Archive for category CO2 and Cars

Economic crisis - the perfect opportunity for green measures - if only they could see it

No cutsIt’s 2012 and the world is undergoing major economic upheaval. In pretty much every major country the buzzword is ‘cuts’. Cuts to staff, cuts to expenditure and cuts to investment. Although governments are talking about long-term plans, most actions seem very short-termist, and it’s therefore not a very good time for green initiatives, most of which will take time and need investment. This is all meant to save money, but it’s definitely putting a stop to saving the planet!

And, from a CO2 reduction point of view, I think they’ve got it wrong in so many ways. I realise you probably need financial training to work it out, but it seems to me that governments are putting their own welfare over that of the people. Throughout the 4 years that I’ve been writing this blog (ok, not so often recently…), I have focused on one message above all others: the measures you take to reduce emissions can also save you money.

Instead of reducing investment in green initiatives, governments - and especially the UK government should be pushing them forwards and helping individuals, companies, even their own institutions reduce their costs. Here are some examples:

  1. A greater push and tighter regulations on company emissions. Greater awareness on electricity consumption alone could reduce electricity bills hugely across the country.
  2. Backing off from cutting the feed-in tariff. I know the government has just suffered a defeat on this, but they really need to rethink and maintain the higher rate for now. A huge opportunity exists here to help whole communities save money by installing solar panels.
  3. Tightening vehicle emissions rules still further and even considering subsidising the development of EVs. It’s a no-brainer. Let’s make our cars more efficient and stop this bank-breaking dependency on petrol.
  4. Encouraging other forms of green transport. How’s about giving tax breaks to people who cycle? Or allowing them to claim expenses to maintain their bikes? How’s about making the ‘Cycle to work’ scheme obligatory in every company over a certain size? Millions have already flocked to two wheels (me included) but more would follow if given a little push in the right direction.
  5. I know that there are some initiatives coming up that use this kind of thinking, including an loan scheme to help home owners invest in green energy, but more could and should be done.

    There, rant over for today. But I think I’m going to keep on at this one.

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MP suggests cars carry ‘climate health warnings’ - maybe someone’s listening

It’s very rare that I am impressed by a UK MP’s ideas or statements on Climate Change, but for once, someone has raised their voice and come up with something sensible. MP Colin Challen, chair of the all-party climate change group has come up with the idea of government health warnings on all car adverts, pointing out that they are damaging to our health and to our climate, and that consumers are being misled by the ‘green’ message now being given out in many ads, suggesting to some extent that they are now good for the environment.

Ok, maybe this is a bit far, but I’m still happy to see someone pointing out - if in a bit more extreme manner - that car manufacturers are getting away with selling cars without highlighting the negative effect they do have on the environment. I’m especially happy as it’s a subject I have brought up before, although my suggestion is slightly less extreme - that all car ads in all formats should display as clearly as possible the CO2 emissions generated by the car in question.

It has got better - most posters and magazine ads do now include CO2 emissions figures (in very small print), but TV ads still blatantly avoid the subject. In fact, I’d love to do a test with a panel of consumers to get them to estimate the actual CO2 emissions of a series of cars based on the message from their ads.

And that’s the point. It’s not clear, and something needs to be done to ensure that we make educated decisions. I don’t think we need great big ‘CARS CAN KILL THE PLANET’ health warnings - this is the ‘THE END IS NIGH’ approach to getting people to reduce CO2 emissions, and it puts out more backs than it encourages people. However, the fact that someone influential is pointing out the absence of any clear message on CO2 emissions in many car ads is a step in the right direction.

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Fast-charge batteries? Good news, though don’t hold your breath… yet

The world’s press got very excited last week by a letter published in ‘Nature’ magazine by two researchers from MIT. They have been looking into enhancing lithium iron phosphate electrodes in order to improve charging times for batteries, and talk about the potential for Li-ion batteries (used in mobile phones, but also in the Tesla electric supercar) that could charge fully in seconds.

Clearly this would be good for mobile phone and laptop users, but just imagine what it would do for electric cars, where probably the biggest barrier to entry apart from how long they last is how long it takes to charge their batteries. Theoretically, our MIT heroes suggest, and the media emphasises, this could mean electric cars that are chargeable in under 10 minutes.

This truly would be an amazing development, although a quick surf around the more intelligent parts of the blogosphere suggests that things aren’t as simple as all that: fast charge batteries may not be capable of providing the same level of power, and the fast-charge process itself could require far more power than today’s typical batter-charge process. And anyway, this is a discovery in its early days…

Still, it does make you think - well, it makes me think at any rate. If I go back to the piece I wrote on Lord Stern’s analysis of what green technologies we should be investing in right now, he pushed the development of efficient batteries right down the scale. I said I didn’t agree then, and I repeat it now. Whilst I fully realise that batteries need to get their power from somewhere, I still think that electric power needs to play a major role in transport before we manage to develop other more efficient, safe solutions such as hydrogen power and maybe one day fusion on an industrial basis.

Electric power already delivers, if you work within its limitations. The Tesla will travel up to 220 miles between charges, and at high speeds, but its hugely expensive. Smaller electric cars such as the Nice Mega City are far more affordable, but with a typical range of 60 miles at 40 mph and only 2 seats. The Vectrix scooter will travel over 60 miles at an average of 40 mph with a 2 hour charge time. Other day to day cars and scooters are arriving on the market that will travel up to 100 miles per charge, even if at limited speeds. As a commuter solution, electric vehicles already work, but they could take far more of the transport market if the challenges of range, power and charge time were improved still further.

To me, the development of fast-charge batteries is one crucial step for electric vehicles, as it takes the pressure off the need for greater range - although this remains important. Also, if you think laterally, it brings into play other potential solutions. If a battery can be charged easier and faster, couldn’t it be charged by green energy in this way? Surely a fast-charge battery would be ideal for a hybrid car, enabling it to take even more weight off the petrol side of the bargain?

So I at least am going to watch this space closely, whilst I continue to save up for my Vectrix, or whatever is the best solution by the time I hit my budget target. I’m convinced that this is the future (or one of the futures) of private and public transport.

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How can we continue to reduce CO2 emissions and stimulate the economy?

In these difficult economic times, many people have voiced concern over the fact that the many advances made over the last few years in the battle against global warming may be negated due to the sudden massive reduction in investment in this area.

It has always been recognised that investment is required on a public and, to a lesser extent a private level in order to reduce our CO2 emissions at the speed recommended to avoid major global incidents. Governments need to invest in our infrastructure, in planning for a future where oil becomes more and more scarce, and where less is more with regard to energy consumption, and everyday people need to invest in changing their lightbulbs, replacing inefficient appliances, and in more efficient, but more expensive fuel sources. Suddenly noone has any money: the governments have spent it on saving our banks, and people have lost it on the markets, in the drop in the value of housing, or quite simply by losing their jobs. Everyone is tightening their belt, and this is not good news for the new, Green Economy.

Barack Obama, I am glad to say, has made huge steps to counter these concerns by guaranteeing investment in the Green Economy. He has openly said that his goal is to stimulate the economy by investing in this new area, creating new jobs, planning for a better future, and, ultimately, saving people money in the process. In the UK, however, we haven’t quite got that far. There is proposed investment in improving efficiency in our homes, but many other potential areas of investment still seem up in the air, either due to lack of funds or lack of decision-making.

Which is why a briefing paper published this week by Lord Stern of Stern Report fame and Alex Bowen, entitled ‘An outline of the case for a ‘Green’ stimulus is well worth paying attention to. This short but perfectly formed document takes an intelligent, practical approach with the aim of identifying how boosting the Green Economy can boost our economy overall, thus justifying ongoing investment in spite of hard times.

The report looks at a range of different solutions currently which have been, are being, or should be considered to help us reduce our CO2 emissions. It then looks at each of them from several angles, with the goal of identifying those solutions that can both promote economic recovery and limit the adverse effects of climate change. How quickly can each solution be implemented, is the investment required short or long-term, how much will it help reduce emissions, and will it help businesses and everyday people save money, thus aiding recovery?

Based on these scoring criteria, the 5 best performers are:

  • Improving residential home energy efficiency
  • Improving public building energy efficiency
  • Replacing boilers on a massive scale
  • Replacing lights and other appliances
  • Producing new, fuel-efficient cars

And the worst 5 solutions are:

  • Domestic renewable energy
  • Encouraging energy R&D
  • Connected urban transport
  • Advanced Battery development
  • Carbon capture and storage projects

I don’t totally agree with the scoring in every case, and it would be easy to change around the order by changing the criteria, but the approach is still very interesting and makes you think. I’m happy to know that point 1 seems to be already in progress, but I feel that point 2 needs far more investment and point 3 is simply too expensive to consider today. And don’t even get me on to fuel-efficient cars, as the car companies are really dragging their heels here, and because for me this is totally linked with advanced battery development.

Still, at a time when difficult choices have to be made, I am impressed by this attempt to help clarify the arguments for the different solutions. If you want to learn more, you can read the whole paper here - it’s not too long and well worth the read.

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NICE Car Company goes into administration - where’s the support for the cars of the future?

I was going to write a positive article today. I’ve been researching the electric car market this week, and was starting to get excited at the increasing number of options - some of them even starting to compete with the internal combustion engine in terms of top speed and distance between charges, and at the cars that have been announced for the next 12 months.

The announcement of the new electric Mini put me into an even better mood because, although it’s still not that practical (only 2 seats, and a maximum range of 150 miles), and at least for 2009 will only be available for a limited trial, it is tangible evidence of the mainstream car manufacturers looking for solutions in the electric vehicle market.

So, boosted by all of this good news, I was intending to write about how we seemed, finally, to be reaching a ‘tipping point’, where electric cars are actually being taken seriously, even by the mainstream, and looking forward to exciting developments over the next few years: the first electric 4-seater; the first 400 mile electric car; the first electric car that is genuinely worth its price.

And then came this morning, and not one, but two pieces of depressing news:

First, I read that the NICE Car Company, along with G-Wiz the UK’s main electric car distributor today, has gone into administration. Apparently sales had dipped to under 1 car per week this year and, in spite of bullish announcements about new models and a new test-drive stall in the new Westfield shopping centre, they have run out of funds.

Secondly, it seems that this exciting new market has been flat as a pancake in 2008, with a total of 156 sales this year, a 58% dip on 2007. Most of these were sold by G-Wiz, who seem to be surviving, but it must be touch and go even for them.

So maybe the constructors and distributors are waking up to the opportunity, but the public is not? Clearly the recession has played an important part in this dip, but what has happened to the crucial message: invest in low-emissions solutions, save the planet, and save money?

Ok, so I’d be the first to admit that currently available electric cars are by no means everyone’s cup of tea - in fact they are totaly impractical for many of us. In general only 2 real seats, which cuts out families, a short range, which means they are almost certainly a second car, and now most London boroughs have withdrawn their previous offer of totally free parking, replacing it with time-limited free parking. On top of all of this is the price range, running from £8,000 to around £15,000 for the just-launched 4-seater Ze-0.

We musn’t forget, however, that these guys are the forerunners, the start of the revolution. They may not be perfect, but they get our attention, and they get the message out there. This is not the time for things to stumble to a halt and start to go backwards. There is a market for these little cars, even in a downturn, and I think that with some targeted marketing and by running a tight ship, they could easily turn a small profit.

Which is why I am hoping against hope that our dear government, desperate to preserve institutions such as banking, might take a leaf from the USA’s books and also look for a solution to support the electric car industry. The investment will be minimal, but to me it’s absolutely crucial. Still, I’m not holding out much hope - does anyone know any investors out there? If not, do let anyone interested in buying a NICE know that right now, they just might get a good deal. Visit the NICE Car Company web site for more information.

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Flying the flag isn’t eco-friendly - whatever next?

I came across a wonderful news piece this week, which I just had to share. Apparently the authorities in Austria have advised football fans not to fly the Austrian flag on their cars, as doing this increases drag, and therefore increases petrol consumption, thus in turn increasing CO2 emissions.

Now I’m the first to jump upon a good idea to reduce CO2 emissions, however strange it may be, but this particular edict did at first make me chuckle at the thought that being Green may now be appropriated by the ‘Politically Correct’ mob, with people being picked up for committing ‘eco crimes’ of which they were totally unaware. If you think about it, there are a fair amount of these in every day life, and we just have to hope that the ‘eco police’ don’t get too tough, or we’re all in serious trouble.

Examples that struck me (whilst planting my tongue relatively firmly in my cheek) were:

  • Taking exercise. Surely taking lots of exercise means that we are turning more oxygen into CO2, which, like it or not, comes out of our mouths every time we breath out. Just imagine the emissions generated by a marathon!!
  • Pets also produce CO2 as well as generating methane and consuming in many cases food that could be equally eaten by human beings. If we go on wanting pets, more are bred, and it just gets worse and worse.
  • We all love live music, especially rock and pop, but look at how much electricity is consumed by your average rock concert… This is a much talked-about issue, but I haven’t seen solid solutions produced so far, so maybe we should just bit the bullet and no longer go to gigs? After all, U2 have got enough money already, and they want to save the world, so they will understand, won’t they?
  • The mobile phone revolution has done wonderful things for communication. The ability to communicate whenever and wherever has saved lives, made millions, changed the world. It has also meant, though that people talk even more, a lot, all of the time. Whilst before people on their own in taxis did nothing, now they talk on their phones. The same walking down the street, or having a coffee, or lying in bed. And what does talking do? Yes, more CO2 emissions. So let’s get rid of mobiles right now.
  • Everyone talks about methane produced by cows, but what about we humans? Apparently the average human being emits half a litre of gas a day, although only some of this is methane, and far less than that produced by cows. But still, it is possible to avoid farting by monitoring ones diet, so shouldn’t we all make more effort to fart less, or should we even install fart capturers in our toilets?
  • And then of course there’s computers. Using computers uses electricity and generates CO2 emissions. We are using computers more and more. I am using a computer to write this article. Maybe I should sto

Ok, enough wacky ideas - although today’s wacky could become tomorrow’s day to day! I actually do understand the point about cars and flying flags - and anyway, they are ugly. But the whole story got me thinking about how sometimes we can get carried away, and I just had to write it down.

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Retrospective tax on polluting cars - not just a stick, a ’stealth’ stick

I don’t generally believe in kicking a man when he’s down, but it’s pretty difficult not to when he’s lying there with a great big sign stuck to his back saying KICK ME. And that, to me, is the case with Gordon Brown right now, as he stumbles from one problem to the next. So I’m not going to hold back, and what’s more, I’m going to kick him for an idea aimed at reducing co2 emissions.

‘Stealth tax’ is one of the many expressions coined during the New Labour era, basically referring to taxes that don’t hit the tax payer directly, or immediately. As Chancellor, Gordon Brown became particularly good at one type of stealth tax, the one where he would announce an increase one year, but it was timed to come into effect a year later, by which time many people have forgotten about it. In this case, he has gone one better, and announced a tax rise that would come into effect in a year’s time AND would apply to all cars bought in the last 7 years!

The tax in question is the Vehicule Excise Duty, better known as Road Tax. As of next year, the co2 emissions bands that decide what car owners will pay each year will be increased from 7 to 13, with a sliding scale of costs running from £0 for a car with emissions of under 100 g/km to £440 for one with over 255 g/km of emissions. They will go up again in 2010, with the top-end cost becoming £445, and with a new, additional first year rate being introduced that is even more punitive to gas guzzlers.

In principal this is a good idea, as it encourages us all to pay attention to co2 emissions when purchasing a new car. It is a good example of the ‘carrot and stick’ method, and for once the ‘carrot’ is pretty interesting - only £30 a year for a car with 111-120 g/km of emissions, and a reduction of some form for all cars with 140 g/km or under. The problem, however is with the backdating to 2001.

Let’s say that my car generates only 120 g/km of co2 emissions, and I bought it in 2002. I’m laughing, as my car tax will go down to £30 next year before going back up to £35 the year after. My neighbour’s car on the other hand generates 195 g/km of co2 emissions. He also bought it in 2002, and his tax next year will go up from £170 to £260 - an increase of £90.

It’s all very well saying ’serves him right - he drives a gas guzzler’, but think back to 2002, or 2006 for that matter. How many people bought their cars based on their co2 emissions? Petrol was cheaper then, and car tax was uniform for all. Can my neighbour really be punished for a decision he made as long as 6 years ago, based on information he did not even have at the time?

It could be argued that he will be encouraged to buy a newer, cleaner car, but should he be forced to do this, especially as, if he waits until 2010, he will also have to pay the higher first year rate? To me this isn’t a stealth tax, it’s a stealth ’stick’, and a totally unreasonable one, compounded by a fact I’ve already mentioned on this blog: so-called ‘green taxes’ such as this do not necessarily get used by the government to reduce the UK’s co2 emissions.

I’m all for the government taking serious measures to encourage us to reduce the emissions we generate via transport, but the important word here is ‘encourage’. Pricing people into unhappiness at a time when money is very tight is NEVER going to work, and I sincerely hope Mr Brown goes on doing what he’s also becoming well-known for……. U-TURN. I don’t mind at all if he keeps the proposed approach for all new cars, but punishing people for a decision they didn’t even realise they were taking is not going to solve what we recognise is a huge problem.

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Have to drive to work? Have you tried car pooling?

At the end of last week I had the pleasure of experiencing the French train strike first hand. On Thursday, it was pretty much impossible to move - many stations, including mine, were competely closed - so I didn’t. On Friday, however, I had to get into Paris, and was lucky enough to find a friend with a diesel Grand Scénique 7 seater who had a space left, literally one space.

As we were crawling into work (and out again that evening) I started thinking about car pooling, as we were a perfect example of a well-organised car pool - even if a one-off. In our case it was a group of parents with children at the same school, living 10 miles outside Paris, and with roughly the same destination in the big smoke - and on Friday it really was the big smoke, as CO2 emissions hit an all-time high for the season. It took all of an hour for the 6 additional passengers to be found, and we all agreed that, were it not for the extremely efficient train system to the west of Paris (when not on strike), we would do this all the time.

Ok, so in general I don’t need to go to work by car, but we all know that there are people who pretty much have no choice. They don’t live near a station or a bus route, they have to drop the kids off on the way, their office is not near a station, etc etc. What is scary, however, is how many of these people travel to work by car ON THEIR OWN. This fact was brought home to me just by looking around during the total of 4 hours journey to and from work on Friday. Having noticed how many cars had just one person in them, I started to count, and, out of 100 cars, 83 were in this category. 83%! This may have been extreme because of the strike, but imagine if every car had just 2 people in - already the traffic divided by two, and therefore the CO2 emissions divided by two.

So, as is my habit these days, I decided to put myself in the position of someone with no other option but to take the car, but who is concerned about CO2 emissions. I logged onto Google, and started to search for car pooling options. The good news is that they do exist. The bad news is that the resources are still pretty limited, with good concentrations around major cities, but overall to my mind not enough promotion and not enough action. Those living in the London area have several options, including a site proposed by Transport For London - London Liftshare (well done Ken), but moving further afield, things get patchy pretty quickly. It’s the same for other major European countries - the idea is there, but we are far, far away from critical mass.

Car pooling has to be one of the simplest ways to have an immediate effect on CO2 emissions, but I don’t think people today realise how easy it is to set up. I think think they need help, and encouragement, ideally from the government. Here are just a few ideas to mull around:

  • school car pools. Schools are the perfect meeting place for people - who often will know each other - who will often then head on to work in the same area by car
  • car pool lanes on the motorway. It works in the US, why shouldn’t it work here? Want to get to work quicker? Car pool
  • official car pool sites, set up or managed by town councils. Many towns have one or more big businesses who are the major employers for the area. They can work together with the town councils by encouraging employees to car pool
  • car pools for all public workers: teachers, nurses, postal workers, the police. Anywhere where this a large movement of people to and from the same place, where they are also susceptible to be living near to each other.

As I showed in my simple equation above, whilst it would be a dream to have four people in every car, just insisting on two would make a difference. We need to try harder to make this happen.

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BMW reduces CO2 emissions. Why not make more noise about it?

Only 3 weeks ago I wrote an article about how car manufacturers’ web sites did little or nothing to attract buyers interested in low CO2 cars - How easy is it to find cars with low CO2 emissions online? At the time, amongst other cars, I found it extremely difficult to find information on CO2 emissions generated by BMWs.

Shortly afterwards, I was returning from a meeting in a colleague’s new Mini - so basically a BMW. When he stopped at a traffic light I was amazed to discover that the engine cut off automatically, starting again as soon as he depressed the clutch to put the car into gear again. He explained that this cut-off system had just been introduced by Mini and so, like the good investigator I am becoming, I headed off to parent company BMW’s site to see what they were up to.

The good news is this: BMW have introduced their ‘EfficientDynamics Intelligent Energy Management System’, their way of reducing CO2 emissions whilst maintaining the performance that their cars are so well known for. Let’s put aside the ‘engineer our way out of a problem’ argument for a moment, and look at what BMW have managed to do - and what they still are not doing.

This new system uses various clever techniques to reduce BMW cars’ CO2 emissions:

  • ‘Brake Energy Regeneration’ uses the energy generated when braking to power the car
  • A highly efficient air-conditioning system and electric rather than engine-powered steering
  • The auto stop-start system that I encountered in my colleague’s mini

It doesn’t sound like much, but look at the facts: BMW 318d SE: 123 g/km of CO2 emissions; 320d:  128 g/km - both of them under the current EU target of  130 g/km. No, it’s not the 104 g/km of a Prius, but it’s hugely impressive for a BMW.

What I don’t understand, however, is why they aren’t trumpeting this fact from the roof tops. Nope. For BMW, life continues as normal, even though they have made dramatic progress overnight in the fight to reduce CO2 - after all, they had further to come than many. To me they have an instant sales message, and with a little more work, they can even produce cars that are free to drive in central London, and yet they say nothing. A mystery.

A final point however - time to talk about engineering as a solution. BMW seems to have set out their stall as far as reducing emissions are concerned. They won’t compromise on performance, even if it limits the CO2 reduction they can achieve. They are determined to keep producing powerful cars, whilst doing all they can to improve their efficiency. So even if the introduction of EfficientDynamics has had an immediate effect on BMW CO2 emissions, I doubt that any future advances will be so dramatic, and the last thing I would recommend is that we all go out and buy a BMW to celebrate - unless, of course you want to sheel out for the hydrogen 8 series. I have no problem at all with that.

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How easy is it to find cars with low CO2 emissions online?

Today I’ve set myself my first Reduce-your-co2.com investigative challenge:

The majority of people today do their research on the internet as part of the purchase decision process. Ive therefore decided to put myself in the position of someone who is looking for a new car, but specifically one with low CO2 emissions. This person cares about the environment, and knows that they should be aiming for under 120 g/km2 if possible. They have also understood that a car which generates low CO2 emissions also costs less to run. They are more interested in low CO2 emissions than a particular brand, though they are open to persuasion.

And so I head off onto the web. Here’s what I find:

  1. www.ford.co.uk: we’ve heard something about a green car from Ford, so we think they’re worth a visit. The home page however has absolutely no mention of lowering CO2, the environment, or anything that could help us. There is a sub-link (under ‘company’) called ‘environment’, but other than that no immediately useful information, and no easy way to find out about the CO2 emissions of the various models offered.
  2. www.citroen.co.uk:  surely the French are more concerned about the environment? Yes, apparently they are, with a little button in the bottom right hand corner of the home page, entitled ‘Environmentally friendly facts’. This link leads to a mini-site all about Citroen and the environment, but the most important factor is a link to a page showing the 23 Citroen models that generate 120 g/km2 or less. Unfortunately this page has a broken image and doesn’t lead to further information, but it’s a start, and far better than Ford.
  3. We then head off to Citroen’s sister company, Toyota: as the creators of the world-famous Prius, which even we have heard of, surely they will be transmitting a strong message about CO2 emissions? Apparently not on the home page, where there is a big ad for the new Auris, and absolutely no mention of the environment or CO2 emissions. There is of course a link to the Prius and also to other models, and we are also pleased to see that the information page for each model includes a little energy scale, showing the CO2 emissions generated.
  4. Back to the French again, and on to www. renault.co.uk: the front page is useless for those seeking a green message - ‘Twingo has arrived’ is all you can see. On the other hand, a click on the ‘Renault Cars’ link, leads to a page with a big ‘eco-nomical / logical’ banner in the middle. Clicking on one of the cars featured leads to information on that car, but, completely stupidly, you have to dig really hard to find details of the Renault ‘Eco 2′ symbol, only given to Renaults that emit under 140 g/km2 and that are green in other ways as well. It’s a lot of work to find the cars under 120 g/km2, though - in fact we didn’t find one in the time we spent on the site.
  5. Why not go from French to Italian, and www.fiat.co.uk?: nothing at all on the home page, but a lot of digging brings up a page all about the way that Fiat is contributing to producing low emissions cars, but is there any information on the emissions generated by their current range? Not that we can find….
  6. From Italian, let’s go to British… well German nowadays, but the Mini remains a british idea: again no mention of the environment on the home page, which is a pity, as we have heard that the Mini D is worth a look. We click on the link to the Mini D and do discover that its emissions are only 118 g/km2, but where is the new model everyone is talking about that is somewhere around the 100 g/km2 mark? Nowhere to be found.
  7. Ok, so we’re with the Germans so lets go properly German and visit Mini’s owner, BMW - www.bmw.co.uk: nothing on the home page - what a surprise! But we’re sure there’s at least one BMW with a good level of CO2 emissions, so we start by looking at the 1 series diesel. We get information on % tax, but no CO2 emissions. Not easy to find what we are looking for here.
  8. Sticking with the Germans, on to www.vw.co.uk: on the home page there is a banner for the Polo BlueMotion, but if you don’t know what it is, how are you going to know that it’s a new diesel with only 100 g/km2 of emissions? What’s more they suggest you register for updates, when the car is already on sale! Nice try, but good bye!
  9. You can’t leave the German car world without visiting www.audi.co.uk, so off we go: another home page with no mention of CO2 emissions or the environment, however if you use the model selector, it will give you CO2 emissions for each model, although it makes for depressing reading. The best you can hope for is a basic A3 diesel at 136 g/km2.
  10. Let’s finish off with Vauxhall.co.uk. Surely they’ve got some good news: not on the home page, another complete blank for anything to do with CO2 emissions or the environment. We go into the individual car details, and, with a lot of effort, we do find CO2 emissions details, but it’s not easy at all.

So there you have it: 10 different car web sites, with only one that mentions the environment on their home page. Some, but not all, do give you emissions data, although in some cases you have to really want to find it. On a country basis, the French win, although if I had the budget, I’d be going for the Prius because it’s been so well publicised. But overall a totally feeble and discouraging effort.

The EU has set CO2 emissions targets for new cars. Everyone is talking about the CO2 emissions generated by cars. In the UK, the lower your emissions, the less tax you pay, and in London, for certain cars, the congestion charge is free. Surely it’s worth making it easy to find models with low emissions? In fact, surely car manufacturers should be forced to provide this information in an easy to find and easy to understand way?

What I really don’t understand is this: cars have a major part to play in generating CO2 emissions but, even more than with flying, we recognise that we can’t stop driving, that we need cars. So the manufacturers don’t need to be scared of promoting low CO2 emissions models - they won’t stop selling cars, and may even sell more. There are not many things that totally surprise me, but car web sites today are USELESS from a CO2 reduction point of view.

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