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Some great news today for the environment. Sales of low emission cars are growing in the UK. In fact, almost 47% of new cars sold in 2011 emitted less than 130 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre travelled. To give an idea of how much of an improvement that is, in 2007 just 10.6% of new cars sold emitted less than 130g CO2.

The average emissions of new cars sold in 2011 was 138.1g/km.  By 2015, average emissions must fall to below 130g/km to meet with EU targets and by 2020, average emissions for new cars have to be 95g/km or less.  High fuel prices, along with higher insurance and maintenance costs are influencing drivers’ buying decisions – it’s not just environmental concerns that are causing the shift.  What’s more, car manufacturers are designing and building increasingly fuel efficient cars, to the extent that a new car bought today is on average 18% cleaner than the average UK car and 23% cleaner than a car designed and built in 2000.

Petrol-electric hybrid and all-electric cars still only have a very small share of the market at 1.3% of new car sales, so there is a lot of scope for much bigger CO2 emissions reductions in the future, as electric vehicles become a more credible alternative to conventional petrol or diesel powered cars.  But it’s great to see that petrol and diesel engines are becoming very much more fuel efficient, thanks no doubt to the regulations that have been imposed by the EU.

So maybe this the start of a shift away from the internal combustion engine.  Engines are getting smaller and more fuel efficient.  Drivers are seeing that lower fuel bills, lower insurance and lower tax make greener cars more attractive.  This is a trend that looks set to continue.  We’re on the right track, but with more and more cars coming onto the road each year, there are no grounds for complacency.

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