It happens every winter. It is cold outside, there are kids to think about, our cars are old, and we need some way of looking out the windshield. All perfectly good excuses to go outside and warm our car up for a couple of minutes. While your car is warming up, it is spewing out carbon dioxide from its back end. A major greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.
The average car emits 411 grams of CO2 per mile (USEPA, 2014). But how much CO2 is coming out of your car in the several minutes it warms up in the driveway? Let’s say the average person warms their car up for 10 minutes (Motavalli, 2012). And on average, that person drives at a speed of 40 miles an hour. Hence it takes 1 and half minutes to drive 1 mile (If I did my math correctly). Leaving their car idling in the driveway in those ten minutes means they could have driven 15 miles! This is also assuming they are going at a constant speed the moment they start driving, with no stopping. So, the real amount of miles is probably 10-15 miles. 15 miles times 411 grams of CO2 emitted per mile gives you a total of 6165 grams of CO2 emitted from the car idling in the driveway in that 10 minutes. That is a good amount of CO2 spewed into the atmosphere and they haven’t even started driving yet!
But if I, just one person, warm up my car for a couple minutes it is okay right? Well, if only a handful of people do this, it wouldn’t be too bad. However, if everyone thinks this and warm up their car anyways, then we have millions of people each emitting 6165 grams on CO2 into the atmosphere. This is called tragedy of the commons, when individuals neglect the well-being of society in the pursuit of personal gains (Investopedia, 2009). In this case, individuals are neglecting to think about our atmosphere in the hopes of having a slightly warmer car.
Is there a benefit to starting up your car a couple minutes early? People normally warm up their car to get the engine warmed before driving. Or if your car is like mine, the power steering stinks and warming up your car is supposed to help with that. But it doesn’t. Warming up your car only warms up the engine and the interior of the car. It does not warm up the steering, wheel bearings, or the tires (Natural Resources Canada, 2015). The only way to warm up these parts of the car is to drive it.
We all have been guilty of this at some point. Warming up the car to have it be a little warmer before actually driving it. But this small benefit has major consequences, especially if a lot of people do it. It causes over 6000 grams of CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Next time, it gets chilly outside (as it does every winter), put on some gloves or a hat instead of warming up your car. Try scrapping the ice of your windshield instead of waiting for it to defrost. If you need to warm up your car, try cutting down the amount of time you let it idle. This small change can make a huge impact on the amount of CO2 that goes into our atmosphere.
- Epa, U.s. Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle (EPA-420-F-14-040a, May 2014) (n.d.): n. pag. US Environmental Protection Agency. Office of Transportation and Air Quality, May 2014. Web. 7 Feb. 2016.
- “Tragedy Of The Commons Definition | Investopedia.”Investopedia. N.p., 22 Nov. 2009. Web. 07 Feb. 2016.
- Natural Resources Canada. “Vehicle Warm-Up.” Natural Resources Canada. Government of Canada, 1 Dec. 2015. Web. 07 Feb. 2016.
- Motavalli, Jim. “Better to Warm Up Your Car Or Not?” Esquire. N.p., 28 Jan. 2012. Web. 07 Feb. 2016.