Environment

Car Air Conditioners Use 7 Billion Gallons of Gas Each Year

| by Sierra Club

Not content with the slow progress on fuel-efficiency standards, President Obama pushed for vehicles to be rolling on 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, four years earlier than current federal law requires. A new angle currently being examined in the jigsaw puzzle of auto emissions is energy-sucking air conditioners.

Colorado's National Renewable Energy Lab found that each year, 7 billion gallons of gasoline goes toward running vehicle air conditioners. That's 6 percent of the nation's total fuel consumption! In situations where simply turning off the AC isn't an option (think refrigerated shipping trucks or family-packed minivans in central Florida), scientists are fiddling away on new technology they expect will improve efficiency by 33 percent, save 1.8 billion gallons of oil, and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 900 million metric tons. The alternative AC system will use thermoelectrics to aid pumps and condensers.

Until the new car coolers are on the market, try lowering your vehicle's consumption by turning off the AC and enjoying the summer breeze. If you're shopping for a new car, check out the EPA's Green Vehicle Guide to find the best fit for you and the environment.