2717 Kilograms of Carbon

A quick calculation this morning estimated that we have reduced our carbon footprint by 2717 kilograms (~5977 lbs.) of carbon since replacing one of our automobiles in early December 2019. Had it not been for various COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, that number would have been higher.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, 1/10, f/5.6, -1.7 step, ISO-64

Since we purchased our plug-in hybrid Prius Prime we have averaged 1.4 litres of gasoline per 100 kilometres. That equals about 168 miles per US gallon, or 201.7 miles per Imperial gallon.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 40 mm, efov 80 mm, 1/15, f/5.6, ISO-200

The reduction in emissions of 2717 kilograms of carbon would be equal to the amount that 124 to 193 mature trees would remove from the environment in a calendar year, depending on species.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 7-14 mm f/2.8 @ 14 mm, efov 28 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-200

Obviously the choice of vehicle that each of us makes is a very personal decision based on a wide range of factors. My wife and I decided on going the plug-in hybrid route as we felt it was the best overall decision for us in terms of emissions reduction, cost, and functionality. When it comes time to replace our other vehicle we will be going fully electric. That probably won’t happen for a while as we only replace vehicles when needed… usually about every 15 years or so.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 195 mm, efov 390 mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO-5000, subject distance 4.5 metres, full frame capture

Our Prius Prime is rated for 40 kilometres (~24.9 miles) of range when driven in electric mode. That may not sound like very much, but most days it is well within the distance we would travel. Range does vary based on weather conditions and driving style. During the winter when using in-cab heating our range drops to about 36 kilometres (~22.4 miles). The best we have done in warmer seasons was 65.5 kilometres (~40.7 miles) on a single electric charge. That was in the spring when we didn’t need to use air conditioning. Typical range in the summer is about 55 kilometres (~34.2 miles) per electric charge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, -0.7 step, 1/2500, ISO-1600, Pro Capture H mode

When using a standard 120 volt household outlet it takes about 5 hours and 20 minutes to fully charge our plug-in hybrid from empty. Based on current local electricity rates it costs us less than a dollar per charge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-6400, subject distance 315 mm

If you have an interest in calculating how much carbon your gasoline powered vehicle is adding to the environment, each litre burned equals about 2.3 kilograms, or just over 5 lbs. of carbon. That’s about 19.6 lbs. per US gallon of gasoline. An Imperial gallon would be about 20% higher. So, even a relatively modest change like going to a plug-in hybrid, or hybrid vehicle can make a significant difference in carbon emissions.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 40 mm, efov 80 mm, f/8, 1/2, ISO-64, Live ND

Here in the Niagara peninsula we consume mainly hydro electric and wind turbine power so our carbon impacts are somewhat easier to calculate.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 115 mm, efov 230 mm, f/2.8, 1 second, ISO-200

If you happen to be a climate change denier, don’t bother posting a comment about this article. It won’t be allowed since we don’t support the spread of baseless and harmful conspiracy theories.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear and technology as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.

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15 thoughts on “2717 Kilograms of Carbon”

  1. I became a hybrid owner a few years back with 2007 Prius that unfortunately got written off after a low speed accident. But was so pleased with the economy and clean performance that it was replaced with a Prius Aqua and my wife has a Prius Alpha. Really notice the exhaust smells of other cars now. Good for photography as there is no idling engine vibration when the car is stopped to take a quick shot from the driver’s seat!

  2. Hi Tom,

    The current pandemic undeniably wreaked havoc on many economies that it’s easy to overlook the benefits. One of the plusses was on the state of the environment. As a birder, I’ve been seeing more and more birds from the forests and mangrove areas here in the Philippines make further inroads inland. Maybe the greatly-decreased air pollution made it possible for the birds to do so as pointed out in this article about a study done by Cornell University in the USA: https://www.marthastewart.com/8043820/improved-air-pollution-saving-birds-new-study

    There are other notables too that the pandemic may have curtailed such as rampant overdevelopment of tourist sites here in our country. But I digress. Thanks for your musing, doing even a bit for the environment is important, perhaps more so at this crucial time in our history.

    Oggie
    http://www.lagalog.com

    1. Hi Oggie,

      Thanks for adding to the discussion! I wasn’t out with my camera at all during the first wave of the COVID-19, but I did get some emails last spring from some local bird photographers who noted that the number of birds normally seen at birding spots in the area had greatly increased. I agree that whatever we can do, even if its just doing a bit for the environment, can make a difference. Changes with transportation, home insulation and the foods we choose to eat can all have an impact.

      Tom

    1. Hi Lewsh,

      I know it seems very strange that a gallon of gas that weighs 6.3 pounds would produce almost 20 pounds of CO2. The additional weight comes from the oxygen with which the carbon combines when it burns and transforms into CO2. The atomic weight of a carbon molecule is 12. Each oxygen molecule has an atomic weight of 16. So, CO2 weighs 12 + 16 + 16 for a total of 44… compared to carbon at 12.

      Gasoline is roughly 87% carbon and 13% hydrogen by weight. So, of the 6.3 lbs. that gasoline weighs approximately 5.5 lbs. of it is carbon. Burning gasoline causes the carbon and hydrogen separate. The hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water, which may be one of the reasons that exhaust systems rust out over time. The carbon combines with two oxygen molecules to form carbon dioxide (CO2).

      When we calculate the amount of CO2 produced from a gallon of gasoline, we multiply the weight of the carbon in the gasoline (i.e. approximately 5.5 pounds) by 3.66 which is the increase in weight between a carbon molecule compared to a carbon molecule combined with 2 oxygen molecules in CO2 (44 divided by 12). We can then multiply the weight of the carbon (5.5 pounds) by 3.66, which equals about 20 lbs. of CO2.

      Like you, I initially thought that it didn’t make sense that one gallon of gasoline would produce significantly more weight in CO2 when burned. My youngest son explained the chemistry to me.

      Tom

      1. Thanks again for another explanation. I guess that explains why billions of tons of CO2 are emitted into the air every year.

  3. Thomas, so glad you added the bit about hydropower being your primary source of electricity, being in Carbon Rich Alberta, sadly most of our electricity is generated by coal fired generators which we’re in process of converting to natural gas, which has been accelerated to be completed by 2023! The carbon footprint is hard to calculate here, but I did and this was the conclusion: Fully electric car driven in AB, has a greater carbon footprint than driving my Highlander Hybrid, not because of tail pipe emissions but because of generator emissions. It will be way better when we’re on 100% NG but can’t compare to Ontario and BC hydro/ nuclear power.

    1. Hi Robin,

      I agree that we need to look at the source of our electric power generation as well. In some locations going a hybrid vehicle route may be the best overall environmental decision if fossil fuels are used to generate electric power. Increased use of solar and turbine generation will also help reduce grid emissions. You could add Quebec to your Ontario/BC grouping as that province generates a significant amount of hydro-electric power. Unfortunately our current provincial government is rather backward looking and cancelled a lot of wind turbine power generation when it was voted into office. I hope they are a one term government.

      Tom

      Tom

  4. Thanks for sharing this, we all need to do the best we can to preserve our environment. You note that hydro-electric is the main source of electricity in Canada. I’m wondering if there’s a way to calculate the offset in carbon when the electricity used to charge a vehicle comes from a fossil fuel power station, whether coal or oil-burning. Is it significant compared with the savings?

    1. Hydro Power is not primary electric source for all of Canada, it’s quite different Province by Province and is hugely relevant to the calculations because it’s where you plug your car in.

    2. Hi Colin,

      Hydro-electric is a major source in Ontario, Quebec and BC. It will become an important source on the East Coast as well once Muskrat Falls Project is fully implemented. We do have other provincial jurisdictions that will need to step up solar and turbine generation. Perhaps Robin can provide some information when local electricity is generated using fossil fuels.

      Tom

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