A1) It was estimated that in 2016 the total net domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from all sources was 468 MtCO2e, down 5 per cent from 2015.
Transport was the largest emitting sector of UK greenhouse gas emissions – 26 per cent compared to 25 per cent for energy supply, followed by business (17 per cent), residential (14 per cent) and agriculture (10 per cent).
Of the 125.8 MtCO2e emitted by road transport, 70.3 MtCO2e came from cars, 20.3 MtCO2e from HGVs and 19.2 MtCO2e from vans.
Since 1990, there has been a 3 per cent decrease in car emissions, even though car traffic rose by 22 per cent over the same period. This can be partially attributed to cars becoming more fuel efficient. However, since 1990 van emissions have increased by 65 per cent. Van traffic almost doubled over this period, from 24.8 to 49.2 billion vehicle miles in 2016.
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) EU legislation sets mandatory emission reduction targets for new cars.
The law required that new cars registered in the EU did not emit more than an average of 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g CO2/km) by 2015. This target was met, with the average emissions level of a new car sold in 2016 118.1 g CO2/km, significantly below the 2015 target of 130 g CO2/km.
By 2021, phased in from 2020, the fleet average to be achieved by all new cars is 95 g CO2/km.
Full details regarding these targets can be viewed here.
Proposals for post-2020 CO2 targets for cars and vans have also been announced. The proposed targets are set for the EU-wide average emissions of new cars and vans in a given calendar year from 2025 on, with stricter targets applying from 2030.
For 2025, targets for cars and vans are 15 per cent lower than in 2021, so as to ensure that emission reductions occur as early as possible. For 2030, average emissions of the EU fleet of new cars will have to be 30 per cent lower than in 2021. For the EU fleet of new vans in 2030, the reduction also amounts to 30 per cent.
Full details regarding these new proposals can be viewed here.
A4) In 2017, the average new car in the UK emitted 121.04 g CO2/km, as measured in official laboratory-based tests. This is up 0.8 per cent on the 2016 figure of 120.1 g CO2/km.
This was the first rise in two decades although the 2017 performance remains 33.1 per cent, or over 60 g CO2/km lower than in 2000.
The SMMT blames the 2017 rise on the backlash against diesels and a subsequent fall in their sales:
“Diesel cars, due to their greater fuel efficiency, typically emit on average 20% less CO2 than the equivalent performance of a petrol-engined vehicle. It’s disappointing, therefore, to see these advances undermined by the backlash against cleaner, low emission diesels, with the recent drop in sales the prime cause of this increase in CO2 emissions.”
While the emissions figure is still well below the pan-European target of 130 g CO2/km that was set for 2015, there is still some way to go to achieve the 2021 target of 95 g CO2/km.
A5) The earliest Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) estimate of the average car CO2 for all cars in use was 169.3 g CO2/km in 2010. In 2016, the average car in use emitted 149.6 g CO2/km, compared with 120.1 g CO2/km for a new car.
A new car is some 20 per cent more efficient than the average car in use. So, if a car leaving the fleet (for example being scrapped), is assumed to be 14 years old, then a new car is almost a third more efficient.
Source: SMMT New Car CO2 Report 2018
A6) The internal combustion engine has dominated road transport over the past century but with a need to tackle climate change and a need to end our reliance on fossil fuels, there is an environmental and an economic imperative to do things differently.
The Government is supporting and encouraging UK industry to develop and manufacture ultra-low emission vehicles. The technologies being developed include:-
100 per cent Electric Vehicles
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.
Range extender vehicles
These vehicles employ an auxiliary power unit or range extender (typically an internal combustion engine) to drive an electric generator which will recharge a car’s battery. The range extender does not drive the vehicle’s wheels.
Plug-in Hybrid vehicles
Plug-in Hybrid vehicles combine both a plug-in battery pack and an electric motor with a traditional combustion engine. Both the electric motor and the internal combustion engine can drive the wheels.
Hydrogen and Fuel Cell vehicles
These vehicles run on compressed hydrogen fed into a fuel cell stack that produces electricity to power the vehicle. A fuel cell can also be used in combination with an electric motor to drive a vehicle.
Other gas-fuelled vehicles
Various other gases can be used in an alternative combustion engine to provide motive power. These include: liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and natural gas in compressed (CNG) or liquefied (LNG) forms and bio-gas (or bio-methane).
A7) Of the 31.5 million cars licensed in Great Britain at the end of 2018, 18.5 million were petrol powered, 12.4 million were diesel powered and 0.62 million alternatively fuelled.
A8) The vast majority of alternatively powered vehicles licensed at the end of 2018 were either plug-in hybrid electric vehicles or battery electric vehicles. A small proportion were range-extended electric vehicles or gas powered.
Full details can be viewed in Department for Transport table VEH0203
A9) At the National Charge Point Registry website.
An alternative source of information can also be found at the Zap-Map website.
A10) 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.
A11) 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.
A12) 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.
A13) The number, and percentages, of vehicles in each CO2 emission band can be viewed in Department for Transport table VEH0206.
A14) 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.
A15) 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.
A16) The UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations produced by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Department for Transport outlines how councils with the worst levels of air pollution at busy road junctions and hotspots must take robust action to reduce air pollution.
The report identifies 81 major roads in 17 towns and cities where urgent action is required because they are in breach of EU emissions standards. 29 local authorities are required to produce draft pollution reduction plans by the end of March 2018 and final plans in December 2018.
Councils have been asked to consider alternatives to charging drivers driving diesel cars but only if they are effective at reducing pollution quickly.
Plans were also announced to end the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, though hybrids will still be allowed.
Full details can be viewed here.
A17) 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 will be 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.
A18) Use the checker that can be found here.
A19) Yes. The following is a summary produced by the RAC Foundation – based on information from Defra and council documents – of some of the measures other towns and cities are taking, or considering, to improve air quality including the introduction of Clean Air Zones or Low Emission Zones.
Plans proposed for a 24/7 category C Clean Air Zone starting in later 2020. The scheme would see any buses, coaches and lorries which do not comply with the latest, cleanest, Euro VI vehicle standards paying a daily charge of £100.
Taxis, minicabs, vans and minibuses would pay a daily charge of £9 if they were not at least Euro 4 petrol models or Euro 6 diesel models.
Plans approved for 24/7 category D Clean Air Zone category starting in January 2020. Buses, coaches and lorries that are not Euro VI will be charged £50 per day to enter the zone.
Taxis, minicabs, vans, minibuses and cars will be charged £8 per day unless they are at least petrol Euro 4 models or diesel Euro 6.
There is already a Low Emissions Zone in place restricting the movement of older buses. This year at least 40% of buses operating in the zone must be Euro VI and by 2022 100% of buses must be Euro VI. Failure to comply will lead to a penalty charge notice (PCN) being issued.
From 1 January 2023 restrictions will extend to older coaches, lorries, taxis, minicabs, vans, minibuses, cars and motorcycles.
Greater Manchester (Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford):
It is proposed that from 2021 buses, coaches and lorries that are not at least Euro VI will pay a £100 daily charge to enter a category C Clean Air Zone.
Taxis, minicabs, vans and minibuses that are not at least Euro 4 petrol models or Euro 6 diesel models will have to pay £7.50 per day.
A 24/7 category B Clean Air Zone has been approved to start in January 2020. This will see Buses, coaches and lorries that do not meet the Euro VI vehicle standard paying a £50 daily charge to enter the zone. Sub Euro 4 petrol and Euro 6 diesel taxis and vans will have to pay a £12.50 daily charge.
From January 2022 older minibuses will also have to pay £12.50.
A category C Clean Air Zone affecting sub-Euro VI standard buses, coaches and lorries, and sub-Euro 4 petrol and sub-Euro 6 taxis, minicabs, vans and minibuses is proposed for the city though no starting date, hours of operation or daily charge has been confirmed.
In Oxford there are already restrictions on older buses. In Brighton and York there will be restrictions on older buses from 2020.
Aberdeen, Edinburg and Dundee have all committed to having Low Emission Zones by 2021.
Other places including Coventry, Derby, Leicester, Liverpool and Tyneside are at various stages of deciding or implementing measures to improve air quality.
A20) The marketplace remains dominated by petrol and diesel variants, which collectively still accounted for 95 per cent of new car registrations in 2017. (Including hybrids, which also use a petrol or diesel engine, this figure rises to 99.5 per cent). However, the alternatively-fuelled vehicle market share (AFV registrations consist of hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles) reached a new high of 4.7 per cent in 2017.
Diesel share of the new car market has fallen in each of the past three years. Diesel volumes fell 17.1 per cent in 2017 and their market share declined by more than five percentage points to 42.0 per cent (from 47.7 per cent in 2016 and from more than 50 per cent in 2014).
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 three years and their share of the new car market stood at 53 per cent in 2017.
The government has pledged to ban the sales of new petrol and diesel cars (though not hybrids) by 2040.
Source: SMMT New Car CO2 Report 2018
A21) Sales of petrol have been falling since reaching a peak of 33 billion litres in 1990, equivalent to a 73 per cent market share of transport fuels. In 2017, sales of petrol fell to 16.1 billion litres, accounting for 35 per cent of total road fuel sales.
Barring a short decline in 2008 and 2009, diesel has seen an average annual growth rate of 4 per cent in the last three decades. In 2017, diesel demand grew by around 1 per cent, with diesel sales in the UK setting a new record of 29.7 billion litres in 2017. Diesel now represents 65 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.
A22) The UK’s average new car fuel consumption in 2017 was 51.7 miles-per-gallon (mpg) (5.5 litres per 100 km) for petrol vehicles and 61.2 mpg for diesel vehicles (4.6 litres per 100 km).
Since 2007, there has been a 32 per cent increase in the average mpg figure for petrol vehicles and a 33.5 per cent increase in the average mpg figure for diesel vehicles.
The data can be viewed in the Department for Transport table ENV0103.
A23) Experts have 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 long 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.
Tests carried out in 2014 by Emissions Analytics on 500 vehicles – half petrol, half diesel – each driven for three hours on UK roads, found that vehicles typically travelled 18 per cent fewer miles per gallon than stated in manufacturers’ specifications. For further information, see here.
A report in December 2016 by Transport & Environment claimed that the difference between official laboratory test results and real-world car performance had grown from 9 per cent in 2001 to 28 per cent in 2012 and 42 per cent in 2015. It was expected to reach 50 per cent before 2020.
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.
Source: ICCT press release
A24) 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).
A25) 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.
A26) Analysis by Direct Line Insurance shows a large increase in off-road parking applications by residents applying for kerbs to be lowered to allow vehicles to access their property. Across the UK, successful applications for the installation of dropped kerbs (vehicle crossovers) increased by 49 per cent between 2013 and 2015, with 29,587 applications approved in 2015. This came from a total of 42,281 applications for kerbs to be dropped throughout the year, meaning that overall applications increased by more than 13,000 between 2013 and 2015.
Local authorities across the UK generate millions of pounds in revenue from dropped kerb applications. In 2015 alone, more than £2.9 million was generated in application fees, up 68 per cent from 2013.
Source: Direct Line Insurance