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Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Buying and driving greener cars

Personal car travel produces 13 per cent of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions. It also contributes to local air pollution and congestion. The type of car you own, the way you drive it and the fuel you use can make a big difference to your impact on the environment.

Buying a greener car

More efficient cars use less fuel and attract a lower rate of road tax, saving you money. They also produce fewer emissions.

Fuel efficiency comparison tools
Find a new fuel efficient car in a specific category (for example: small family car, estate car) or by model.

Car Fuel Database
Search for a car by fuel economy, tax band, running cost and car make or model. The results include fuel consumption costs, CO2 emissions and road tax payable.

New car discounts
For a temporary period, you can get a discount of £2,000 on a new vehicle if you scrap a vehicle more than 10 years old that you have owned for more than 12 months. For more information, follow the link below.

Things to remember
During your search, remember that different versions of the same car model or type of car can vary significantly in fuel efficiency. As a general rule, smaller cars and cars with smaller engines are more fuel efficient.

Using the fuel economy label

Car showrooms have fuel economy labels that show how fuel efficient each new car is:

  • the labels show a rating from band A (green) to band G (red), with band A being the most fuel efficient
  • the labels show how much road tax is payable each year; the more fuel efficient the car, the less tax you pay

European standards

All new cars have to meet 'Euro' standards. These set limits for specific emissions that can be harmful to human health and the environment. Generally speaking, the higher the Euro number, the cleaner the car. At the moment, the highest number a light-duty vehicle can attain is Euro 4. This will change to Euro 5 in October 2009.

Driving in a greener way

Greener driving could save you one month's fuel over a year

By following the tips below you could save one month's worth of fuel over a year and reduce your emissions.

Drive smoothly and slowly

  • drive smoothly and at a slower speed to reduce fuel consumption
  • check the road ahead, anticipate traffic and avoid harsh acceleration and braking
  • stick to the speed limits – at 70 miles per hour (mph) you could use up to 15 per cent more fuel than at 50 mph, over the same distance

Change gears at the right time

  • correct gear changing will save fuel and reduce your emissions
  • shift up a gear at 2,500 revs per minute (rpm) for petrol cars and 2,000 rpm for diesel cars
  • a vehicle travelling at 37 mph in third gear uses 25 per cent more fuel than it would at the same speed in fifth gear

Stop and start less

  • keeping the engine running or pumping the accelerator wastes fuel, increases engine wear and increases emissions
  • get in and go - modern engines are designed to be most efficient when you do this
  • switch your engine off if you won't be moving for a while

Maintaining your car

Well-maintained cars tend to run more efficiently:

  • check your tyre pressures regularly, as under-inflated tyres can increase your fuel consumption by up to three per cent
  • remove unnecessary weight and roof racks - they increase the weight and air resistance, and therefore the amount of fuel you use
  • air conditioning and other on-board electrical devices (like mobile phone chargers) increase fuel consumption, so only use them when necessary

Waste, like old engine oil, from car maintenance is often hazardous; use council waste facilities for safe disposal.

Using greener fuels

Biofuels, for example biodiesel and bioethanol, are made from plant materials like vegetable oils or wheat. Biofuels can reduce climate change impacts because the plants they're made from take in carbon dioxide (CO2) when they grow. This helps balance out the CO2 emissions when the fuel is burned.

Biofuels can be mixed with ordinary diesel or petrol and used in normal cars. Much of the diesel available in the UK, and some petrol, now contains 5 per cent biofuel. This is suitable for use in all vehicles without modification. 

It's possible to convert vehicles to run on fuel made with a higher proportion of biofuels. A small number of UK filling stations supply these higher biofuel blends.

Electric cars
Electric cars don’t produce any emissions when they are driven (but emissions are produced from electricity generation).

Hybrid cars
Hybrid cars use a petrol engine combined with a battery and are very fuel efficient without any compromise on performance.

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