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3 tips for more sustainable driving

If you must get behind the wheel, follow these tips for limiting the climate impact.

Ilmasto-Jenni
Image: Mostphotos, Juha Rissanen/Yle

People in Finland produce as much emissions by driving as through overseas flights. An electric car is not feasible for everyone yet, but there are other ways to minimise the emissions caused by vehicular traffic.

Monitor your driving style

Impact: Five to 15 percent reduction in emissions
Plus: All drivers can do it

Even small things make a difference when it comes to minimising your carbon footprint. If you have to drive during winter, make sure your engine is warm (by using a block heater if a garage is not available) before you start the ignition. If you always start your car when it's cold, you could waste as much as a couple tanks of fuel during a single season.

Avoid running your engine on high revs, but change to the next higher gear as soon as possible as this conserves petrol. Instead of braking suddenly, allow the engine to slow the car by removing your foot from the accelerator.

Track your petrol consumption. Merely monitoring current consumption could help considerably reduce petrol use. Some cars are equipped to automatically display fuel consumption information. Another option is to maintain a journal indicating when you fill up, how much petrol you bought and how many kilometres you got from your last tank of petrol.

Consider car sharing

Impact: 10 to 15 percent reduction in emissions
Plus: Everyone can do it

Manufacturing new cars takes a heavy toll on the environment, so car pooling is more efficient from this perspective. Large housing companies such as the 300-flat Kaleva housing company in Tampere have trialled such a system.

In spite of the availability of the service, fewer than 10 residents paid the monthly fee for regular use of the vehicle last autumn. The majority did not want to use a shared vehicle. On the other hand, the residents who have driven it have been rather active users – during a five-month period, they have covered more than 10,000 kilometres.

Residents in the programme contribute 28 euros per month for the vehicle, in addition to a separate charge for actually using it. It has also been rented out to non-residents.

Buy a new car

Impact: 10 to 60 percent reduction in emissions
Plus: Dramatic emissions reduction possible
Minus: Requires capital

If it looks like it’s time for you to invest in a new car, an electric vehicle (EV) would be the most environmentally-friendly choice. According to recent calculations, EVs are more ecological than petrol cars and pay for themselves within a few years of purchase.

There are just two problems with electric cars: the price of most new vehicles may be prohibitive to some buyers and for motorists who drive less than 10,000 kilometres a year, they may never pay for themselves. The average driver in Finland clocks 14,000 kilometres on the road every year.

Persons who drive a few dozen kilometres daily or several times a week get the biggest financial benefit out of an EV compared to a car with a petrol- or diesel-powered engine.

Another problem has to do with the duration of car trips. An EV that would allow one to drive half the length of Finland without stopping for a long recharging session (some 500 km) would easily cost 50,000 euros.

Plug-in hybrids are not as economical to run as petrol or diesel cars, although they are more environmentally sound.

For people who don’t need to drive around as much the best option for their wallets and the environment is a biogas-powered vehicle or a hybrid. Both reduce traffic emissions considerably but cost almost the same as a regular petrol car.

Buyers who opt for a biogas vehicle would do well to check the network of filling stations before heading out on extended road trips, however. The network currently comprises filling stations at 33 locations across the country. But there are no such facilities north or east of Oulu.

By contrast, a hybrid vehicle offers a more hassle-free experience as it can use electricity generated during the trip as well as petrol.

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