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CO2 exhaust emissions fall to all-time low

The UK motor industry has once again beaten its CO2 targets, with average new car emissions down for the 19th consecutive year.
The annual SMMT New Car CO2 Report has revealed that carbon tailpipe emissions fell to an all-time low in 2016, with new cars averaging just 120.1g/km. This beat the previous year’s record by 1.1%, and 2000 levels by more than a third.

The reduction is due mainly to billions of pounds worth of investment in new advanced engine, fuel and battery technology, as well as increasing use of lightweight materials such as aluminium and composites. The growing alternatively-fuelled vehicle (AFV) market, and the shift of consumers towards diesel cars, which emit on average 20% lower CO2 than petrol equivalents, have also been key to this success.

But while the industry has achieved tremendous gains, changes in consumer buying behaviour away from diesel in 2016 caused the rate of progress to slow and the Society of Motor Manufacturers’ & Traders believes the current ‘anti-diesel agenda’ is a major concern because it fails to distinguish between old models and the latest cleaner vehicles on sale, and could have a negative effect on future CO2 reduction progress.

There are also fears that changes to Vehicle Excise Duty from 1 April 2017 could have a further negative impact. Under the new system, two thirds of the AFVs currently on the £0 standard rate will be subject to an annual flat charge of £130, in addition to varying levels of first year tax. Meanwhile, a £310 surcharge for five years for cars with a showroom price of £40,000+ could affect demand for some of the lowest emitting vehicles – which are invariably more expensive than conventional technologies. As a result, the take up of hydrogen fuel cell and plug-in hybrid vehicles could suffer.

“The automotive industry has some of the most challenging CO2 reduction targets of any sector and continues to deliver reductions as it has for nearly two decades,” Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s Chief Executive, said. “For this positive trend to continue, modern low emission diesels and AFVs such as plug-ins, hydrogen and hybrids must be encouraged with long-term incentives. Turning our back on any of these will undermine progress on CO2 targets as well as air quality objectives. The UK has a successful track record in encouraging these new technologies, but this must be maintained through a consistent approach to fiscal and other incentives.”