Clean Cars 101

What is a clean car?

Clean cars run on as little gasoline as possible. As a result, they generate fewer pollutants and global warming emissions than the average conventional car, and save consumers money on fueling.

A range of innovative vehicle and fuel technologies power clean cars, all of which reduce, or eliminate, the need for oil.  

Why do we need clean cars?

Transportation accounts for the majority of U.S. oil consumption, generates a third of U.S. global warming emissions, and creates air pollution that adversely affects our health.

Clean cars require less fuel than conventional cars, decreasing our nation’s oil use. They produce fewer heat-trapping emissions, slowing the pace of global warming. And they emit fewer pollutants, improving air quality and public health.

How much oil can we save with clean car technologies?

A lot. Clean vehicle technologies provide the tools to significantly increase the fuel efficiency of our nation’s cars and trucks and dramatically reduce oil consumption.

By 2030, clean vehicles could save more than 50 billion gallons of gasoline a year—nearly half the amount we consume today—and provide the foundation for a national oil savings plan that would reduce projected U .S. oil consumption by 50 percent over the next two decades.

How do clean cars work?

A range of advanced vehicle technologies can be used to increase fuel efficiency and reduce oil consumption.

  • Hybrid cars combine battery power with a small gas engine.  
  • Plug-in hybrids can be charged to run exclusively on battery power for a short range before the gas engine engages.
  • Electric cars run entirely on battery power and recharge from an electrical outlet.  
  • Fuel cell vehicles use hydrogen gas to power the engine, producing only water as a byproduct.
  • Conventional cars that run on gasoline can be made much cleaner by using more fuel-efficient vehicle and engine designs and by burning biofuels instead of petroleum.

What about biofuels?

Biofuels are created from organic materials like corn, grass, and vegetable oil. They have the potential to provide a sustainable, low-impact fuel source that can help reduce our reliance on oil— but only if we make smart decisions about how we produce them.

Corn-based ethanol currently dominates the market, but its production is energy- and water-intensive and provides little to no reduction in overall emissions. Better, cleaner alternatives exist, such as cellulosic biofuels made from wood, agricultural waste, and even garbage.

How can we get more clean cars on the road?

Clean vehicles are rapidly increasing, but still account for only a small percentage of America’s cars and trucks. To accelerate the adoption of clean vehicle technology, we need to ensure strong fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards are in place that speed the development and rollout of clean vehicles. We must also invest in the development of clean biofuels and advanced vehicle technologies that move us toward an ultimately oil-free future.

We Need Your Support
to Make Change Happen

We can protect consumers, the climate, and our environment from the growing costs and risks of our oil use —but not without you. Your generous support helps develop science-based solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.