How you can drive for a better environment

Intro

The average Australian car travels 15,000km per year, emitting around four tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Here's how you can reduce the impact of your car on the environment.

Your car and greenhouse gases

Each year, the average passenger vehicle emits about four tonnes of CO2, which is a major greenhouse gas.
CO2 in the atmosphere traps heat from the sun, preventing it from being re-emitted back into space. Natural CO2 levels make the planet livable, while increasing CO2 causes the planet to heat up.
Approximately 8% of Australia's CO2 emissions are from cars and light commercial vehicles and are directly tied to fuel use:

A list of items with tcks (check marks) instead of bullets.

  • 1 litre petrol = 2.3kg of CO2
  • 1 litre LPG = 1.5kg of CO2
  • 1 litre diesel = 2.7 kg of CO2

Noise pollution

In urban environments road traffic is the major source of community noise, disturbing work, relaxation and sleep, and causing mental stress and, in severe cases, chronic exhaustion, high blood pressure and heart disease.

The size and speed of the vehicle, vehicle and tyre design and vehicle maintenance affect its noise levels.

Ozone depletion

Ozone in the upper atmosphere protects life on earth by absorbing ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. UV radiation is linked to skin cancer, genetic damage and immune system suppression. 

Although chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), an ozone depleting substance once widely used in car air-conditioners, are banned, their replacement gases, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and hydrocarbons (HCs), do have a greenhouse effect. 

To avoid air-conditioning gas leaks, keep units maintained and follow instructions in the owner's manual.

Cars and water quality

Oil is a particularly harmful water pollutant as even small amounts can severely contaminate waterways. It is toxic to aquatic life and smothers plants and animals.  

Oil and particles from the wear of tyres, brakes and other components run off roads into stormwater drains that feed into creeks, rivers and the sea.

When it rains, air pollution from cars mixes with rainwater and falls to the ground, adding to water pollution.

Cars and resource use

Manufacturing, operating and maintaining vehicles require non-renewable resources such as metals, petroleum (for plastics and fuel) and other fossil fuels (for example, coal for production of electricity). Producing and disposing of these resources can cause damage.

Recycling used car parts and materials reduces the one-way flow of resources and the volume of material going to landfill.

Cars and air pollution

Air pollution describes the mix of chemicals, particles and biological material in the air. Increased air pollution increases the risks of respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

In Perth, the major air pollution problem is photochemical smog, one of the most significant pollution problems facing many cities around the world, characterised by high concentrations of ground-level ozone.

Ozone is formed when oxides of nitrogen and reactive organic compounds react together for a few hours under the influence of sunlight and high temperatures. Perth typically has 9 to 17 days a year when the ozone levels exceed the World Health Organization goal of 80 parts per billion.
Vehicles contribute more than 80% of the carbon monoxide (CO) pollution in Perth and around half of the oxides of nitrogen (NOx).

Regular maintenance ensures the active systems in your vehicle that control pollution levels (such as the catalytic converters, onboard computers and sensors) work at optimum level.

As Perth continues to grow, congestion and the number of kilometres travelled will increase. Modelling by the RAC projects an additional 1 million motorised vehicles on WA roads between 2012 and 2020. This will increase the volume of emissions and the pollution load on Perth's air shed. Minimising the impact of vehicles on the environment remains a serious challenge.