UK leads EU on alternatively fuelled vehicles

The UK is leading the shift to electric vehicles (EV) in Europe as exhaust emissions from new cars fell for the 17th consecutive year to an all-time low in 2014.

That’s according to the latest annual Society of Motor manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) New Car CO2 Report for 2015, released today, which reveals that the UK has beaten the CO2 emission targets for 2015 a year early, with the average new car in 2014 releasing 4.2% less CO2 than the EU-wide target of 130g/km.

The report shows that the emission level of new cars in the UK in 2014 have dropped by almost a quarter since 2007, to 124.6g/km, a drop of 2.9% from last year’s average.

This means that new cars are now more than 20% more efficient than the average used car on the road which is emitting 156.6g/km.


SMMT says the drop can be attributed to the shift to more efficient diesel and petrol engines, combined with the growth of the alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFV) market.

The UK has witnessed a 400% year-on-year increase in AFV uptake, reaching 14.498 vehicles in 2014, up from 3,662 vehicles in 2013. This surge has put the UK ahead of the rest of Europe for plug-in registrations for the first time.

By the end of 2014 there was a 58.1% increase on the number of AFVs on UK roads on 2013.

The SMMT says that the use of diesel fuel is one of the biggest drivers of the reduction in CO2 emissions in the UK, saving three million tonnes of CO2 to date and reducing the average fuel use for new cars by 11%.

However diesel cars have recently come under fire for being a major contributor to Nitrogen Dioxide emissions. Earlier this month the UK Government was taken to the Supreme Court over its failure to address air pollution levels in line with EU limits by ClientEarth.

In particular, ClientEarth was seeking a complete ban for diesel cars from city centres in any future air pollution plan.

Tax income

The report also highlights the importance of addressing the future car taxation system for the next Government as almost 70% of new cars in 2014 were exempt from car tax for the first year.

The SMMT is calling on the Government in a second report, also released today, to work closer with industry when reviewing motoring taxation regimes to ensure demand for newer cleaner cars is maintained to enable the UK to meet the EU-wide target of 95g/km by 2020.

“The UK automotive sector has made enormous strides in cutting emissions across the board and should be proud of its achievements,” SMMT Chief Executive, Mike Hawes said: “However, there is a long way to go, and meeting ambitious targets in 2020 will require ongoing support and investment.

“Striking the delicate balance between influencing buying behaviour, encouraging investment and maintaining critical tax income will be a big challenge.”

Air pollution cost

The automotive industry’s progress with dealing with CO2 emissions comes at the same time as a World Health Organisation (WHO) study reveals that air pollution is costing European economies US $1.6 trillion a year in diseases and deaths.

WHO says that the 600,000 premature deaths attributed to air pollution account for $1.4 trillion, with another 10% from diseases.

The combined amount is nearly equivalent to one tenth of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the entire European Union in 2013.

WHO regional director for Europe Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab said: “Curbing the health effects of air pollution pays dividends. The evidence we have provides decision-makers across the whole of government with a compelling reason to act. If different sectors come together on this, we not only save more lives but also achieve results that are worth astounding amounts of money.

“Cross-sectoral work is the backbone of the environment and health process, which was initiated 26 years ago, and it is even more relevant today.”

Lucinda Dann

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