Since we started On the Road Lending, making a positive impact on the environment has been one of our primary goals. Most of our clients who have cars are driving older polluting vehicles. In terms of emissions other than carbon dioxide, those older cars are far more polluting than a modern vehicle. Then there’s maintenance. Newer cars will typically use less oil, require fewer new parts, and require less maintenance than older ones, which also positively impacts the environment.
We track a comparison of the environmental impact of the vehicles our On the Road Lending clients purchase against what they most recently drove using a side-by-side comparison tool on the Department of Energy’s www.fueleconomy.gov website. This site tracks fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions ratings for vehicles. Over 96% of the cars our clients purchase have better ratings than the cars they traded, with around 35% improvements in fuel efficiency and reductions in emissions. This is largely because the cars our clients are buying are predominantly newer vehicles with smaller engines. Our hope is that through our program, and as much as possible through vouchers available through programs like Texas’s Low-Income Repair and Replacement and Assistance Program, we can help some of those lower-income families who own the more than 489,000 polluting vehicles in our region get out of those cars and into something better by giving them assistance with vehicle purchasing and providing a lower-cost financing option.
Our client Alfie was in a position that many of our clients face—he had an older car that needed constant repair. Often he had to take the bus to work because his car was in the shop, and, eventually, it just didn’t make sense to spend more money on his 2001 Volvo station wagon. He had earned his master's degree and graduated when the economy was sliding and was having trouble finding a job—especially one he could reach on a train or bus route. He not only had his own student loans to pay but also some for his kids, so he was under a lot of financial stress. After we got Alfie an affordable loan for a newer car, he got a job as a counselor that he could not have taken without a reliable car. We also connected Alfie with the AirCheck Texas Drive a Clean Machine Program that reduced the cost of his purchase by $3,000 when his old Volvo that failed emissions tests was taken off of the road permanently. The Camry he bought has 32% less emissions and a 31% better environmental impact score.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a plan for peace and prosperity for people and our planet. At its core are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that are an urgent call for action. They recognize that ending poverty and other deficiencies requires targeted strategies to improve health and education, reduce inequality, and boost economic growth—while addressing climate change and preservation of resources. On the Road Lending’s successful outcomes are directly aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to reduce water pollution, provide for improvement in energy efficiency, strengthen resilience to natural disasters, reduce fuel consumption, and minimize impacts of ocean acidification. 81% of our borrowers purchase vehicles that are better for the environment than the vehicle they previously drove, achieving an average of 30% reduction in emissions and fuel consumption.
We expect these numbers to improve as car manufacturers get on board. For instance, GM, the largest U.S. automaker, recently announced plans to be carbon neutral by 2040 in its global products and operations. GM also aspires to eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035.
Electric vehicles are part of this movement. Although only about 1% of the vehicles sold in the United States are electric or hybrid, I am inclined to believe that we may see a broad adoption of electric vehicles in years to come, less due to environmental concerns than for a market preference for high-tech toys. Tesla stock sales certainly attest to this fascination.
While our clients are not purchasing Teslas, every little bit certainly helps, and we’re proud to be doing our part to improve health and air quality by getting older polluting cars off the road!