Over the last century, carbon emissions increased dramatically, which is bad for the environment, since it’s been associated with global warming. Warming occurs because gases, like carbon, capture some of the heat from the sun and then emits it in all directions, including back down to earth. Thus, the more carbon in the atmosphere, the more the earth is heated. Of course, when the temperature and weather changes, it affects us, and threatens food supply and clean drinking water. That’s why so much research has gone into slowing global warming, since the ulterior motive, is to save human kind from uninhabitable living conditions.

It’s speculated that an ever-expanding global population is a major contributor to elevated carbon emissions, especially since the biggest jump in carbon emissions happened around the time of the baby boom. The population skyrocketed following WW2 and simultaneous to the baby boom, cars also became popular. This is because after the war, soldiers wanted to continue driving their jeeps, hence the introduction of the Civilian Jeep, CJ edition. Thus, car production grew exponentially and so did the number of drivers on the road. Specifically, between the 1940’s and 1970’s, there’s evidence that carbon emissions from cars tripled. Since cars are speculated to account for at least 30% of carbon emissions in the atmosphere, they’re an obvious contributor to global warming. In fact, since the 1800’s, global temperature has increased by about a degree Celsius. This may not sound like a lot however it’s already begun the manifestation of extreme weather patterns.   

This is why many countries have set out to lower their carbon footprint and one of the main targets for the project, is to reduce emissions from car exhausts. Thus, funding and research, to promote fuel-efficient cars and battery-powered cars that run off of electricity only, is well underway. Yet, some countries are leaders…

Leaders in emissions standards

3. Norway

Norway’s the world’s leader for its use of electric and hybrid cars. It’s speculated that a third of all cars bought in Norway, in 2017, would be electric and that every day, the increase in buyership is exponential. The government directed the shift by implementing a ‘green tax’, which eliminates import tax and also the European Union’s, Value Added Tax (VAT). Since the electricity comes from abundant hydropower, not only is it clean, it’s also cheaper than fuel and diesel. So, already it would be pretty tough for Norwegians to not get, just a little excited, about electrics. Yet, the government takes it a step further, and also eliminates road tolls, city emissions charges, and ferry fees. Electric car drivers are pretty much treated like the road’s royalty, since they’re also allowed to park for free and drive in some bus lanes.

Certain countries argue that the German government’s ability to offer so many green perks is because they are wealthy enough to do so, however Germany asserts that by increasing electric car buyership in their own country, they also decrease the cost of electrics for other countries. In part, Norway’s immediacy for promoting the electric car is because they’re main source of air pollution is from road traffic. Exhaust emissions and also particulate matter from the popularity of studded tires have contributed to dangerously poor local air quality in many Norwegian cities, which includes respiratory disease and other health problems.

2. Germany

When most people think about cars in Germany, they’re likely to think, well-made luxury cars that cruise down limitless autobahns at high speeds. However, German car manufacturers, like Mercedes and BMW, are leaders in the development of innovative technology and fuel efficiency. For example, BMW currently offers an EfficientDynamics package that includes Hybrid-only models, a lightweight frame, an Auto Start Stop function, and Brake Energy Regeneration. Technology, like the Auto Start Stop function, saves fuel because it turns the engine off, every time the car comes to a full stop. There are some complaints about feeling and hearing the engine restarting once the car regains motion however, ample funding for this mechanism suggests that it’s well on its way to becoming a regular feature for all cars. Germany, as a leader in fuel-efficiency technology, makes an especially significant global impact because they’re among top producers of cars in general.

Germany recently set a goal, in 2016, to ban the sale of fuel powered and diesel cars by 2030. Thus, all cars sold from that point on will be electric only. What’s significant about Germany’s electric car only policy is that they also have a substantial amount of renewable energy sources. Since electric cars require power, clean energy sources, like wind and solar, reduces carbon and other harmful emissions at the power plants. Just in 2017, Germany produced about 36% of their power from renewable sources and amazingly, one day in winter, conditions were such that they had almost 100% power coming from renewable energy. It’s this type of transition to electric cars, powered by clean energy that not only reduces emissions within cities, however also reduces delocalized emissions at power plants.  

1.    United States

Of course, everyone’s familiar with gas guzzling F-150 pickup trucks, since they’re America’s top selling car, so one might be surprised to think of the US as a leader in emissions standards. However, America’s home to fuel-efficient cars, like the Volt and electric cars, like the Leaf, which also happens to be a top selling battery-powered electric, among tree hugging Americans. The US leads the way in emissions standards, especially because of the California Clear Air Act Amendment, and California’s ability to propose stricter emissions standards to the Environmental protection agency (EPA).Ho Tightening emissions standards also garnered a lot of support from Obama’s eight-year administration, which included goals to increase gas mileage by up to 50 miles per gallon (MPG), by 2025. There’s still a ways to go, since right now the average fuel economy of cars and trucks, sits around 24.7 MPG.

Only recently, under Trump’s administration, has there been any challenge to America’s position, as world leader for fuel efficiency. Trump’s administration seeks to decrease previous fuel efficiency goals by 14 MPG and has also challenged California’s freedom to set their own emissions standards. They argue that emissions standards goals are too strict, considering the low price of gas, and that getting greater mileage wouldn’t save people a significant enough amount of money. Yet, it would save the environment, since cars that get greater mileage, spew less exhaust into the atmosphere.   

However, as it stands, America’s fuel efficiency standards are a dominating force in the car market and every manufacturer must comply to remain competitive in the industry. Manufacturers must meet the US emissions standards and some companies, like Volkswagen, have even been known for cheating the EPA’s emissions tests. However, by doing so Volkswagen was able to break into the US automotive market and accomplished becoming the largest car manufacturer in the world. They only experienced a brief, yet harsh setback, when their emissions’ cheating was discovered. So, the US sets the bench mark for emissions standards, which manufacturers must comply, and the impact is felt globally.

Conclusion

Although many countries have seen the reality of global warming and experienced extremes in weather conditions, not all are leaders for emissions standards. Since cars contribute to a significant proportion of the pollution that causes global warming, countries like, Norway, Germany, and the United States have begun regulation, research, production, and green taxes to reduce automotive emissions. The race for cleaner modes of transportation is on and while not every country has taken a lead, sooner or later, every country will be racing to the finish line.