When it comes to being “green”, one of the last industries people think of as being a leader in the environmental movement is the automotive industry. After all, there are millions of vehicles on the road and they are a daily reminder of how vehicle exhaust is a primary contributor to global warming.
It is true that the hundreds of millions of cars on the road around the world do have a negative impact on the environment. However, because of that scale, even small improvements in the way automotive companies design, manufacture and reclaim their products can have massive influence on the world around us and the “green” movement.
Starting at the manufacturing level, automotive companies like Ford and Subaru take a proactive approach to creating closed-loop facilities that minimize the waste generated. Subaru’s factory in Indiana was the first to be designated a zero-waste facility and its factory grounds are now a wildlife refuge. Ford spent considerable time and energy revamping their River Rouge plant and it now features a living roof that absorbs rainwater to reduce runoff and emits oxygen as it aborbs carbon dioxide. These are just two examples of what most automotive companies do to minimize or eliminate waste and environmental impact at the manufacturing level.
Vehicles have come a long way in the past 40 years. In fact, a vehicle from the 1970s sitting in a driveway for a day pollutes more than a modern vehicle does on its daily commute. Modern technology developed by the automotive industry has reduced noxious gases to the point that some current gasoline-burning engines achieve close to zero emissions. Automotive companies are spending billions of dollars to take that to the next level and develop vehicles that emit nothing but water vapor or simply run on electricity and nothing else.
When modern vehicles reach the end of their life cycle, many have been designed to be recyclable and in some cases, reused in other applications. For example, the battery pack in the upcoming Chevrolet Volt is designed to be used as a reserve power system for schools and hospitals.
The automotive industry understands its effect on the environment and is a leader in the development of systems and products to make the world a cleaner and greener place to live. The sheer size of the companies involved allow economies of scale for expensive technologies and methodologies to be developed that will ultimately trickle down to smaller industries and touch a massive amount of us, whether we drive or not.