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Simple Changes Drivers Can Make To Green Their Commute

04/10/2017 04:15 EDT | Updated 04/10/2017 04:15 EDT

Simple tips for drivers that can help clear the air, every day.

We are a country of drivers with more than 1.3 million kilometres of roads and more than 22 million vehicles sitting in our driveways. Our mobility, however, is not without its consequences: it's estimated that about 18 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Canada come from the cars we drive and how we drive them.

With almost one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions coming from our cars, there's a lot we can do to drive change and minimize our impact on the environment as motorists.

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Best ways to green your commute


The most obvious way to green your commute is to drive less. Instead, try walking, cycling (my favourite), carpooling or taking public transit whenever possible.

But since leaving the car at home isn't always feasible, the following tips can go a long way in maximizing your car's fuel efficiency:

Drive with fuel efficiency in mind

Accelerate gently, maintain a steady speed and coast to decelerate. Be mindful of your speed, too, because the faster you drive, the more fuel your vehicle will consume.

Use cruise control on the highway

When conditions allow it, cruise control helps you keep a steady speed. According to Natural Resources Canada, unintentional dips in speed and sudden bursts of acceleration to catch up with the flow of traffic can increase your fuel use significantly, as much as 20 per cent.

Plan your trips

Combine running your errands into one outing instead of taking multiple trips.

Avoid unnecessary idling

Turn off your engine when parked, and skip the drive-through when picking up your morning cup of coffee. Also, don't turn off your vehicle's idle start-stop feature available in some of today's newer vehicles. This fuel-saving technology reduces emissions by turning off the engine when the vehicle is idling and restarts the vehicle when you take your foot off the brake. Natural Resources Canada estimates that this feature reduces fuel consumption somewhere in the neighbourhood of four to 10 per cent.

Don't be a drag

Remove rooftop cargo boxes or roof racks when not in use.

Lighten the load in your car

Don't let your trunk become a storage room. The heavier the vehicle, the more fuel will be needed to keep it moving.

Keep up with your vehicle's maintenance

Take it to a mechanic twice a year, because a properly tuned vehicle doesn't have to work as hard, and in the end ensures your car is operating at its most fuel efficient level.

On a monthly basis, check that your tires are properly inflated

Underinflated tires increase your vehicle's fuel consumption. According to BeTireSmart.ca, regular tire maintenance and inflation could save the average Canadian driver the equivalent of two weeks' worth of gas every year.

green vehicle electric

(Photo: Wellphoto via Getty Images)

Is it time to retire your ride? Technology is making it easier to choose a more fuel-efficient vehicle.


Like auto insurance, fuel consumption is an ongoing regular expense and should be factored into your purchase decision. If you're planning on buying a conventional gas-fueled vehicle, Natural Resources Canada's Fuel Consumption Ratings Search Tool provides model specific information that can help you whittle down your choices based on their fuel-efficiency.

Technology, however, continues to make significant strides so that drivers who really want to rein in their fuel consumption have even more options:

Conventional hybrids

These vehicles use both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. These types of hybrids however, are not plug-ins; instead, the battery is recharged from energy that is captured over the course of normal driving and stored for future use.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs)

These hybrids are similar to the conventional hybrid; however, they have a battery that is recharged when plugged into the power grid. They are designed to primarily rely on electric power, but, should the battery run low, the internal combustion engine will take over.

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs)

Battery electric vehicles produce no tailpipe emissions and run solely on a rechargeable battery that must be plugged in to charge. Public charging stations are popping up everywhere to diminish the concern of driver's range anxiety that may be preventing some from buying a BEV. For example, in British Columbia, there are approximately 1,000 public charging stations; in Ontario there are approximately 200 with plans to have 500 in total; and there are about 1,250 public charging stations in Quebec.

Soon, Canadians may also have another automotive option that produces no greenhouse gas emissions: hydrogen-fueled vehicles. However, this technology is still in its early days in Canada.

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