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  • Are We Buying Greener Cars?

Are We Buying Greener Cars?

Feb 25 2020 Read 395 Times

The growing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid alternatives might paint a picture that the UK as a whole is opting for more environmentally friendly methods of transportation. However, a new report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) contradicts that impression, demonstrating that average carbon emissions from newly sold cars in 2019 increased for the third year running.

The hike in CO2 emissions is thought to be down to a mixture of the growing popularity of SUVs among British road users, the decline of the diesel engine and the alteration in how CO2 standards are tested and measured. In any case, the report highlights how drastic improvements must be made urgently if the UK is to meet its targets with regard to the transport sector in particular and the country’s national emissions in general.

Third year running

The latest figures compiled by the SMMT do not make for pleasant reading. According to the British automotive industry body, average CO2 emissions on cars purchased in 2019 rose 2.7% from the previous year, reaching 127.9g of carbon for each kilometre travelled. For reference, the EU has developed a range of new greenhouse gas emissions targets recently, one of which is a goal of 95g/km in all new cars to be achieved by the end of 2021.

While the UK’s recent exit from the EU means that it will not be subject to fines or penalties for failing to meet this target, it’s in the country’s own best interests to do so. Transport accounts for almost a fifth of all carbon emissions in Britain, meaning it has significant influence on the national environmental performance. The government has already set itself the objective of reducing carbon emissions by 51% by 2025 from 1990 levels, and achieving a net-zero carbon profile by 2050.

Alternative fuels on the rise

Despite the mostly pessimistic report from the SMMT, there were some kernels of optimism to be gleaned from its findings. The sale of EVs rose by a staggering 144% in 2019 to now comprise 1.6% of the market. When grouped alongside hybrid vehicles, annual sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles jumped up by 20.6% to reach a total market share of 7.4%, sparking hope that environmentally friend transportation could set us on the road to a greener future. But despite those positive signs, it’s clear that much work must still be done.

For example, the SMMT report also pointed out that EVs must climb sharply in the next 24 months if the target of 95g/km is to be achieved. As mentioned above, they currently account for 1.6% of the market; that share would have to shoot up to over a quarter in order to make any meaningful impact – and that’s without the help of hybrid sales, either. The ongoing drama surrounding Brexit is creating further confusion that is adversely affecting the automotive industry (overall sales slumped by 2.4% to 2.3 million units in 2019), but environmentalists are hoping the growing popularity of EVs and hybrids can help to pick up that shortfall.

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