7 Green Vehicles

According to Wikipedia a ‘vehicle’ is a:

mobile machine that transports passengers or cargo. Most often vehicles are manufactured, such as bicycles, cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, trains, ships, boats and aircraft

Then ‘green vehicles’ are:

road motor vehicles that produces less harmful impacts to the environment than comparable conventional internal combustion engine vehicles running on gasoline or diesel

Here’s our take on the world’s seven greenest vehicles.

7: The Tesla Model S

Previously we called out the Nissan Leaf as the green vehicle. Times have changed and the Tesla Model 3 is now a widely known, paragon of electric vehicles. A huge chunk of global passenger kilometers are from automobiles, so better cars are hugely important for the future. Using low carbon electricity electric car emissions are down around 81 g CO2e/km. This figure is lower with car pooling.

Telsa Model S – belonging to the stylish green vehicles

6: The Intercity Coach

It may surprise you, but the typical Stagecoach or Greyhound diesel bus can often have lower emissions per passenger kilometer than the best electric car.  That’s because intercity buses travel at efficient speeds on highways, have decent occupancy and tiny manufacturing emissions as they are spread over so many passengers.  Studies suggest emissions are from 35-85 g CO2e/pkm.

5: The School Bus

This one is probably even more surprising, but school buses typically have quite low emissions.  Not because they are über efficient, or that they do smooth highway miles, but simply because they have such high occupancy.  Emissions per passenger kilometer are typically in the 20-50 g CO2e/pkm range.

4: High Speed Rail

High speed rail can be very low carbon, particularly with the right juice.  We’ve taken the Eurostar and TGV from London down to the Pyrenees a couple of times with emissions about a tenth of what a flight would have been.  The largely nuclear electricity in France means emissions of 17 g CO2e/pkm on their high-speed network.  Typically emissions are from 10-60 g CO2e/pkm depending on fuel source.

3: Light Urban Rail

Any form of electric train can provide very low carbon miles if it has the right juice.  Busy trams, metro or light rail systems can also have low emissions.  The example below is from Bergen in Norway, where hydro power is dominant.  Lifecycle emissions can range from 10-50 g CO2e/pkm depending on fuel source, efficiency and occupancy.

2: The Electric Bike

200 million bikes are in China.  Almost 30 million e-bikes will be sold in China this year alone.  That is about half the number of passenger cars globally.  In coal reliant China an electric bike has average lifecycle emissions of 22 g CO2e/pkm.  Depending on fuel mix they are typically in the range of 5-30 g CO2e/pkm.

1: The Flying Pigeon Bicycle – the Ultimate of Green Vehicles

The ‘Flying Pigeon‘ is the most popular vehicle of all time.  More than 500 million have been produced since 1950.  Based on the 1932 Raleigh Roadster the popular model came in black, with one speed, 28 in (710 mm) wheels, a fully covered chain, sprung leather saddle, rear rack and rod brakes.  This is an old school classic.  In China, where the diet is relatively low carbon and electricity carbon intensive, this bike edges the eBike at around 10 g CO2e/pkm.

What is missing from the list?

The rise of electric bikes started with China, spread to Brazil, Europe, India and now the US. We cover electric bikes on our site as well.

Lindsay Wilson
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I founded Shrink That Footprint in November 2012, after a long period of research. For many years I have calculated, studied and worked with carbon footprints, and Shrink That Footprint is that interest come to life.

I have an Economics degree from UCL, have previously worked as an energy efficiency analyst at BNEF and continue to work as a strategy consultant at Maneas.  I have consulted to numerous clients in energy and finance, as well as the World Economic Forum.

When I’m not crunching carbon footprints you’ll often find me helping my two year old son tend to the tomatoes, salad and peppers growing in our upcycled greenhouse.