A1) In 2019, net territorial emissions in the UK of the basket of seven greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol were estimated to be 454.8 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), a decrease of 2.8 per cent compared to the 2018 figure of 468.1 MtCO2e and 43.8 per cent lower than they were in 1990. Carbon dioxide made up around 80 per cent of the 2019 total.
Emissions from transport fell by 1.8 per cent (2.2 MtCO2e) in 2019, their second year of falls having previously risen since 2013. However, despite this fall transport remains the largest emitting sector, responsible for 27 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the UK (compared to 21 per cent for energy supply, followed by business (17 per cent), residential (15 per cent) and agriculture (10 per cent)). Transport emissions are only 4.6 per cent lower than in 1990, as increased road traffic has largely offset improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency.
Road transport is the most significant source of emissions in the transport sector (in particular passenger cars) and accounted for about 90 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019; and the changes which have been seen since 1990 are heavily influenced by this category. Motor vehicle traffic volumes have generally increased throughout this period, other than a fall seen between 2007 and 2010 following the recession. However, with lower petrol consumption outweighing an increase in diesel consumption and improvements in fuel efficiency of both petrol and diesel cars, the volume of emissions from passenger cars has generally decreased since the mid-2000s. This has, however, been partially offset by an increase in emissions from light commercial vehicles. Emissions of carbon dioxide are closely related to the amount of fuel used, whilst nitrous oxide and methane emissions are influenced more by the vehicle type and age.
The latest provisional greenhouse gas emissions figure for 2020 show that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the resulting restrictions brought in across the UK have had a major impact on various aspects of society and the economy and this has had a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions in the UK over this period.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the UK are provisionally estimated to have fallen by 10.7 per cent in 2020 as compared to 2019, to 326.1 million tonnes (Mt), and total greenhouse gas emissions by 8.9 per cent to 414.1 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e).
This large fall in 2020 is primarily due to the large reduction in the use of road transport during the nationwide lockdowns and the reduction in business activity. Transport was significantly impacted by COVID-19, as people were instructed to stay at home as much as possible. In 2020, territorial carbon dioxide emissions from the transport sector were 97.2 Mt, 19.6 per cent (23.7 Mt) lower than in 2019. This reduction accounted for over half of the overall fall from 2019. In 2020 transport accounted for 29.8 per cent of all territorial carbon dioxide emissions, compared to 33.1 per cent in 2019.
A2) Yes. Despite total traffic being forecast to rise by between 17-51 per cent between 2010 and 2050, road traffic emissions are forecast to fall.
Within the latest Road Traffic Forecasts, seven plausible scenarios were constructed that reflect the uncertainty in the key drivers of road traffic demand. Scenarios 1-6 take account of the impact of committed transport policies to reduce emissions from road travel. Based on these assumptions, CO2 emissions in scenarios 1-6 are forecast to fall by between 16 per cent and 30 per cent from 2015 to 2050. Scenario 7 assumes a higher level of Ultra Low Emission Vehicle uptake, assuming 97 per cent of cars and LGVs are Zero Emission Vehicles by 2050 and almost all cars and LGVs sold from 2040 have zero emissions at tailpipe. This scenario has the largest forecast reduction in CO2 emissions (80 per cent by 2050).
The forecast for NOx emissions shows a decline of between 60 per cent and 95 per cent by 2050. The lower end of the range relates to scenario 7. Outside of this scenario, the steep downward path is relatively insensitive to the different range of traffic levels we forecast – the assumptions for declining emissions per vehicle mile expected to be achieved through vehicle standards are much more important, and more than offset the increases in demand projected over most of the forecast period.
PM10 emissions are forecast to reduce by 86 per cent to 98 per cent between 2015 and 2050. Again, the assumption of improvements in vehicle PM10 emissions through vehicle standards dominates increases in demand, and the results are insensitive to the different forecast levels of traffic.
Source: Road Traffic Forecasts 2018
A3) The European Commission sets an EU fleet average target that must be met by the EU fleet. For cars, this target is currently 95g CO2/km in 2020. For vans, the target is 147g CO2/km in 2020.
These targets will be converted into Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure CO2 emissions targets in 2021 following the change in the vehicle CO2 test procedure, and the 2021 actual emissions will represent the new baseline. Manufacturers will then have to meet a 15 per cent reduction for cars and vans by 2025, and a 37.5 per cent reduction for cars and a 31 per cent reduction for vans by 2030, both against this 2021 baseline.
Manufacturers receive individual targets that are set according to the mass of their fleet. Only the fleet average is regulated, so manufacturers are able to make vehicles with emissions above the EU target provided these are balanced by vehicles below. Manufacturers with heavier fleets receive individual targets above the EU target; manufacturers with lighter fleets receive targets below the EU target.
The UK has now left the EU and the government is currently consulting on the regulation of CO2 emission performance standards for new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles (vans) in the UK from 1 January 2021.
Full details of the consultation can be viewed here.
A4) The Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) is a new laboratory test developed by the European Union which aims to provide a closer representation of ‘real-world’ fuel consumption and CO2 figures from passenger cars, as well as their pollutant emissions. The old lab test – called the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) – was designed in the 1980s and due to evolutions in technology and driving conditions had become outdated.
Full details about the new testing procedure can be viewed here.
A5) Average CO2 emissions for cars registered for the first time have been decreasing year on year every month since September 2019, prior to which was a complex period of regulation and market changes.
In the UK, the average CO2 emissions for cars registered for the first time in 2020 was 112.0g CO2/km under e-NEDC, down 12.3 per cent compared with 2019, and an average of 135.1g CO2/km under WLTP, down 11.4 per cent compared with 2019. The notable shift towards registering new Zero Emission Vehicles in late 2020 contributed to these declines.
A6) Overall for 2020, new petrol cars had average emissions of 149.0g CO2/km under WLTP, a decrease of 4.1 per cent compared to 2019, whereas new diesel cars had average emissions of 165.5g CO2/km under WLTP, a decrease of 0.4 per cent.
New petrol Hybrid Electric (HEV) cars had average emissions of 125.6 g CO2/km under WLTP in 2020, an increase of 2.7 per cent compared to 2019, whereas new petrol Plug-In Hybrid Electric (PHEV) cars had emissions of 43.4 g CO2/km under WLTP, a decrease of 22.1 per cent.
A7) In 2020, the marketplace remained dominated by petrol and diesel variants, which collectively still accounted for 82.4 per cent of new car registrations. However, the alternatively-fuelled vehicle market share of hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles reached a new high of 17.5 per cent market share.
2020 saw a large increase in the number of battery and plug-in hybrid electric cars registered. Together these accounted for more than one in 10 registrations – up from around one in 30 in 2019. Demand for battery electric vehicles grew by 185.9 per cent to 108,205 units (from 37,850 in 2019), while registrations of plug-in hybrids rose 91.2 per cent to 66,877 (from 34,984 in 2019).
Diesel share of the new car market has fallen in each of the past six years. Diesel volumes fell 55 per cent in 2020 and their market share declined from 25.2 per cent in 2019 to 16 per cent in 2020.
In 2000, petrol-fuelled cars represented over 85 per cent of the total market. That level has fallen markedly in recent years. However, petrol-fuelled cars have had a larger share of the new car market than diesel cars for the last six years and their share of the new car market stood at 55.4 per cent in 2020.
In November 2020, the Prime Minister announced that sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans will end by 2030. However, there will be a continuation of sales of “hybrid cars and vans that can drive a significant distance with no carbon coming out of the tailpipe until 2035″.
A8) Yes. In 2020 there were 11.93 million diesel cars on the roads. This compares with 12.29 million a year earlier. This is the second consecutive year of decline in the number of licensed diesel cars with numbers previously having risen in every year since records began in 1994 to 2018.
The proportion of diesel cars on Britain’s roads has also now fallen for the past three years. After holding a record share of 39.6 per cent in 2017, it fell to 39.3 per cent in 2018, 38.5 per cent in 2019 and 37.6 per cent in 2020.
The number of new diesel cars sold in 2020 also fell markedly compared to the previous year. 261,772 new diesel cars were sold in 2020, down 55 per cent on the 581,774 sold in 2019.
In 2020, more new alternative fuel cars were registered than new diesel cars.
A9) Yes. In November 2020, the Prime Minister announced that sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans will end by 2030. The announcement came as part of a 10-point plan for a “green industrial revolution”.
However, there will be a continuation of sales of “hybrid cars and vans that can drive a significant distance with no carbon coming out of the tailpipe until 2035″.
Originally there had been proposals to ban the sale of conventionally-powered cars and vans by 2040 but this date has now been brought forward.
The RAC Foundation’s response to the announcement can be viewed here.
A10) The internal combustion engine (ICE) has dominated road transport over the past century but with a need to tackle climate change and end our reliance on fossil fuels, there is an environmental and an economic imperative to do things differently.
Alternatively-fuelled vehicles (AFVs) are any vehicles that run on something other than just petrol or diesel. They include:-
Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)
These vehicles are wholly driven by an electric motor, powered by a battery that can be plugged in to the mains. There is no combustion engine and hence zero emissions at the tailpipe.
Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)
These vehicles are powered by a traditional ICE – either petrol or diesel – as well as an electric battery. The battery is charged using excess energy from the ICE, as well as by reclaiming the car’s kinetic energy when it brakes.
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)
Plug-in Hybrid vehicles combine both a plug-in battery pack and an electric motor with a traditional ICE. Both the electric motor and the ICE can drive the wheels and at any time, it can be running on the battery alone, on the ICE alone, or on a combination of the two.
Range Extended Electric Vehicles (REEVs)
These are battery electric vehicles that run on electricity but employ an auxiliary power unit (known as a range extender). The range extender (typically a small petrol ICE) drives an electric generator which will recharge a car’s battery. The range extender does not drive the vehicle’s wheels.
Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs)
Fuel cells are devices that convert chemical energy (in this case compressed hydrogen) directly into electrical energy. This produces electricity to power the vehicle. In most hydrogen fuel cell cars, a high-power fuel cell and motor combination provide propulsion in place of an ICE.
Other Gas-Fuelled Vehicles
Various other gases can be used in an alternative ICE to provide motive power. These include liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and natural gas in compressed (CNG) or liquefied (LNG) forms.
Biodiesel and Bioethanol Vehicles
These are vehicles that run on biofuels – either biodiesel (made from vegetable or animal oil) or bioethanol (an alcohol made from plants). Bioethanol can be blended with petrol and used to power petrol engines with no modification. Similarly, biodiesel can be blended with diesel to run diesel cars.
The Go Ultra Low website provides advice and information on electric vehicles.
A11) Of the 31.7 million cars licensed in Great Britain at the end of 2020, 18.7 million were petrol powered, 11.9 million were diesel powered and 1.1 million alternatively-fuelled.
A12) The vast majority of alternatively-fuelled cars licensed at the end of 2020 were either hybrid electric cars, plug-in hybrid electric cars or battery electric cars. A small proportion were range extended electric cars or gas powered.
At the end of 2020, there were 655,500 hybrid electric cars registered; 203,200 plug-in hybrids; 191,600 battery cars; 9,600 range extended cars; 200 fuel cell cars; 23,200 gas powered cars; and 300 others
A13) The latest data on plug-in vehicles on the UK’s roads can be viewed here.
The chart plots the top ten plug-in hybrid and pure battery-electric cars, vans and taxis that are licensed in the UK.
A14) As of 1 April 2021, there were 22,790 public electric vehicle charging devices available in the UK. Of these, 4,259 are rapid chargers.
In the first quarter of 2021, available devices increased by 2,015, up nearly 10 per cent on the previous quarter (October to December 2020). 379 of these were rapid devices.
Since 2015, the number of public devices has grown by 43 per cent per year, on average. Rapid devices have increased at a much higher rate, with an average annual increase of almost 61 per cent. The coronavirus pandemic may have had an effect on device growth, with the increase in total and rapid devices over the last 12 months being 27 per cent and 37 per cent respectively. This is a noticeable decrease in the annual growth in the preceding 12 months, with increases of 54 per cent and 53 per cent.
A15) No, there is uneven geographical distribution of charging devices within the UK. Some UK local authorities have bid for UK Government funding for charging devices, and others have not. Most of the provision of this infrastructure has been market-led, with individual charging networks and other businesses (such as hotels) choosing where to install devices.
Details of the number of public charging devices per 100,000 of population by UK country and region are shown in the publication below.
A16) At the National Charge Point Registry website.
An alternative source of information can also be found at the Zap-Map website.
A17) There is a tool on the gov.uk website to compare the fuel costs and CO2 emissions of new cars.
As well as using less fuel and paying less car tax, more efficient cars also emit lower CO2 emissions. Car showrooms display fuel economy labels to show how fuel efficient each new car is. The labels make it easy to compare different car and show a rating from band A (green) to band G (red), with A being the most fuel efficient, and how much Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) is payable each year.
A18) There are a few easy things that you can do when you drive and look after your car to help reduce the amount of fuel you burn and so cut down on CO2 emissions. The key is to reduce the amount of work your engine has to do, because the greater the workload, the more fuel is burned – so the higher the CO2 emissions. By following the smarter driving tips below you could cut your CO2 emissions by up to 15 per cent – equivalent to an annual fuel saving of up to one month per year.
Before you set off:-
- Check your tyres are at the correct pressure
- Clear out any extra weight
- Have your vehicle serviced regularly
- Remove any unused roof racks and roof boxes
- Plan your route to avoid stop/start traffic conditions
- Drive at an appropriate speed
- Speed up and slow down smoothly
- Change gears at lower revs
- Avoid leaving your engine running
- Don’t use air conditioning unless you really need it
Further advice can be found in the RAC Foundation’s Eco-driving leaflet.
A19) Car vehicle tax rates are based on either engine size or fuel type and CO2 emissions, depending on when the vehicle was registered. (Other types of vehicle have their own rates).
1) For cars registered before 1 March 2001, the rate of vehicle tax is based on engine size.
2) For cars registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017, the rate of vehicle tax is based on fuel types and CO2 emissions. The lower a car’s emissions, the lower the vehicle tax payable on it.
3) For cars registered after 1 April 2017, the rate of vehicle tax is based on a vehicle’s CO2 emissions in the first year of registration.
Full details can be viewed here.
A20) Prior to 2011, over 90 per cent of cars registered for the first time each year had emissions above 110 g CO2/km. This percentage had dropped to 59 per cent by 2015, following increases in new ultra low emission vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles registrations. A market shift to registering larger cars (eg SUVs) began to reverse this trend between 2015 and 2019 but there was a marked shift back towards lower emission vehicles in the last two quarters of 2019.
The number, and percentages, of vehicles in each CO2 emission band can be viewed in Department for Transport table VEH0206.
A21) It is estimated that in the UK poor air quality currently reduces average life expectancy at birth by six months. Transport is a major source of air pollution in the urban areas of the UK and much of Europe. As such, it has a significant role to play in reducing the risks to health, the environment and quality of life.
In the UK it is estimated that road transport contributes 20–30% of national emissions of air pollutants. However, it plays a much greater role in air pollution problems, because it is concentrated on the road network in the country’s towns and cities. Of the 600 local Air Quality Management Areas declared in the UK – areas which breach UK national air quality objectives – some 95% are a result of transport activity. The cost of this urban transport-related air pollution to human health is estimated at between £4.5 billion and £10 billion annually to the UK economy.
Road vehicles are responsible respectively for 33%, 15% and 18% of the total NOx, PM10 and PM2.5 emissions nationally. Whilst between 1998 and 2011, overall NOx emissions from road transport reduced by 60%, PM10 by 39% and PM2.5 by 46%, the change in emissions does vary between the vehicle types. NOx emissions from petrol cars have reduced by some 90% over this period, whereas emissions from diesel cars have actually risen by 250%. This dramatic difference is a result of a rapid growth in the number of diesel cars in the parc, and relatively higher NOx emissions of diesel vehicles compared to petrol vehicles.
A22) Over the past two decades, consumers have increasingly been buying diesel cars because of the better fuel consumption they achieve compared to petrol powered cars and lower rates of Vehicle Excise Duty and company car tax incentives, which both reward low-CO2 options.
On a like for like basis, diesels emit fewer CO2 emissions than petrol cars. However, diesel cars have also historically tended to emit significantly more nitrogen oxide (NOx) than petrol cars which – along with particulate matter (PM) – is linked to poor air quality and health issues.
Over recent years so-called Euro standards have helped achieve significant reductions in PM emissions from both petrol and diesel cars. But, as far as diesels are concerned, these have not been matched by falls in NOx. Only now do the latest set of Euro 6 standards – the forthcoming Euro 6d which will include measurements of real-world driving emissions as well as lab-based figures – offer the prospect of a reduction in this too. But because cars have an average life span of more than a decade it will take several years for the newer, cleaner, models to work their way through the fleet.
A 2014 report for the RAC Foundation by the environmental consultants Ricardo-AEA recommended Ministers should consider introducing a new scrappage scheme aimed at taking the oldest and most polluting diesel cars off the road. However, subsequent work by the RAC Foundation in March 2016 and March 2017 concluded that neither a national scrappage scheme nor a targeted scrappage scheme offered the realistic prospect of making a significant improvement to air quality on a cost effective basis. The problem is less about whether a diesel car is old, but more about where diesel cars are used and how much. In the absence of adequate location and mileage data designing a workable scheme would be very challenging.
A23) The UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations (2017 plan) produced by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Department for Transport outlined how councils with the worst levels of air pollution at busy road junctions and hotspots needed to take robust action to reduce air pollution.
In March 2018, the government legally directed 33 local authorities to develop a feasibility study. These local authorities had been identified in 2017 plan as having shorter term NO2 exceedances, with projected compliance with legal limits by 2021.
A Supplement to the 2017 Plan was issued in October 2018 and set out the next steps the government was taking in relation to each of these 33 local authorities. The Supplement can be viewed here.
A24) The Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London started operating on 8 April 2019. It initially covers the same area as the existing Congestion Charge. Full details of the ULEZ can be viewed here.
Most vehicles, including cars and vans, need to meet new, tighter exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge to travel within the area of the ULEZ. The emissions standards for vehicles will be: minimum Euro 6 for diesel vehicles (roughly more than four years old in 2019); Euro 4 for petrol (roughly more than 12 years old in 2019).
If vehicles are non-compliant then there will be a daily charge of £12.50 for cars, vans and motorbikes and £100 for buses, coaches and lorries.
The charges are in addition to the Congestion Charge.
From October 2021 the ULEZ will expand to the North and South Circular Roads. All vehicles within the expanded zone will need to meet the ULEZ emissions standards or pay a daily charge.
A25) Use the checker that can be found here.
A26) Yes. There are now a number of confirmed and proposed clean air schemes in UK towns and cities aimed at reducing harmful emissions from road transport which contribute to poor air quality. The majority of these schemes are Clean Air Zones (CAZs) which have restrictions on the type and age of vehicles that are allowed to enter them. Drivers of vehicles allowed to enter CAZs may or may not have to pay a charge to do so.
The RAC Foundation has compiled a map showing where schemes are confirmed and under consideration. The map also shows those locations which considered a clean air scheme but are now compliant.
The map can be viewed here.
A27) Use the service here to find out if there will be a daily charge to drive your vehicle in a Clean Air Zone.
A28) Sales of petrol reached a peak of 32.8 billion litres in 1990, equivalent to a 72 per cent market share of transport fuels. Sales subsequently fell every year (with the exception of 1998) until 2018 but in 2019, sales rose to16.9 billion litres compared to 16.6 billion litres in 2018.
Until recently, barring a short decline in 2009, diesel has seen an average annual growth rate of 4 per cent in the last three decades. In 2018, diesel sales in the UK set a new record of 30.5 billion litres. However, sales of diesel fell in 2019 to 30 billion litres although this still accounts for about 64 per cent of total road fuel sales.
The volume of petrol and diesel consumed in the UK year-by-year since 1990 can be viewed here.
A29) E10 petrol will be introduced in the UK from September. E10 has up to 10 per cent ethanol compared with a maximum of 5 per cent in E5, meaning that standard grade petrol at the pumps will have a higher bio-fuel content than the current E5. However, the new fuel will have a lower energy content than E5 meaning drivers will do slightly fewer miles per gallon. The move is designed to help cut carbon emissions from fossil fuels.
There are nineteen million petrol cars in the country, the vast majority of which will be compatible with E10. However, the RAC Foundation estimates that around half a million cars – a mixture of both classic vehicles and everyday runarounds – will not be able to use E10 because the it can damage components. Instead they will need the super grade of E5 petrol which will still be available on many forecourts though at a higher price than the new standard E10.
A vehicle checker launched by the government gives a rough idea whether their vehicles are able to take the new green fuel or not. However, in many cases drivers will have to check with their vehicle’s manufacturer.
RAC Foundation analysis suggests that some older VW Golfs, Mazda MX5s and Nissan Micras will be amongst those cars not able to run on E10.
The government says the introduction of E10 on “UK roads could cut transport carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 750,000 tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road, or all the cars in North Yorkshire.” However, the official impact assessment of bringing in E10 says there will be additional costs for drivers over the next ten years:-
1) decreased miles per gallon cause an increase in fuel supply costs of £200m for fuel consumers (some of which are businesses)
2) costs to incompatible vehicle owners (from having to buy ‘super’ grade petrol meeting the E5 fuel spec) of £169m, and transition costs of fuel labelling and communications of £1m in year 1.
A30) The UK’s average new car fuel consumption in 2019 was 49.2 miles-per-gallon (mpg) (5.7 litres per 100 km) for petrol vehicles and 55.4 mpg for diesel vehicles (5.1 litres per 100 km).
Average mpg figures for petrol cars were 3 per cent down on the 2018 figure and 4 per cent down for diesel cars. However, since 1997, there has been a 45 per cent increase in the average mpg figure for petrol vehicles and a 38 per cent increase in the average mpg figure for diesel vehicles.
The data can be viewed in the Department for Transport table ENV0103.
A31) Experts have long questioned the validity of the official fuel economy figures which are measured in the laboratory and routinely quoted by car manufacturers. While a standardised test allows comparisons to be made between vehicles there has been concern that what is recorded in the laboratory is often at odds with what happens on the road where worse results are often recorded, particularly for smaller cars. For example, in November 2017, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) concluded that the average gap between official fuel consumption figures and actual fuel use for new cars in the EU had reached 42 per cent.
The new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) will provide a far more realistic representation of conditions encountered on the road than the old testing procedures and should provide more accurate figures. But the new test will not cover all possible variations and factors such as driving behaviour, traffic and weather conditions will mean that there will still be a difference between fuel economy figures measured in laboratory conditions and the real world.
A32) Use the Vehicle Certification Agency database here, though this is based on lab tests.
(Please note this database only includes information on new and used cars that were first registered on or after 1 March 2001).
A33) Figures analysed by the RAC Foundation show around 80 per cent of Britain’s 26 million dwellings were built with a front plot. Almost a third of these plots have been turned into hardstanding. This means seven million front gardens now contain concrete and cars rather than flowers and grass, a total roughly equivalent to 100 Hyde Parks or 72 Oylmpic Parks.
Houses built between 1919 and 1964 are most likely to have a front garden and hence it is these properties that are most likely to have seen the change.