Better in carbon terms to keep a petrol car until it breaks or switch to electric now?

JacobWrenn

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I was asked this question and wondered if anyone knew some research or could give a good idea of what might be best?

The main concern was around the carbon already used to create that vehicle and the carbon used to make the new vehicle.

I suspect that it would be heavily dependent on all sorts of variables but was interested in any thoughts.
 
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Gloster

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A friend looked into this, or something similar, for a magazine article a few years ago and his provisional opinion was that, unless you have a real gas-guzzler or do a massive mileage, keeping an old car going is better. I don’t think that the article was ever finished as, as you say, there are so many variables: this was just his considered opinion.
 

JacobWrenn

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Thanks for sharing, that’s interesting to hear and a shame your friend didn’t manage to get the article out.
 

Jozhua

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It depends, I'd use it as long as you plan on using it anyway, then just make your next purchase electric.

Electric cars are better, but the most environmentally friendly car is the one that doesn't exist

That said, many still need cars to get around their day to day lives with public transport as it is in much of the country.

Personally, I'd buy an EV with a smaller range (100-ish mi), then just hire a petrol car or higher capacity battery car for longer trips. Although you'd probably have to do the maths on the economics of that! Of course, if you take the train for most of those, it is more of a mute point.
 

NoRoute

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Polestar did a comparison of their EV against a Volvo XC40 which provides a benchmark value of 24 tonnes of CO2 for manufacturing a long-range EV.

As to whether it's better to keep a petrol, it will heavily depend on your assumptions around annual mileage.
 

The Ham

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As an average going from 2 ICE's to one reduces carbon emissions more than changing to 2 EV's.

It's also said that the best steps to reach carbon neutral are actual steps, followed by cycling and then using public transport (although I did see someone once claim that as you but so much stuff for a bike that it was no better than an EV!!!).
 

zwk500

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An interesting point on a BBC article was that as electric vehicle usage rises, petrol stations will get scarcer. Therefore many people wouldn't have the option of keeping an ICE car on the road without incurring dead mileage topping up, or having to keep the tank fairly full all the time.

 

Journeyman

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I'm of the opinion that for me, I'm best keeping my existing petrol car going for as long as it's reasonable to do so, i.e. until it becomes unreliable or suffers a massively expensive MOT failure. I don't do a huge mileage, and I'd rather not incur the environmental cost of a brand new EV until I really have to. I think that's the greenest option right now.
 

zwk500

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I'm of the opinion that for me, I'm best keeping my existing petrol car going for as long as it's reasonable to do so, i.e. until it becomes unreliable or suffers a massively expensive MOT failure. I don't do a huge mileage, and I'd rather not incur the environmental cost of a brand new EV until I really have to. I think that's the greenest option right now.
I agree.
 

The Ham

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I'm of the opinion that for me, I'm best keeping my existing petrol car going for as long as it's reasonable to do so, i.e. until it becomes unreliable or suffers a massively expensive MOT failure. I don't do a huge mileage, and I'd rather not incur the environmental cost of a brand new EV until I really have to. I think that's the greenest option right now.

Depending on how little milage you do and available options is car ownership really the right thing?

For instance if someone mostly does trips on their own of up to 10 miles (round trip) an e-bike might work better for them.

If it's mostly used for shopping or other there and back trips with a fairly short duration at the destination, using a car club (if available) may be an option.
 

Journeyman

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Depending on how little milage you do and available options is car ownership really the right thing?

For instance if someone mostly does trips on their own of up to 10 miles (round trip) an e-bike might work better for them.

If it's mostly used for shopping or other there and back trips with a fairly short duration at the destination, using a car club (if available) may be an option.
My car is fully paid for - it was the moment I drove it off the forecourt - and has therefore been pretty cheap to keep on the road. I bought it by trading in my late mother's car, and paying for the rest from her estate, so as a one-off, I was in a very good position to buy outright. I appreciate the convenience of owning it.

I do occasionally use it for overnight trips to very remote areas as well, something that currently neither an EV or a car club is well suited for. That may well change in the future, so that's another reason I'm happy to wait.
 

PeterC

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I do occasionally use it for overnight trips to very remote areas as well, something that currently neither an EV or a car club is well suited for. That may well change in the future, so that's another reason I'm happy to wait.
Sounds similar to my car ownership.
 

The Ham

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My car is fully paid for - it was the moment I drove it off the forecourt - and has therefore been pretty cheap to keep on the road. I bought it by trading in my late mother's car, and paying for the rest from her estate, so as a one-off, I was in a very good position to buy outright. I appreciate the convenience of owning it.

I do occasionally use it for overnight trips to very remote areas as well, something that currently neither an EV or a car club is well suited for. That may well change in the future, so that's another reason I'm happy to wait.

Car club cars can be used like a hire car, including often having weekend rates for longer trips.
 

Jamesrob637

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I intend to keep my petrol Polo going for a while yet. There's no finance (never was) and very little depreciation.
 

D365

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An interesting point on a BBC article was that as electric vehicle usage rises, petrol stations will get scarcer. Therefore many people wouldn't have the option of keeping an ICE car on the road without incurring dead mileage topping up, or having to keep the tank fairly full all the time.

Ironic that Sainsburys are currently building one at Derby Pride Park!
 

NoRoute

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An interesting point on a BBC article was that as electric vehicle usage rises, petrol stations will get scarcer. Therefore many people wouldn't have the option of keeping an ICE car on the road without incurring dead mileage topping up, or having to keep the tank fairly full all the time.

This isn't going to be a problem for many years yet because even small towns typically have several petrol stations, so as demand falls they won't all shut at once, the numbers will slowly contract, the remaining demand will be shifted to the ones which remain so there will still be some around. Plus, with most ICE cars having a range of several hundred miles even if they do become rarer and more widely spaced it's something you can incorporate into your routine, stopping whenever you pass one.

There's no doubt the numbers will fall over time but I think there's a bit of wishful thinking going on about how quick it will happen, given that over 90% of new cars sold today are still entirely or partially fossil fuelled and these are will be on the roads for around 14 years. The demand for fossil fuel for at least a further 10 -15 years is being set by the cars being sold now.
 

Jamesrob637

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This isn't going to be a problem for many years yet because even small towns typically have several petrol stations, so as demand falls they won't all shut at once, the numbers will slowly contract, the remaining demand will be shifted to the ones which remain so there will still be some around. Plus, with most ICE cars having a range of several hundred miles even if they do become rarer and more widely spaced it's something you can incorporate into your routine, stopping whenever you pass one.

There's no doubt the numbers will fall over time but I think there's a bit of wishful thinking going on about how quick it will happen, given that over 90% of new cars sold today are still entirely or partially fossil fuelled and these are will be on the roads for around 14 years. The demand for fossil fuel for at least a further 10 -15 years is being set by the cars being sold now.

Is 14 the average age a car gets withdrawn nowadays? There are still a lot of 00s cars on the roads nowadays - helped by the fact that, unlike in '09 with the scrappage system that saw many 1999 and before taken off the road, there was nothing on such a large scale in '19 (sometimes dealerships have their own scheme).
 

The Ham

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This isn't going to be a problem for many years yet because even small towns typically have several petrol stations, so as demand falls they won't all shut at once, the numbers will slowly contract, the remaining demand will be shifted to the ones which remain so there will still be some around. Plus, with most ICE cars having a range of several hundred miles even if they do become rarer and more widely spaced it's something you can incorporate into your routine, stopping whenever you pass one.

There's no doubt the numbers will fall over time but I think there's a bit of wishful thinking going on about how quick it will happen, given that over 90% of new cars sold today are still entirely or partially fossil fuelled and these are will be on the roads for around 14 years. The demand for fossil fuel for at least a further 10 -15 years is being set by the cars being sold now.

It will indeed take time, for example local to me (within 3 miles, even though we're rural) there's 5 petrol stations and a population of ~20,000.

It's likely that it will take a few years before one goes and then another few years for another to go, however the number of petrol stations have been falling for several years now and WFH may well have an impact on them as well (due to less commuting and therefore likely reduced congestion).

Whilst filling up whilst doing something else is possible, over time it may well be that for some locally to me that would involve a 3 mile trip from their home (to be fair most likely after at least 2, if not 3, of the 5 petrol stations close, so probably not until after 2035, if not later.

The other thing which could influence the rate of decline is what happens with fuel duty. If we started to see it start to increase again, then that's likely to speed the change away from ICE's.

Whilst that would have political implications, the fewer that there are the less this will be ( not something which is likely to be overly soon).
 

AM9

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The carbon 'sunk costs' in manufacturing a car is of course a one-off, and should equate to a number of miles of normal use. So it depends on how long each existing IC vehicle is kept going. There are of course many other factors that will erode the viability of continued high-carbon transport modes, notably emission restrictions in sensitive towns and cities, (eventually most built-up areas). I would imagine that after sales of new IC vehicles stop, the will be progressive disincentives introduced to driving them, including absolute bans in some areas. The recent landmark case of road pollution being the primary cause of death of a child in SE London will play a large part in those prohibitions.
As far as fuel duty goes, it is almost certain that the loss of that revenue from EV drivers will be recovered from road use charges. I would imagine that fuel duty will then assume a role as a carbon/pollution levy, so the difference in EV vs IC motoring will be even greater, thereby removing most of the remaining enthusiasm for burning hydrocarbons for personal transport.
 

JohnMcL7

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I have a ten year old petrol car and get absolutely hammered on VED but planning to hang onto it until the repair costs aren't viable. From an environmental point of view almost all my transport is handled by cycling which apart from being greener than an electric car it also means less congestion, doesn't take up parking spaces and improves my health all at the same time. I did look at ditching the car and hiring when needed but even a single trip away in a suitable hire car was surprisingly expensive and the car is used for carrying bikes or a mucky dog neither which I think any hire car company would be keen on.

Cost is a big issue for electric cars for my use at the moment but another big issue is the lack of choice, my current car is a big estate with a huge amount of space in the back but with estates going out of fashion anyway there's only two electric estates currently available neither really being estates with poor load capacity. Hopefully by the time I'm replacing my next car there will be better choice but for now I'll stick with racking up the miles on the bike.
 

341o2

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There is also the enviromental impact of scrapping a car. Having spent around £600 to get mine through the MOT, I won't be in a hurry to dispose of it.
I also remember 20 to 30 years ago, we were told to get rid of our dirty, polluting old bangers and change to clean, green unleaded fuel with catalytic converter.
 

AM9

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There is also the enviromental impact of scrapping a car. Having spent around £600 to get mine through the MOT, I won't be in a hurry to dispose of it. ...
Ah the fallacy of sunk costs. Paying out £600 to get a car through an MoT test doesn't make it worth any more. A year later it will still be a car that needs a test which may involve more expenditure. Then there is the likely cost of road use charges based on distance which all cars will be subject to - even if they use duty-loaded hydrocarbon fuel.

... I also remember 20 to 30 years ago, we were told to get rid of our dirty, polluting old bangers and change to clean, green unleaded fuel with catalytic converter.
20-30 years was a long time ago - both in engine technology and that was the fudge that the motor industry got away with. Since then there has bween the general realisation that continued burning of hydrocarbon fuel was really damaging everybody's environment.
 

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