Reducing My Family's Carbon Footprint: Our Car - The background.

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As you know, I've also been a bit of an eco gal, keen to do my bit for the environment. But until recently, my focus has been more on waste reduction, namely plastic. However, Greta Thunberg's activism on the climate crisis has made me question: how can I reduce my carbon footprint to help against climate change?

Ways to reduce our carbon footprint: Our Car.

Over the years, our family has incorporated many small changes to the way we live our lives in order to have less of an impact on the environment. Our focus has evolved over recently years to include reducing our family's carbon footprint and making that much more of a key part of what we do, especially in the fight against climate change.

One area in which we will be making a big change in 2020 is our car.

The history of our car ownership

Living in central London straight out of uni, there was never any need for a car - tubes, buses, trains, bikes, walking all sufficed. But when Hubby & I moved out to the wilds of Twickenham, we got our first car. To be honest, I rarely drove it - commuting was still done by public transport, but we used it occasionally to drive up to Yorkshire or down to Kent. And sometimes Hubby drove it to work.

Once we had kids, the car became more useful and more used - hauling everything you need for a baby around on public transport all the time is tough! I would say we still mainly used buses and trains, but would use the car to go to Baby Swim or visit friends who were further afield, and definitely to visit family. This continued when our second was born. And I will forever be grateful for the seven mile 20 MPH loop of Richmond Park that I would take them both round aged 3YO & 6MO, to "see the deer", aka have a nap because you need one and won't have one!

Two car family in the US

When we moved to the US, my resolve to only have one car was broken in the first week when I realised it was just not feasible for either hubby to get to work on public transport or for me not to have a car with the girls. We also knew we were going to have people visit us, so we ended up getting a Toyota Highlander, which could convert into having 8 seats!! AND had a Hyundai Sonata as our second car. Not great....

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Back in the UK - starting to reduce our carbon footprint with a Hybrid

When we moved back to the UK, we toyed with the idea of not having a car, but knew that realistically we probably did need one for our longer journeys. Carrying much eco-guilt from our gas-guzzling two car time in the States, we opted for a Hybrid - a Lexus. We didn't know how long we'd be staying in the UK for, so we got a two-year lease.

Over those two years, we've actually decided we just can't get on with the Lexus - it sounds silly, but the user interface on the console is almost unusable. So we've extended our lease a little, while we work out what we do next, and then we're going to give it back.

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Should we ditch our car to reduce our carbon footprint?

One question that keeps coming up in our discussions is whether we even need a car? We really hardly use the car much at all. In two years we've travelled only 7,500 miles in total - and that includes, driving to Disneyland Paris and back, two trips to Yorkshire and back, two trips to Wales and one or two to Kent. That's not much!

So one option is to go totally car-free.

We could do all our longer trips by train, or hire a car for the weekend.

But....

what we do use the car for is those 'just too far to walk / too long to take public transport' local trips - to the girls after-school clubs, play-date pick ups, trips to the tip. We 'need' a car for these trips - and Uber probably just wouldn't be reliable enough or work (not sure an uber driver would want me taking old paint pots to the tip! ;-))

Which has a lower carbon footprint? Full Electric vs (Plug-In) Hybrid?

So where we currently are is trying to work out what the lowest carbon option is for us going forward. With our very low mileage, that is locally based, 95% of our driving needs would be met by electricity. And seeing as our electricity is 100% renewable this would definitely be a low/no-carbon option for us.

However...

a) we need to think about the distance range of the car - our family in Yorkshire is 200 miles away, and while we can of course stop mid-journey, and re-charge, we probably don't want to stop twice

b) the longer range Electric cars are generally a bit bigger (to fit in the larger batteries needed for the longer journeys), but most of our trips are down narrow London streets, with cars parked on both sides, and the teeniest of parking spaces - so a smaller car is definitely attractive

c) we need to do some greater research into which option IS actually the most carbon efficient. Whilst fully-electric seems like it should be, there is of course the carbon-footprint of the car during it's production. We need to fully look into articles like this one Hybrids are 14 times better than battery electric vehicles at reducing real-world carbon dioxide emissions.

We have already test-driven the BMW i3 and loved how it drove. The downsides are it's limited range, plus not having a touch-screen console. We're trying out the Mini Countryman PHEV (plug in electric vehicle for all those not currently learning about hybrids and electric cars) for a 48 hour test drive this week hopefully. And we also have the eNiro from Kia booked in early next month. 

So, with the climate emergency firmly at the forefront of our minds, that's where we currently are at with regards to reducing our family's carbon footprint.

I will definitely keep you posted as to our decision making and what we learn along the way.

As ever, with love from our family to yours,

Elena x

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  • Elena on

    It looks like currently there is no tax exemption on PHEVs, but you can get a discount on the installation of a charging point at your house… https://www.gov.uk/plug-in-car-van-grants

  • Alana on

    We are considering the exact same issues! Really want to reduce our footprint but wanting to make sure get the car that’s right for us.

    Any idea if the car tax exception applies to a hybrid too?


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