ANALYSTS increasingly use everyday objects to make the immensity of large volumes easier to understand.
This technique comes in useful when dealing with the successes of TransportEnergy, which is behind a number of schemes designed to reduce fuel use and emissions from vehicles.
Overall the Government-funded scheme, a division of the Government-funded Energy Saving Trust, has helped drivers, mainly fleet operators, cut carbon dioxide emissions by 29,500 tonnes in the past two years.
To put it another way, that is the equivalent of 4,214 (African) elephants. Which is enough to stretch to the moon and back. Probably.
As this illustration shows, when the entire benefit of your organisation is actually based around hot air (even if it is filled with particles), proving its value can be immensely difficult, especially when trying to persuade a fleet manager that it is a worthwhile cause.
TransportEnergy is behind a number of schemes designed to persuade fleet operators to run cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
PowerShift offers fixed grants to help with the cost of buying a new, cleaner vehicle, such as a car powered by liquefied petroleum gas, or converting an existing vehicle to run on cleaner fuels.
In addition, CleanUp grants are available to UK operators of commercial and public sector diesel vehicles (such as black cabs, lorries, buses, emergency vehicles and refuse trucks) to assist with the cost of fitting emission reduction technologies.
In total, the TransportEnergy budget is about £26 million – which is enough to build 16 Olympic-size swimming pools if you live in Greece.
In total, there is about £7.5 million available for PowerShift grants and the same again for CleanUp, with £5 million available to spend helping firms develop new technology and £1 million to invest in encouraging best practice.
As well as the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions these schemes have achieved, an estimated £42 million has been saved by business because of the lower running costs associated with alternative fuels and simply taking a green approach to transport.
A record total of nearly 10,000 vehicles were funded through the PowerShift and CleanUp programmes during 2003/2004.
But for Richard Tarboton, head of TransportEnergy, this is just the start.
By carefully spreading the money he has among as many fleets as possible, he forecasts the emissions reduction will rocket to 60,000 tonnes of C02 (8,571 elephants) within the next year. This has been made possible by increasing the number of vehicles receiving grants with lower grants per vehicle, a controversial move that Tarboton insists has been effective.
The PowerShift grant scheme has come under sustained attack because it keeps running out of money. In the 2003/2004 financial year, the funds ran dry with several months to go.
He said: 'The aim is for the market to be sustainable and our role is forming the marketplace and acting as an independent and trusted adviser.
'In the past, when we looked at the future shape of PowerShift, it was decided that we would only support the cleanest vehicles and give standard grants. Then we looked at ways we would manage demand.
'The consensus was that there should be demand management measures in place, so we have moved to a two month budget system.'
This bid to manage demand means that only a certain number of fleets can benefit from grants in a certain period before the coffers are empty and businesses have to wait until the next tranche of funding becomes available.
Tarboton insists this is better than running out completely part-way through the year.
Manufacturers in particular have criticised the overall lack of funds, saying much more money should be made available to prove the Government is serious about alternative fuels.
But Tarboton disagrees, re-emphasising that the role of TransportEnergy is to create a sustainable market, not to be a permanent financial crutch for something that cannot survive on its own.
He said: 'We set the budget and are getting forecasts that the expected demand is higher than previous forecasts. We will need to assess why demand has picked up, but we plan for about 6,000 PowerShift grants.
'We do get peaks throughout the year and the system has been weighted to deal with that.
'Over time, as sales increase, that grant will be phased out. The same format has been a great success in other markets.
'These grants are running out because demand is exceeding supply. You need demand management measures to support the industry in this way, but if demand was low we would not run out. Demand is high and we are running out of funds, so that shows the scheme is successful.'
As part of the programme to map out the future for schemes including PowerShift, the Department for Transport this month launched a consultation on its future for England, Scotland and Wales.
The survey aims to tell the Government how well the grant programmes are performing, to provide 'support and stability' to the green transport industry and to develop ways of promoting the uptake of cleaner vehicles.
Tarboton said: 'This consultation is a great opportunity for us to continue to listen to and speak with our stakeholders about developing the role of the programmes.'
Already, discussions with fleets have revealed some interesting results.
During a recent head-to-head meeting between company vehicle operators, industry experts and the Government, fleets called on the industry to 'sex up' alternatively-fuelled vehicles if the war on greenhouse gases is to be won (Fleet NewsNet, July 1).
Following the meeting, the Energy Saving Trust has arranged a series of meetings with the Department for Transport to step up the war on greenhouse gases.
It is this open approach that TransportEnergy views as vital in keeping fleets enthusiastic about supporting transport schemes that are environmentally-friendly.
Tarboton added: 'I hope more organisations will consider working with us to reduce their environmental impact through efficiency measures.'
FACT FILE Actual results relating to the increase in vehicle grants and reductions in emissions attributed to CleanUp and PowerShift programmes are shown in the following table –
|Number of vehicles||5,226||9,927|