of vital importance for all industries these days. Climate change is one of the most discussed topics on the planet currently and is one issue that is never out of the news. Motoring is often cited as one of the most significant ways the average person can create a positive impact on climate change. In some ways, this may seem unfair to the average motorist as there is often little alternative to using the car, public transport is lacking in reliability and abundance in many areas. If you have to take the kids to school and then get to the office yourself, the chances of the bus being able to offer a suitable service you need is almost nil. If we are to take our environmental responsibilities seriously, then maybe we need to look at what type and size of car we are going to drive?

Older vs. Modern Cars

Firstly, there have been considerable advancements in engine design and efficiency in the last decade or so, and, as such, the newer the car, the less petrol or diesel it will burn. You do have to consider the higher cost of purchase or lease of the more modern vehicle, but if you do any sort of decent mileage, there is a reasonable chance that the fuel savings will make up for the extra purchase cost. Also, there will much less chance of breakdown and repair costs.

Engine Size

Other than the car’s age, it’s reasonable to assume that the smaller the engine, the fewer the emissions it will produce. Smaller cars are easier to manoeuver in city environments, including parking. City driving is also generally the most polluting, as there is much more stopping and starting at junctions. The journeys are shorter in general as the first few miles of a trip produce a surprisingly high percentage of the emissions. This is partly due to highway miles being more efficient, but also the engine uses much more fuel when cold and has just been started. Here are the top small cars this year for lower fuel consumption.


If having a small petrol car isn’t for you for one reason or another, then perhaps an electric vehicle is the way forward. There is a wide variety of electric cars available now, and they do not have all the issues they used to when they first appeared on the scene. One big concern used to be the range on which a car could travel on a single charge. Still, there are many models on the market that offer real long-range travel, with the longest being the forthcoming Tesla Roadster coming in at 6oo miles, but there are many more affordable cars offering over a 300-mile range. Another recent issue was the lack of places to charge the vehicle. However, there are many public charging locations these days.


Another option is a hybrid vehicle which combines fossil fuel and electric technologies. The battery is charged by converting the excess energy in braking to electricity. There is a multitude of options when trying to choose a hybrid.

Other Ideas

There are other ways still that we can positively affect environmental change while being able to drive a larger car. Hydrogen fuelled vehicles have been around for quite some time now. They work by taking hydrogen to create electricity through a chemical reaction. This is an excellent method because although the hydrogen cell does need replacing eventually, it should last for at least 150,000 miles. The hydrogen for these cars can come from sources such as natural gas, nuclear power, biomass, and renewable power like solar and wind.

Another alternative fuel is vegetable oil for vehicles that would otherwise run on diesel fuel such as vans and trucks. This trend has mostly come out of the camper van community and those who are into the renovation of old vehicles to turn them into campers. For most older vans, there is no costly conversion as you just substitute diesel for oil. The one downside is that you may find your vehicle ends up smelling somewhat like a fryer.