Greener motoring is the key to cleaner air

The Government has recently put in place a range of new measures and initiatives aimed at improving air quality across the country. A key element is the drive towards greener motoring and the switch to alternative fuels and sustainable forms of transport, combined with the introduction of higher standards on the emissions of a range of polluting gases.

According to a government wide strategy announced recently to promote greener motoring, one in ten cars will be low carbon in the next ten years. The Department for Transport, DTI, DEFRA and HM Treasury unveiled the Powering Future Vehicles strategy at the Science Museum. It aims to promote new vehicle technologies and fuels and sets out ambitious Government targets to ensure that, by 2012, ten per cent of new cars sold in the UK will be low carbon vehicles and that 600 or more new buses coming into operation each year will be low carbon.

Transport pollutants

Michael Meacher, Minister of State for the Environment, said: “I am delighted to see the launch of the Powering Future Vehicles Strategy today. Transport is the fastest rising source of emission of greenhouse gases and air pollutants. Major reductions have been made over the last decade due to improved technology but the real break-through will be when vehicles are developed with no or low emissions. This strategy will enable this break-through to happen.”

Industry Minister Alan Johnson said: “Manufacturing is a key part of the UK’s future – but in order to lead the field and gain competitive advantage, we need innovation. From an environmental perspective the UK will have to embrace low carbon transport, so I encourage our automotive industry and those supplying it to engage whole-heartedly in this strategy. I am impressed with the vehicles we see here today but I want the UK to be developing more of these products in the years ahead.”

John Healy, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said: “New vehicle technologies and fuels offer opportunities for radically reducing the impact of road transport on the environment. We must ensure that these opportunities are taken. In line with this thinking the Chancellor has already announced significant tax changes to achieve environmental benefits and we will continue to use tax policy to deliver environmental benefits over the coming years.”

Involving industry

To help take the strategy forward, the Government is backing a Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership which will involve vehicle and fuel industries, consumer, environmental and other stakeholders to promote development, production and take up of greener vehicles by industry and consumers. Low carbon cars on show outside the Science Museum included: LDV Wavedrive (a prototype British electric van), Honda Insight (a petrol hybrid car), Toyota Prius (a petrol hybrid car), and Fuel Cell Vauxhall Zafira (a fuel cell car).

Ministers have asked Professor Jim Skea, Head of Policy Studies, to work with industry and environment leaders and establish the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership by the end of the year. A joint Ministerial Low Carbon Group will oversee the progress of the strategy and report to Parliament annually. Low carbon cars, as referred to in the strategy, mean vehicles that emit 100gm of carbon dioxide or less per kilometre, equivalent 70 mpg. This compares to today’s new average car which emits some 178g of carbon dioxide with an average 40mpg. The strategy also includes a bus target – that 600 new buses a year by 2012 will be low-carbon defined as emitting 30% below current average carbon emissions.

The Powering Future Vehicles strategy strengthens measures already in place to counter climate change by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide from transport.

Fuel changes

The Government is also urging drivers of cars using Lead Replacement Petrol (LRP) to prepare for fuel changes, as fewer petrol stations are expected to sell the fuel. Leaflets explaining the move are being distributed. As demand for LRP is falling, it is expected that more and more petrol stations will cease stocking it so that by the end of 2003 it may cease to be available altogether.

The leaflets will be available from MoT test stations shortly and will advise motorists on the alternatives available, which will enable them to continue using their cars.

Transport Minister David Jamieson said: “Over time there will be fewer and fewer outlets for Lead Replacement Petrol, but there is no reason why drivers using LRP shouldn’t continue to enjoy the use of their cars. The Department for Transport is distributing advice and information to help drivers best prepare for the change.”

Drivers of these vehicles will be able to buy lead replacement additives in bottles or syringe-like applicators instead. These are added to the tank every time the car is filled with the appropriate grade of unleaded petrol as recommended for the vehicle.

While many of these cars have gone out of service, it is estimated there are still approximately 1.5million on the road, accounting for around 3% of total petrol sales.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie