New cars continue to drive down CO2

14th May 2012


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  • Mitigation



Carbon emissions from new cars in the UK fell a further 4.2% in 2011, reaching a record low of 138.1g CO2 per km, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)

Although lagging slightly behind the EU average of 136.1g CO2/km, the SMMT confirms that new cars in the UK emit 27% less CO2 than in 1997, and are 18% more fuel efficient than their used counterparts.

According to its annual sustainability report, more than 46% of new cars bought in 2011 meet the EU’s 2015 emissions target of 130g CO2/km, up from just 38% the year before.

Sales of ultra-low-carbon cars – producing less than 100g CO2/km – also saw dramatic increases, almost doubling to 65,000 and accounting for 3.4% of all new cars bought last year. “Industry can be proud of the progress it has made in reducing carbon emissions and improving fuel efficiency,” said SMMT’s chief executive, Paul Everitt.

SMMT also reports that company and fleet cars are more efficient than new cars bought for domestic use, with the former averaging 137.1g CO2/km compared with 139.5g CO2/km for the latter.

Emissions from light commercial vehicles are going in the opposite direction, however. SMMT reveals that emissions from such vehicles increased by 18% between 2000 and 2010, with businesses buying larger, more cost-effective vehicles. And while emissions have been cut by around 2% annually since 2009, the average UK van emits 199.2g CO2/km, significantly higher than the EU 2014 target of 175g CO2/km. In addition, just 75 new vans powered by alternative fuels, such as electricity or hydrogen, were registered on the SMMT’s low-carbon database in 2011.

In a new joint report outlining the government’s bioenergy strategy, DECC, Defra and the transport department highlight the important role of biofuels in decarbonising transport. “For as long as we use fossil fuels, sustainable first-generation biofuels … offer a cost-effective contribution to reduced emissions from transport,” the report states.

However, Clare Wenner, head of renewable transport at the Renewable Energy Association, warned the transition was likely to be slow and need support.

“The government needs to craft stable policy to support the first generation biofuels market, to enable the key players to build up their markets. They will then be in a position where they can afford to invest in the research and development required to make these future technologies viable.”


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