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A Greener Road Ahead
Short of using tyres made from hemp or converting your combustion engine to algae (not as strange as it seems), drivers can often feel there is little more they can do to minimise the ecological impact of their motoring. Yes, there might be an ever-growing plethora of fuel-efficient cars on the market plus tax incentives aplenty, but many motorists suppose they need to summon superhuman levels of green halo-ness to reach forthcoming commissions targets. Which isn't great news for air quality campaigners - in the UK, transport accounts for nearly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, more than half or which comes from the humble car.
Yet some great progress has been made in recent years. A 2014 report by the SMMT showed that CO2 emissions have fallen across every strata of cars, and executive cars in particular. Emissions from company motors in 2013 were lower than those from small city cars in 2010.
The increasing popularity of diesel over the last decade also accounts for this CO2 cutback. Diesel-fuelled cars burn less fuel, therefore producing fewer grammes of Co2 per km than those powered by petrol. They're also in demand. In 2010 sales of diesel cars overtook those of petrol for the first time, possibly aided by eco-friendly government legislation. Today, vehicles with high CO2 emissions are penalised by higher fuel duty tax, while diesels with the lowest CO2 emissions are exempt from road tax and congestion charges. (They also receive better insurance premiums too).
But petrol-powered engines appear to be fighting back, thanks to better turbos that make them more fuel-efficient. Four years ago, diesel-fuelled cars from Lex produced 16 per cent fewer CO2 emissions per kilometre than petrol-fuelled cars. By 2013, this had dropped to seven per cent. Furthermore, a 2013 ministry report showed that diesel fumes were more damaging to health than petrol engines. The findings, published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, found that diesel-related air pollution contributes to lung disease, heart attacks and asthma, costing the NHS more than 10 times as much as those problems caused by petrol fumes.
Environmental issues are also being taken more seriously by employers. Recent research by Lex Autolease has shown that 45 per cent of managers have introduced focused policies in the last two years. meanwhile, 42 per cent of fleet managers said they welcome the idea of rentals base don mileage, with 12 per cent saying they liked the idea of employee car clubs in city centres.
Despite this burgeoning eco-awareness, popularity of electric vehicles and hybrids remains fairy debatable. Only two per cent of vehicles in Lex Autolease's fleet is an electric car, reflecting national trends which show they account for 2.3 per cent of the market.
However, SMMT statistics recently revealed that alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) were up 59 per cent in October 2014, while electric carmakers Tesla delivered a record 7,785 sedans in the third quarter of last year. Incentives about for electric, hybrid or AFV's including government grands of up to ?5,000 from the purchase price, exemption from London's pricey congestion charge and benefit-in-kind taxation. This taxation advantageous for company cars, although Lex Autolease has found that it triggers confusion in many executive car drivers. Company car tax was reformed in 2002 to an emission-based system, with the charge calculated by applying figure (determined by fuel type and CO2 emissions) to the list price of the car. If you own a cheap car and emit minimal CO2, you're much less likely to find the taxman scary. Despite this, only 50 per cent of company car drivers surveyed knew that CO2 emissions were involved in calculating their tax bill.
Furthermore, 45 per cent assumed their tax was evaluated by engine size and almost a quarter (23 per cent) believed it was affected by the make of car. One in seven even thought their tax was determined by family of friends driving the car.
A slew of emissions-slashing policies will be ushered in during 2015. This September, the Euro 6 emissions standards for cars comes into force, while all large organisations need to complete their ESOS energy adit assessment by December - something which will no doubt please those 44 per cent of fleet managers who would like stricter emissions standards. However, by 2020 (the European Commission's CO2 emissions target year), green automotive technology may have have radically changes the way we drive. Self-driving cars are due to hit British roads in soon, with cities such as Bristol, London, Coventry and Milton Keynes all hosting trials. A sports ca (the QUANT e-Sportlimousine) that runs on saltwater was recently certified for use on EU roads. Then there's the US firm Sapphire Energy, which produces algae-based crude oil, meaning algae-powered cars could soon be a reality too. However, there are already plenty of environmentally friendly transport options available, as our selection of green vehicles shows here...
FOUR OF THE BEST
Four of the most efficient eco-friendly cars:
1) Mitsubishi Outlander
2) Nissan Leaf
3) BMW i3
4) Renault Zoe
by IoD 'Business Wisdom' | 12 January 2016