I have been working on new guidance for ECO-Buy Members on how to buy sustainable fleet vehicles.
As you would expect, it covers environmental factors such as fuel use and air emissions, and encourages buyers to go through a process to ensure the vehicle they are choosing is actually required and is well matched to their needs.
The good news is that new vehicles have become much more fuel efficient since the last guidance was written, and produce fewer emissions thanks to tighter emissions regulations such as EURO 5. While some efficiency gains have been traded off against heavier vehicles (I read somewhere the focus on safety is leading to more steel in the structure), fuel efficiency has improved overall.
The Green Vehicle Guide (GVG) develops star ratings for most light vehicles based on their fuel efficiency (closely linked to CO2 emissions) and air emissions (smog forming pollution). What has happened is that even many large cars (ok not SUVs) now achieve a Green Vehicle Guide rating of 4 of even 5 stars - the same as small hatchbacks. If this trend keeps up, and all vehicles end up rated as 5 stars, the Green Vehicle Guide will be irrelevant as a way of comparing vehicles.
The GVG could raise the bar, making it harder to attain 5 stars, but they have another proposal. They are going to move to a comparison based solely on CO2 emissions. They claim that air emissions ratings are become irrelevant as vehicles meet EURO 5 or even 6. So they are scrapping that part of the rating!
While I understand that under EURO 5 emissions standards, all vehicles are required to meet similar air emissions standards regardless of fuel type, diesel vehicles still produce up to 30 times more smog forming NOx than petrol powered vehicles (under the same standard!). I often look at the top 20 rated vehicles list on the GVG and there is never a diesel vehicle listed.
But diesel vehicles produce less CO2 emissions than equivalent petrol vehicles, so will have a will have a clear advantage under the new ratings. Once the new scheme comes in, diesel vehicles will surely dominate the top 20 - along side hybrid and electric vehicles. A complete turnaround -a U-turn you could say.
So what is ECO-Buy’s advice?
Reducing CO2 emissions is important but so is reducing air pollution - especially in urban areas.
To ensure buyers don’t purchase vehicles that cause more air pollution than the vehicle they are replacing, they will need to manually assess a vehicle’s air pollution rating based on the standard it complies with (EURO 5 for example), and if possible, compare the actual emissions date for that vehicle. Data will still be available for users to compare different vehicles, but you would hardly say it’s an easy process.
It would have been so much easier for buyers if the GVG had just raised the bar to make it harder to get five stars like the appliance Energy Rating label did a few years back.
Try buying a 5 star fridge or washing machine now the ratings have changed.