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New car CO2 emissions fall at fastest rate on record

CO2 emissions from new cars fell by their biggest ever margin in 2008 with the average model now emitting just 158.0g/km – 4.2% less than the 2007 figure and 16.8% down on the 189.8g/km base level in 1997.

The figures, revealed in the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ (SMMT) annual New Car CO2 Report, showed that while the number of cars on the road and the distance travelled has increased, their share of total UK emissions continues to fall. Cars now account for just 11.5% of the country’s total CO2 emissions, largely as a result of new technology, improved fuel consumption rates and better consumer awareness.

CO2 emissions have fallen across all market segments with the larger end of the market making some of the biggest improvements. In addition, increased consumer awareness and changes to vehicle taxation have resulted in a move towards ‘best in class’ choices with most consumers opting to buy a model with CO2 emissions within the bottom quarter of their preferred segment’s range.

The adoption of the new car CO2 regulation in December 2008 set a phase-in target for vehicle manufacturers to ensure their average fleet emissions do not exceed 130g/km by 2015. In the UK, there are already 236 models emitting less than 130g/km on the UK market but for the target to be met, an annual improvement of 2.5% per year must be maintained.

“The motor industry has made enormous progress in its work to cut the environmental impact of its products but more must be done if the tough targets set by European legislation are to be met,” said SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt. “Maintaining a steady rate of fleet renewal is vital to this success so the recent fall in new car registrations presents more than an economic challenge. Again, we urge government to implement a scrappage incentive scheme to take older, high-emitting cars off the road and boost the new car market.”

In February 2009, SMMT made a formal proposal for a scrappage incentive scheme to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) at the request of business secretary Lord Mandelson. The proposal would incentivise owners of cars and vans over nine years old to scrap their vehicle in accordance with the European End of Life Vehicle directive in exchange for £2,000 towards a new or one-year-old car or van. The vehicle scrapped must be fully taxed, insured and MOT’d and have been registered to the existing owner for at least one year.

At â‚Ź20bn, the automotive sector is Europe’s largest investor in R&D, driving industry forward and helping deliver more sustainable motoring for the 21st century. Technological innovation has helped car and CV manufacturers slash CO2 and air quality emissions from vehicles. New diesel cars for example emit 95% less soot from the tailpipe than those made 15 years ago and average new car CO2 has been cut by 17% since 1997. The energy needed to produce each vehicle is down 12%, water use is down 9% and waste to landfill is down 25%, compared to 2006 performance.  CO2 emissions per vehicle produced have fallen 14% in the last year and by 45% since 1999. Almost 10,000 tonnes of waste have been prevented from entering landfill sites. For more details, download SMMT’s ninth annual Sustainability Report from the SMMT website