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Green transport: Global policies on saving the world

COUNTRIES across the globe are addressing green transport, from solar-powered cars in India to a bio-ethanol boom in Brazil.

Despite a range of solutions they all have the same goal – to reduce global levels of carbon dioxide (CO2). The UK Government has its own agenda. Green transport is seen as an important political driver and schemes such as the CO2-based taxation system and road pricing have been devised to achieve the same emissions reduction goal.

Each country has its own resources, transport needs and budgets so a unified global green transport plan would be difficult to achieve. But there are similarities between nations and the UK can learn from the successes or failures of others.

Here we take a look at some of the ways countries around the world are addressing the green transport issue.

Australia

THE Australian Department for Transport and Regional Services has developed measures to raise awareness of the impact of vehicles on the environment. They include the launch of a green vehicle guide website and the requirement for a fuel consumption label on all new vehicles to guide buyers.

LPG has taken off across the country and, due to demand from customers, several states have rebate schemes in place with an LPG option.

Manufacturers such as Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Holden are increasing the number of LPG models on offer, spurred by reasonable fuel prices and emission regulations which were introduced in Australia in 2005.

Bill Hazell, manager at Australian LPG supplier Kleenheat, told The Australian newspaper: ‘We are hoping to demonstrate to government agencies that you can take a four-cylinder vehicle, put the latest technology on it and have it meet the most stringent environmental economic targets. We think we can demonstrate fleet demand for about 1,500 of these cars a year.’

France

COMPANIES in France have to pay an annual tax on company cars that they own, lease or use. All new vehicles leased or owned since January 2006 have to pay tax based on the CO2 emissions rate.

Private cars used by company employees for business purposes also fall within this tax if they do more than 5,000 kilometres per year. This is currently under review and may be changed to 15,000 kilometres.

Green cars powered by electricity, natural gas or LPG are exempt from this tax and dual-fuel cars, which run on petrol and LPG, receive an exemption of up to 50%.

The French also have a stamp duty system for vehicles. A spokesman at Masterlease France explained: ‘Each registered car has an identity card and stamp duty has to be paid when the employer or driver receives it.

‘This stamp duty depends on the horsepower of the vehicle and in some areas non-polluting vehicles are exempt.

‘From July 2006, polluting vehicles that are leased or owned are subject to an additional stamp duty when their CO2 emission rate exceeds 220g/km.’

Brazil

RENOWNED for its advances in bio-ethanol, almost half of Brazil’s sugar cane crop is converted to use as fuel. According to the Brazilian government, 3.2 billion gallons of ethanol were produced to fuel four million vehicles in just one year.

Since the Government introduced flex-fuel vehicles, which operate on ethanol, petrol or any combination the two fuels, in 2003, the take up has been massive and flex-fuel models now account for almost 75% of new car sales.

Manufacturers including Ford, Fiat, Volkswagen and General Motors sold 91,500 flex-fuel cars to January 2006, up 237% from January 2005.

Carmakers initially launched models in the medium sectors but following their success several have targeted the lower end of the market. Last year, Fiat launched three flex-fuel models with 1.0-litre engines. The ‘Mille Uno’ from Fiat is the cheapest new car on the market.

Germany

GERMAN manufacturers were the first in the industry to offer customers diesel cars with particulate filters and all new diesel cars will be fitted with this technology by 2008.

Professor Bernd Gottschalk, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry, recently called on the German government to increase the share of non-fossil fuel used in vehicles.

Industry experts want to increase the amount of bio-diesel added to conventional diesel and ethanol added to gasoline, by 10%. Gottschalk said: ‘This means that we are aiming even higher than the EU target of adding 5.75% renewable fuels by 2010.

‘We want to make the right preparations so that more biofuel can be used in road traffic and to complement the successful process of reducing fuel consumption – which has come down by 40% since the end of the 1970s and by 25% since 1990.’

India

THE Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers recently released figures showing India’s vehicle production jumped 13% last year and by 2009 the country will account for 8% of global motor industry growth.

Traffic congestion and high emissions are a huge problem in India due to many poor-condition vehicles.

The Government introduced a scheme to convert public buses to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) but it has yet to be extended to cars. However, solar-powered vehicles have been operating successfully in India for the past 10 years.

Mainly used by taxi drivers, the vehicles include a bike-based vehicle with ten 85-watt solar panels, which enable it to run 20 kilometres per hour throughout the day.

There’s also a four-seater taxi, which has six 85-watt solar panels but has greater efficiency, which means it can achieve 150 kilometres in one day under solar power.

Sweden

GOVERNMENT officials in Sweden want to sever all ties with fossil fuels by 2020 with plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all industries by 25% on 1990 levels. Oil used in the transport sector accounts for 98% of energy used and officials have said that a 50% reduction would be an ‘enormous achievement’.

Sweden produces about 35% of its energy from oil and with nuclear power on the way out it has prioritised the need for alternative power sources.

There is a state-backed bio-ethanol programme, which ensures that there is no duty on the fuel. E85-enabled bio-ethanol cars are offered free parking in Gothenburg, Stockholm and other municipalities. Biofuel cars are also 20% cheaper to insure and are exempt from the Stockholm congestion charge, while both personal and fleet users pay less tax.

Demand has been high and Ford’s flex-fuel models are now outselling its ordinary petrol and diesel cars in Sweden.

Italy

THE federal government and the European legislator in Italy offer financial contributions for fleets buying alternative-fuel vehicles such as electric or methane gas.

The amount varies from 1,500-1,800 euros and is available for individuals or companies but there is a limit as to the number of vehicles, which can be bought. Local municipalities can also offer more if they have the funds to do so.

A spokesman at Masterlease Italy added: ‘On top of these incentives, local municipalities must monitor the pollution levels and can restrict vehicle circulation at certain times. Electric vehicles are allowed to be used during these restricted periods and sometimes don’t have to pay for parking.’

Additional benefits of using electric vehicles in Italy include road taxes, which are waived for a period of five years, and for company cars, 50% of the VAT on the purchase of the vehicle can be deducted (on all other vehicles it is 15%).

The Netherlands

THE government in the Netherlands has plans to introduce a system that provides cheaper parking for cars that use less fuel. It is also looking into measures that would mean vehicles being allowed into cities only if they have a diesel particulate filter.

New speed limits have also recently been introduced on some highways around large cities and the maximum speed has been reduced to 80kph, instead of 100 or 120kph, to reduce noise and pollution. In the Netherlands, there is an excise duty on all new cars, called Belasting van Personenauto’s en Motorrijwielen (BPM).

This is 45.2% on the net list price of the car. Normally, there is a discount on the BPM of 1.54 euros for petrol cars and a penalty on the BPM for diesel cars. On July 1, 2006, the government will introduce a new system to encourage people to buy environmentally-friendly cars.

Japan

JAPANESE manufacturers dominate the market for hybrids with their petrol/electric technology.

Toyota and Honda lead the way in hybrid systems but competitors are investing heavily in the development and expansion of hybrids.

The Japanese government is trying to reduce energy consumption while at the same time encouraging the use of renewable, non-polluting energy sources.

Japan is also attempting to curb energy consumption through economic incentives. It also leads the way in hydrogen development and there is a major ongoing program to develop a global hydrogen system with new technologies for power plants, cars, buses, planes, ships and rockets, all fuelled with hydrogen, which only emits water when used in an engine.

Most manufacturers are developing hydrogen engines but the technology is still 15 to 20 years away, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. (SMMT).

United States

ALTHOUGH Japan leads the way in hybrid technology the US provides the main market. Motor research group JD Power & Associates claims the number of hybrid models available in the US will increase from 11 to 52 by 2012. Hybrid sales are also expected to surge by 270% from 210,000 in 2005 to 780,000.

The Toyota Prius has been successful in the states thanks to celebrities such as Cameron Diaz snapping them up. With an average fuel consumption of 65.7mpg, emissions are among the lowest. Earlier this year two of the US’ largest manufacturers, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler, agreed to work together on the development of hybrids.

Unlike Europe where petrol and diesel engines have different emissions standards, in the US both have to meet the same benchmark. This includes a low requirement for particulates and nitrogen oxides, meaning diesel engines have to meet tough targets.

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