Emissions from new cars continue to drop

20th April 2012


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Carbon dioxide emissions from new cars in the UK reached a new low in 2011, with the average new vehicle emitting 138.1g of CO2 per km, 27% less than in 1997

Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) in its annual sustainability report, reveal that CO2 emissions from new cars dropped by 4.2% in 2011, following a 3.5% cut in the previous 12 months and continuing a 15-year trend of steady emissions reductions.

According to the SMMT new cars are now 18% more fuel efficient than the average car on the road.

During 2011, sales of ultra-low carbon cars (producing less than 100g/km) almost doubled to 65,0000, accounting for 3.4% of all the new cars bought in the UK. At the other end of the spectrum, fewer than 10% of new cars purchased in the UK produced more than 175g/km last year, in comparison to more than half of all new cars in 2000.

“Industry can be proud of the progress it has made in reducing CO2 emissions and improving fuel efficiency,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.

“Future environmental and economic success will be determined by sustained investment in new technology, research and development, infrastructure and consumer incentives.”

The SMMT’s analysis also revealed that 46.8% of new cars are already generating less than 130gCO2/km, the EU’s 2015 target for all cars, up from 38.2% in 2010. However, the UK still lags slightly behind the EU average, which was 136.1g/km.

The SMMT’s figures reveal that new company and fleet cars are on average more efficient than new cars bought for domestic use (137.1g/km in comparison to 139.5g/km), but they also show that light commercial vehicles have not seen the same sustained reduction in emissions.

Between 2000-2010, emissions from new vans and light goods vehicles rose by 18% as companies have tended to buy larger vehicles that are more cost effective, and distances travelled have increased by more than 28%. While emissions from such vehicles have seen a reduction of around 2.6% annually since 2009, the average UK van emits 199.2g/km, significantly higher than in 2000.

With EU targets requiring 70% of manufacturers’ fleets to emit less than 175g/km in 2014, the SMMT highlights the important role of government policy and financial incentives, such as the plug-in grant scheme, to encourage the purchase of lower carbon vehicles.

During 2011, just 75 vans powered by alternative fuels, such as electricity or hydrogen, were registered on the SMMT’s new low-carbon database, highlighting, it concludes, the scale of transition needed.

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