3 Ways to Reduce Vehicle Emissions in 2018

A new paper from the FHA suggests that offering drivers small incentives could help reduce vehicle emissions, such as miles-driven-based insurance plans and monetary incentives for public transportation use.


Even as local governments take the lead on utilizing electric fleets to reduce vehicle emissions, transportation emissions surpassed electricity as the largest culprit of greenhouse gas emissions since 1978.

A joint paper from Alan Greenberg of the Federal Highway Administration and John Evans from Cambridge Systematics outlines three simple incentives to help drivers in the U.S. reduce vehicle emissions.

#1 Change the way car insurance is paid

Currently, consumers pay a fixed price monthly or yearly for car insurance based on the average number of miles they drive in a year, as well as other factors. By switching to a pay-as-you-drive-and-you-save (PAYDAYS) system, drivers will be incentivized to drive less and reduce vehicle emissions. Bonus: This change can save consumers money, as well.

Greenberg has touted the PAYDAYS system in the past as one that would provide more transparency and accuracy for consumers paying for automobile insurance, in addition to helping reduce vehicle emissions.

In addition, due to more drivers staying off the road to save money, there would be less stress on infrastructure, fewer accidents and less utilization of first responders under the PAYDAYS system, according to Greenberg.

#2 Encourage employers to acknowledge non-driving employees

For companies and employers that allow free parking on their property parking garages, an equivalent cash incentive for employees that utilize other forms of transportation would encourage less vehicle use, reduce vehicle emissions and make it a level playing field.

In their paper, Greenberg and Evans call for “prohibit[ing] employers from discriminating against non-drivers in the commuter benefits they offer,” and estimate each commuter employee should receive an average of $120 per month to make up the benefit of free parking utilized by daily solo drivers.

#3 Change the tax on new vehicles to a miles-based plan

The current policy of a fixed sales tax on new vehicles at the time of purchase does more to prevent people from buying new vehicles, but nothing to slow the amount people drive. Greenberg and Evans propose spreading the tax out over three years, and basing the amount on the number of miles driven.

This change would not only encourage people to drive less, it would lift a barrier that currently prevents people from purchasing a new car for one more energy efficient.

By the authors’ estimation, making these three changes could achieve between 37 and 95 percent of the emissions reduction goals laid out in former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was halted by President Trump last March. The EPA formally announced plans to repeal the plan late last year.

Despite the rollback, cities across the U.S. continue to push for greener and more energy-efficient ways of running, from electric vehicle fleets for government offices and free public charging stations for electric cars.