This is the view of Colin Matthews, head of TransportEnergy Programmes at the Energy Saving Trust (EST).
Speaking at a recent industry discussion, Matthews warned that rocketing oil prices could force fleets to consider alternative fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and hydrogen sooner rather than later.
He said: ‘If the summation is correct that the price of oil is increasing almost as rapidly as the world’s dependency on it for transportation, heat and light, then at some point rising costs are going to hit levels at which the alternatives to the use of oil will be financially sustainable.
‘The market will adopt alternative technologies in transportation. But then follows the questions: which technologies and who is at the forefront of bringing them to market?’
The Energy Saving Trust aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions by promoting the sustainable and efficient use of energy for households, small business and the transport sector.
Matthews says that introducing alternative fuels is not a quick fix solution for the oil crisis and the Government and transport experts must consider other measures.
He explained: ‘All transportation, regardless of technology, needs fuel. In terms of vehicle fuel we currently have a host of alternatives to traditional diesel and petrol including LPG, natural gas, electricity and hydrogen.
However, all of these alternative fuels, including hydrogen, currently draw their energy source, whether directly or indirectly, from fossil fuels, except in those rare cases where the power is drawn directly from renewable sources such as wind, wave and solar.
‘It is not enough to simply substitute one fuel for another in an oil crisis scenario. It is vital that Government and industry take other measures. These must include the dramatic reduction of private vehicle mileage and the reassessment of private journeys by necessity and importance.’
The transport industry and the Government must work together to develop the roadmap necessary to bring new technologies to the market place says Matthews, who believes we can not wait until oil prices reach unaffordable levels.
The development of new technologies for use in the transport sector in conjunction with an increase in renewable sources of energy will plug the gap where private transportation is either unavoidable or vital says Matthews. It will also increase the need for additional fuel sources including renewable energy.
He added: ‘An increase in the price of oil would open up vast opportunities for renewable energy, particularly wind, wave and solar, as well as some opportunities for bio-fuels such as bio-diesel, bio-ethanol and increasingly bio-gas. The development of a global renewable energy infrastructure will be decisive in the future transportation of both goods and people.’
But these are long-term goals and in the short term it appears there is not much help available.
TransportEnergy came under fire last year after announcing plans to cut funding on its grant scheme for environmental transport initiatives, including the PowerShift scheme, which provides money to help fleets buy green fuel cars and vans. This was because the current PowerShift scheme breached European grant aid rules.
The cuts also affect the CleanUp programme to convert older vehicles and the New Vehicle Technology Fund.
Under current proposals, only new cars emitting less than 110g/km of CO2 will be eligible for a grant, which means that the Toyota Prius is the only vehicle – apart from some niche electric models – that qualifies. Even environmentally-friendly cars such as the hybrid Honda Civic IMA fall outside the level, as it emits 116g/km.
TransportEnergy said that a number of car makers were on the verge of offering cars at this emissions level, and that the 110g/km barrier could be revised relative to the number of models and the total grant available.
The overall TransportEnergy budget for 2005/2006 is £28 million.
New vehicle emissions continue to decline
FIGURES from a new industry report have shown that the average new car CO2 emissions are continuing to decline.
Data for 2004 in the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) annual CO2 report has shown another year-on-year reduction in CO2 emissions, with a total 9.7% drop from 1997 levels. The report states: ‘The average new car in 2004 emitted 171.4g/km of CO2, 0.4% less than the 2003 level and almost 10% less than the 1997 rate. The gains in 2004 stem from the further shift in the market place to diesel- powered cars which accounted for a record 32.5% of the UK market.’ Diesel car CO2 levels were 6.2% lower than the average petrol car in 2004 and between 1997 and 2004 diesels made a 12.1% reduction in average CO2 levels.
The largest decline was in the MPV and 4x4 segments, down 19.4% and 14.6% in eight years respectively. The report states: ‘Diesel-powered variants have helped enhance demand for MPVs and 4x4s, allowing consumers to change to a different vehicle style but in many cases without a CO2 penalty.’