Top Ten Green Initiatives From Global Automakers

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No one will deny that quite possibly one of the biggest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions is vehicles. There is no denying that traveling is important, however, the damage being done cannot be fixed so easily. Although numerous cities around the world are making public transportation and alternative modes of transportation more convenient for the public, automobile manufacturers around the globe are also being asked to do their part and make cleaner, more environmentally friendly vehicles. Today, we are seeing an influx of hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles being promoted around every corner. Here are just a few initiatives car manufacturers are taking on to go green!

1) Tesla Motors. Founded in the Silicon Valley in California, Tesla Motors aims “to prove that electric vehicles could be awesome” and environmentally friendly at the same time. Tesla currently has 15 stores across the globe and has created new electric technology that any driver will enjoy. What’s next for Tesla – a 100 percent electric-run vehicle that can go from zero-to-60 in under four seconds. With cars like the Tesla Roadster, the objective is to show the world that you can have an electric vehicle without having to sacrifice premium performance in an effort to reduce overall carbon footprints.

2) Green eMotion Initiative. Renault, Nissan, Daimler, and BMW, all big name automobile manufacturing companies, along with a number of other organizations have created a €42 million initiative known as Green eMotion in Europe. This initiative supports the research and development of transportation solutions utilizing renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency technologies. This includes the creation of more than 10,000 electric vehicle charging stations throughout the continent. According to Heike Barlag, a coordinator of Green eMotion, “The aim is to pave the way for electromobility throughout Europe…By bundling individual activities in a major partner initiative we’re gaining momentum and transparency, and ensuring the coordinated development of electromobility.”

3) Nissan. Japanese automobile manufacturer Nissan has come up with the Green Program to take on issues of decreasing carbon dioxide emissions, decreasing emissions in an effort to preserve the air and water, and recycling of resources. The objective of the Green Program is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions wherever Nissan has corporate endeavors, which includes the Green Shops – dealerships with environmental staff that guarantees end-of-life vehicles are properly disposed of, manages all environmental facilities, and conducts necessary PR to let customers know about Nissan’s environmental efforts. The initiatives of the Green Program are to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve overall fuel consumption in cars through research and development.

4) General Motors. Though General Motors (GM) has gone through a rough patch recently, the fact cannot be ignored that GM was the first major automobile manufacturer in the United States to manufacture road-ready electric vehicles. To promote research and development of environmentally friendly vehicles, GM sponsors the EcoCAR initiative competition. This is a global vehicle engineering competition whereby university students are challenged to not only design, but build a vehicle where the main objective is to reduce the overall environmental impact associated with personal transportation. GM has also worked with the United States Climate Action Partnership and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Leadership Partnership on a host of other green initiatives.

5) Volkswagen. Over the last few years, German automobile manufacturer Volkswagen (VW) has been working alongside China to launch a new fuel economy initiative. VW has decided to aid in the growing problem China has with the growing automobile population causing serious environmental damage as well as increased gas consumption. Since 2007, VW has invested approximately €145 in a plant to build TFSI engines. These new engines along with automatic transmissions that are electronically controlled, fuel consumption as well as carbon dioxide emissions are said to reduce by 20 percent.

6) Honda. Japanese automobile manufacturer Honda has been involved in green initiatives since the 1970s. This has included the manufacturing of hybrid vehicles, fuel cells, and having the first automobile to comply with the SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle) requirements in California. Other corporate activity efforts include creating a number of Green Factory projects, recycling industrial water, and installing solar panels at all their plants. Some of the developments at Honda facilities include electric vehicles, home energy stations, and solar cell technology.

7) Ford. American automobile manufacturer Ford, with more than one-hundred years under its belt is no stranger to environmental initiatives. One of their biggest initiatives to date is the Greener Miles Program. There are two parts to this initiative. First, there is the TerraPass Program. In partnership with TerraPass, Ford owners are able to calculate the total sum of carbon dioxide their vehicle gives off while driving. Then they can buy a TerraPass between $30 and $80 annually and fund projects, including wind energy to decrease carbon dioxide emissions equaling the same sum as the vehicle. The second part is Eco-Driving. Ford provides information on driving habits and automobile maintenance that will conserve fuel, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and save the driver money.

8 ) Toyota. Although Toyota has worked hard to crease sustainable activities within their manufacturing plants, including utilizing renewable energy and low carbon production technologies, one of the main initiatives is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, not just in global operations, but also technologies, improvement of traffic flows, and the creation of clean-energy vehicles. However, this is not all. Toyota has even gone a step further and is now giving back to the environment – Toyota, through research and development, created two new species of plants derived from the gardenia and cherry sage and they actually offset carbon dioxide emissions. Toyota has also been instrumental in the process of Greenification – “green” buildings in urban locations and plant trees to improve the surrounding environment.

9) Hyundai. In 2009, the Hyundai Motor Group pledged $3.2 billion in an effort to develop environmentally friendly vehicles as well reduce total carbon dioxide emissions coming from manufacturing factories. The South Korean automobile manufacturing company created this multi-billion dollar initiative in an effort to become one of the four largest green car manufacturing companies in the world. Some of the money will be used in the development of hydrogen fuel cell and hybrid vehicles while another portion will be used for the improvement of engine and transmission fuel efficiency. The rest of the money will be used to reduce factory-produced carbon dioxide emissions by six percent.

10) Fiat. Italian automobile manufacturer Fiat started their own green initiative known as the “Uno Ecology” Concept. The Uno Ecology is a proposal for a green car that will utilize renewable materials, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and improve overall fuel economy. Another feature is photovoltaic cells located along the roof of the vehicle while will utilize solar light for powering different car systems. Even the car itself was made with a number of recyclable and renewable materials, including recycled PET and coconut fibers.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at shawn@watershedcapital.com

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Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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