Emissions of CO2 drop to their lowest level yet, but industry experts warn that diesel's damaged image could hinder progress

Carbon dioxide emissions produced by cars have reached an all-time low in Britain, but industry experts think the damaged image of diesel could halt the progress of this 19-year trend.

At the end of 2016 the average new car in Britain produced 120.1g of CO2 per km, which is 1.1% lower than the year before and a third of the value from 2000. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) cites the increase in popularity of diesel cars as the most significant contributor to this reduction, with the average diesel emitting 20% less CO2 than the average petrol car.

However, due to diesel’s higher output of nitrogen oxide (NOx), which is linked to respiratory problems in humans, many politicians, including London Mayor Sadiq Khan, are considering penalising drivers of the highest NOx polluters.

Strong UK car market growth spurred on by alternatively fuelled vehicles

The resulting damage to diesel's image could reduce sales, something the SMMT argues would hinder the UK’s progress in CO2 reduction. It added that the latest diesels are significantly more efficient than older models.

“For [the UK’s reduction in CO2] to continue, modern low-emission diesels and alternatively fuelled vehicles such as plug-ins, hydrogen cars and hybrids must be encouraged with long term incentives," said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“Turning our back on any of these will undermine progress on CO2 targets as well as air quality objectives," he added. "The UK has a successful track record in encouraging these new technologies, but this must be maintained through a consistent approach to fiscal and other incentives.”

First all-EV car dealership to open in Milton Keynes

Plug-in hybrid models are often labelled as a cleaner alternative to diesels, and the UK’s demand for this segment is the highest in Europe, representing 23.8% of total sales and ranking ahead of France and Germany.

But growth in the segment slowed by 18.1% in 2016, and industry experts predict the trend to continue with the introduction of new tax brackets in Britain next month. The updated Vehicle Excise Duty rates will move 66% of alternatively fuelled vehicles from tax exemption to being subject to a £130 flat-rate annual fee, meaning one of the strongest pull factors for plug-in cars will be removed.

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Comments
11

2 March 2017
"with the average diesel emitting 20% less CO2 than the average petrol car." but chucks out lots more deadly NOx and tiny bits of soot for the lungs. I think a bigger reduction in CO2 is probably down to more efficient small Turbo Petrol engines over the last 5 years which is why they're having to change the taxing system again. As to "but industry experts think the damaged image of diesel could halt progress of this 19-year trend" they're just protecting their investment!

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

2 March 2017
If these calculations are based on official CO2 figures from NEDC then I would add about 25% to get a real-world CO2 output (and thats without considering defeat devices) Most of the effort from the manufacturers goes into engineering solutions to skew the tests results Real-world efficiency probably hasn't change much, although surely it should have improved a bit I'd like to see some proper investigative journalism on this using TrueMPG data from WhatCar and as xxxx rightly says, CO2 has just been swapped for air pollution

2 March 2017
Small petrol cars have consistently achieved around 40-50mpg for the last 50 years or so. Improvements in engine efficiency, reduced friction, aerodynamics etc have pretty much been offset by much heavier cars capable of more performance. Most of the real CO2 improvement is as a result of the shift to diesel with its inherently better thermal efficiency. The true measure of CO2 is simply the amount of fuel sold (since a given weight of fuel produces a fixed amount of CO2). This takes into account the whole vehicle population, distances travelled, everything. I wonder how this correlates with the apparent improvements being measured on the current test cycle?

2 March 2017
Too late, the government has already turned its back on low polluting vehicles by increasing the road tax to £140 irrespective of co2 or any other emission, my wife's mii is a relatively low polluting petrol car as is a Toyota hybrid, from April these will be taxed at the same rate as higher polluters so no incentive at all to buy low polluting cars. Forward thinking our government isn't it.

2 March 2017
[quote=si73]Too late, the government has already turned its back on low polluting vehicles by increasing the road tax to £140 irrespective of co2 or any other emission, my wife's mii is a relatively low polluting petrol car as is a Toyota hybrid, from April these will be taxed at the same rate as higher polluters so no incentive at all to buy low polluting cars. Forward thinking our government isn't it.[/quote] yup, and allowing the monopoly of rapid chargers by one company and let it charge ludicrous fees, killing off use, and reducing subsidises on vehicles, I know it wasn't popular with many, taxpayers money funding vehicle purchasing but it was necessary to make it viable for early adopters to kick start the change, its now in danger of stalling. Manufacturers are not helping by modding existing models to EV and Hybrid giving us less attractive compromised vehicles.

2 March 2017
[quote=si73]Too late, the government has already turned its back on low polluting vehicles by increasing the road tax to £140 irrespective of co2 or any other emission, my wife's mii is a relatively low polluting petrol car as is a Toyota hybrid, from April these will be taxed at the same rate as higher polluters so no incentive at all to buy low polluting cars. Forward thinking our government isn't it.[/quote] If you drive any distance, surely the cost of fuel,and the tax you pay on it is the financial incentive to buy and use an economical car? Road tax is a small part of the cost of running most cars. If you buy a relatively cheap car for say £10,000 you will lose around £6,000 in depreciation over 3 years, quite possibly more. Paying £140 a year road tax, instead of £30 will hardly make much difference, will it? It might amount to an extra 5% cost over the 3 years, much less when you add in fuel costs too.

2 March 2017
Well it did to us, we bought the mii because we liked it but we also like fiestas and the 1.25 fiestas when we bought ours had good deals but are £110 to tax instead of £20, we looked at cars in a price range not size range, we discounted this and several others for the same reason, in the 18 months we have had it we have done about 5k miles so the small fuel economy differences were largely irrelevant but I don't want to pay anymore than I have to on rfl, I am sure I am not alone. If I was buying after April there would be no incentive to get the lower emitting mii, also why would you pay for the eco version that drops the co2 below 100g/km when both models are now the same price to tax? I do agree with you though that if you are a high mileage user you will probably buy the most economic and therefore low emitting car you can.

2 March 2017
Would n't a more realistic figure be annual fuel sales?

2 March 2017
Would n't a more realistic figure be annual fuel sales?

2 March 2017
No doubt CO2 emissions were mush lower in the past when there were fewer cars. There's lots more to question in this article and in the SMMT press release. For example who says new diesels are cleaner? The official Euro test process? We already know that is seriously flawed. Plus all plug-in cars are not getting a tax hike, only hybrids. This will encourage people to buy pure EVs, which makes sense because they do the most to reduce local air pollution. Plus turning our back on diesel (if only) won't cause an increase in CO2 from cars if EVs are further incentivised, as they are in Norway. So take this article with a pinch of salt. Or more accurately, a pinch of particulates.

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