Government should focus on particular future vehicle technologies, not ‘hedge their bets’

The UK Government needs to develop a firm policy line with regard to which ‘green’ vehicle technologies should receive fiscal support in order to encourage market confidence and a fuel supply infrastructure. So says the National Society for Clean Air’s (NSCA’s) response to the Government’s consultation on powering the vehicles of the future. The market cannot support all the ‘eco-friendly’ technologies currently being trailed, says the Society.

The NSCA has decided to respond to the consultation, which was published in December last year by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, because of the effect of road transport on air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, noise, and quality of life. The NSCA hopes to see the development of the best environmental options for transport.

The organisation points out that although the focus of the consultation has been on fostering technical development, there needs to be much greater emphasis on influencing consumer demand. “This could be achieved most effectively by a much steeper raking of fiscal instruments relating to carbon dioxide emissions,” says the NSCA.

However, the Association welcomes the Government’s commitment to provide consumers with more information on new vehicles and fuels, but states that this should go further. “There is a need for a coherent campaign of information and labelling which genuinely assists consumer choice,” says the NSCA. “We would encourage a wider emphasis on the value of buying vehicles which are fuel-efficient and fit for purpose.”

There also needs to be an analysis of the environmental impacts of new technologies, particularly in relation to resource use, for example, in the case of renewable energy sources, which could impact on ecosystems.

The NSCA is also concerned about the European future fuels directive, under which member states will have to substitute fossil fuels by biofuels starting from 2% in 2005 and reaching 5.75% in 2010. Any policy support by the UK Government should include the lifecycle benefits of key biofuels and the relative ecological and landscape impacts, says the Association.

Finally, the Government would do well to provide a clarification of the definition of ‘low carbon technologies’, which should be based on full lifecycle assessments, and should include other greenhouse gases such as methane.

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