Cost of going green05 Nov 2010

Green road transport - can we afford it?

Attempts to cut carbon emissions from cars are unlikely to be thwarted by a lack of technical innovation, but could be hampered by the cost of the product.
The government is legally committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. A quarter of these emissions come from transport, the majority of them from road vehicles.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said, “There is little doubt car manufacturers can overcome the technical hurdles but what about the cost barriers? There is a large price difference between the most fuel-efficient models currently available and the next generation of vehicles already arriving in the showrooms. And there is no guarantee mass production will make these ultra-low carbon cars substantially cheaper.”

He was speaking ahead of the Brighton to London Future Car Challenge being held this Saturday [6th November]. More than 60 eco-friendly vehicles will be taking part, demonstrating a whole range of potential technical solutions to cutting greenhouse gas emissions from road transport, including:
•    Refinement of the internal combustion engine
•    Reduction in the weight of cars so they need less energy
•    Hybrids
•    Fully electric vehicles
•    Hydrogen fuel cell cars

Models involved in the event include the electric Mini E, Toyota Auris and Prius Hybrids, hydrogen-powered Honda FCX Clarity, diesel-powered VW BlueMotion Golf and Tesla electric roadster.

The vehicle line-up shows what can be achieved by designers, but the big question is their affordability. 

Professor Glaister said, “Success is unlikely to be limited by technological difficulties, but commercial pressures. The cars of tomorrow might have very low running costs, but that will be irrelevant if people haven’t got the cash to buy them in the first place.”

Ministers recognise the problem and from January next year consumers can apply for a government grant of up to £5,000 to help meet the purchase cost of an ultra-low carbon car. But just £43 million has been set aside to fund the scheme meaning as few as 8,600 car buyers might get assistance.

Professor Glaister continued, “This funding is very welcome but has to be seen in the context of the overall aim. To meet our legal obligations the Committee on Climate Change estimates there will have to be 1.7 million ultra-low carbon vehicles on the road by 2020. At the moment there are just a few thousand.”


Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications, RAC Foundation
020 7747 3486 / 07711 776448 / [email protected]

Notes to editors:

The RAC Foundation is a charity which explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and responsible road users. Independent and authoritative research, carried out for the public benefit, is central to the Foundation’s activities.

The inaugural Future Car Challenge – – takes place on Saturday 6th November 2010. It is being arranged by the Royal Automobile Club. Cars leave Brighton from 8am and arrive in London from about 11am. They will later be on display in Regent Street alongside historic cars taking part in the following day’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. A full list of entries for the FCC can be found on the website.

For media inquiries about the FCC contact:
Rebecca Nicholls, 01452 260063 / 07749 852481 / [email protected]