By Donna Kemp Spangler
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: I looooove my convertible. Or I should say I loved it. Yes, I am bidding goodbye to one of my friends. And I am saying hello to a new friend.
I have become increasingly aware that my beloved friend was not the most environmentally sensitive vehicle I could be driving. At 12 years old, it was not all that fuel efficient for the 35-mile commute from Ogden to Department of Environmental Quality offices in Salt Lake City. And the engine is several generations removed from the lower emissions performance of new models out there.
And as pollution guilt crept deeper into my psyche, my husband, Jerry, suggested I look closer at a hybrid vehicle: a car that uses a combination of traditional gasoline supplemented by electricity. And he insisted I look at a new one.
Well, I am not one to disappoint, so we began researching the plethora of hybrid models now on showroom floors. What did we look at? Jerry was all about safety ratings in front-end and side crashes, and state-of-the-art braking systems for Utah’s tricky winter driving. For me, it was all about fuel and emissions ratings.
To understand these nuances I was coached by Utah Division of Air Quality Director Bryce Bird. And I reached out to friends and colleagues who had hybrids.
Most people can read a dealer sticker to find out the EPA mileage rating on a vehicle. But there is also something tucked near the bottom of the sticker that rates the emissions on an EPA pollution standard of 1 to 10, so-called “smog ratings” with 1 being a gas-guzzling, tailpipe-belching behemoth and 10 being, for all intents and purposes, an electrical vehicle with no emissions.
Anything rated a 7 or higher is considered to be the gold standard for protecting the environment. Starting in 2012, EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) implemented the most dramatic overhaul to vehicle fuel economy labels since they were first introduced more than 35 years ago. According to the EPA, “Car buyers now have more information than ever before– including fuel economy, fuel costs, and environmental impacts such as smog and greenhouse gas ratings– for all new vehicles, including advanced technologies such as electric cars and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs).”
As Jerry and I immersed ourselves in the research, we found that not all hybrids vehicles are created equal. Some of the larger ones were not all that fuel efficient and carried pollution ratings of 5 or 6 – virtually the same rating as non-hybrid vehicles in the same class.
My new hybrid vehicle has a mileage rating of 45 miles per gallon (I am so excited that I am getting more than 50 mpg through my first three fill-ups). And it had a smog rating of 7, which is at the high end of the spectrum of being environmentally friendly.
I will miss my convertible. But if it helps improve Utah’s air then it is a sacrifice I am willing to make. At least my new friend has a sunroof.
Consider the benefits of a Clean Vehicle:
- Free metered parking in Salt Lake City
- UDOT C-Decal to travel in HOV lanes even with no passengers
- A DAQ Clean Fuel Vehicle Tax Credit/Rebate
For More Information on Clean Vehicles, visit DAQ’s Clean Hybrid Vehicle Program. Want to buy a Smart Car? Read Glade Soward’s blog post on how to find a clean car.
I am the Communications Director for DEQ and write a monthly blog post.
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