With no tailpipe to spew noxious gasses, fully-electric cars are emissions free during their daily use, provided you charge them up from renewable sources of electricity such as wind, wave or solar of course.
Yet not everyone who drives an electric car has access to 100 per cent renewable energy, meaning their cars are as green as the power mix provided to them by the local utility company. For U.S. owners of the soon-to-launch Volkswagen e-Golf however, that won’t be a problem thanks to a new carbon offsetting scheme announced this week.
Based on a similar scheme being operated in parts of Europe, Volkswagen North America has partnered up with 3Degrees, a green power and carbon offsetting company, to ensure that every 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf sold in the U.S. is truly zero emissions.
It will do this by purchasing enough carbon offsets from 3Degrees to account for the manufacture, transportation and use of every Volkswagen e-Golf sold in the U.S. from factory through to the first 36,000 miles it travels on the road.
In addition, it has teamed up with photovoltaic specialists SunPower to offer e-Golf owners the chance to buy a photovoltaic solar panel solution for their home.
Under carbon offsetting, ‘carbon credits’ are purchased by a company with a large carbon footprint in order to account for their corporate emissions. The money from the credits are in turn used to fund existing renewable energy or carbon reduction projects. While carbon offsetting doesn’t mean a company will necessarily reduce its actual carbon footprint, it does have a net reduction on global carbon emissions since it helps fund and expand carbon reduction projects elsewhere.
As a result many environmentalists argue against carbon offsetting, saying it allows heavy polluters to continue polluting under the illusion that they are environmentally friendly when they clearly are not. Others argue that carbon offset schemes allow polluters to directly and quickly reduce net carbon emissions while planning more long-term strategies such as on-site renewable energy generation, energy efficiency measures, or improved environmental policy.
In the case of Volkswagen’s carbon offsetting for the e-Golf, the money paid by VW to offset the e-Golf’s carbon footprint is being used to help maintain the Big River and Salmon Creek Forests in Mendocino County, California. Some 16,000 acres in size, the forest is partly funded form the proceeds of carbon offset programs.
Additional money from VW’s carbon offsetting is being sent to the McKinney Landfill in Texas, where methane gasses from landfill are being captured and stored for use as fuel instead of being released directly into the atmosphere.
Volkswagen says the carbon offset scheme will be used for all of the Volkswagen group plug-in vehicles sold int he U.S., including the e-Golf and Audi e-tron family of plug-ins. Yet with limited initial sales planned for the first few years, the true impact of Volkswagen’s carbon offset program may not be all that large.
To make a larger impact, Volkswagen will need to tackle emissions at the source by reducing emissions at its production facilities, something taken very seriously by other electric automakers like Tesla, Nissan, and BMW.
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