Fleet News

Green transport: cutting carbon emissions

DESPITE all the environmental initiatives covered in the pages of Fleet NewsNet, carbon emissions from road transport continue to rise in the UK.

While progress in slowing soaring CO2 emissions has been made, the pollution of the planet from cars and vans continues to build.

One of the leading organisations seeking to do something about this is the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership. Established in 2003, the LowCVP was one of the Government’s main initiatives in its Powering Future Vehicle strategy.

With more than 200 automotive, academic, environmental and energy organisations behind it, its main aim is to accelerate the shift to low carbon vehicles, using funding from the Department for Transport and the Department of Trade and Industry.

In July 2005, the LowCVP launched the Low Carbon Road Transport Challenge, throwing down the gauntlet to academics, think-tanks and anyone else who could construct an innovative policy proposal to promote low carbon vehicles and fuels.

The best were announced at the third annual LowCVP conference, held at the DTI last month.

Over the coming weeks, Fleet News will be looking in depth at some of these proposals. We hope to hear what you, our readers, and those that such ideas could affect if implemented, think of them.

Would draconian measures be acceptable?

OUR first featured set of ideas are certainly controversial.

Dr Jillian Anable, Paige Mitchell and Dr Russell Layberry believe there is not enough speed enforcement on UK roads. The trio, from the UKERC and the Centre for Transport Policy, The Slower Speeds Initiative and the University of Oxford respectively, would like to see more traffic police regulating limits and more speed cameras, together with a reduction in the national speed limit, from 70mph to 60.

The authors of the report recognise the Herculean task of convincing people that this is workable – the proposal is appropriately titled Getting the Genie Back in the Bottle.

They brought together data on fuel consumption, emissions factors, traffic flow and road speed to construct a model to prove their theory. They have also examined potential knock-on effects on traffic demand, flow and road safety.

The trio’s conclusions are that enforcing the 70mph limit more stringently would cut carbon emissions from road transport by nearly one million tonnes of carbon (MtC) a year. It would also prevent more than 300 deaths and serious injuries a year on the motorways alone.

Reducing the speed limit to 60mph would have even more of an effect, cutting emissions by 1.88MtC a year and cutting deaths and serious injuries by more than 600.

Traffic growth

The ability to travel at speed on a road is part of its attractiveness. By reducing the average speed, drivers would be encouraged to make fewer journeys, choose closer destinations or switch to other modes of transport.

The traffic reduction would have its own positive impact on carbon reduction. The report authors forecast a 3% saving under the 70mph enforcement scenario and 7% if we cut to 60mph.

Car design

Anable, Mitchell and Layberry believe that lower top speeds and the safety benefits would mean changes to the market for cars. They envisage lighter cars with less power, which will have their own positive effect on carbon output.

In the short term, setting and enforcing a lower top speed on public roads would encourage the uptake of speed limiters, which could be hastened by offering financial incentives to do so.

Vehicle weight and engine size could be reduced to make cars less powerful, smaller and more fuel-efficient.


Simple rationale here. If you subscribe to the theory that speed kills, then less speeding equals less killing. Figures from 2004 suggest that speed cameras reduced average speeds by 7%. If strict enforcement means average motorway speeds drop from 71mph to 66mph, the authors think this will save 60 lives and 270 serious injuries a year. A 60mph limit would almost halve the current rate of deaths and serious injuries on motorways. Aside from the humanitarian appeal, such reduction would save society £120 million a year.

Public acceptance

Just how do you convince a public already sceptical of speed cameras that reducing the speed limit still further and enforcing it even more is a good idea?

Anable, Mitchell and Layberry said: ‘They would experience direct benefits in fuel savings and operating costs. Moreover, speed limit enforcement and reduction would require less behavioural change than other technological, regulatory or fiscal measures.’

A publicity campaign would be needed to convince the populace of the scheme’s benefits and the authors believe that the public and businesses would consider speed reduction the most acceptable and convenient of all the options to reduce emissions.

Alternative fuels, road charging, car pooling, public transport and so on would all cost more or entail unpopular changes to travel behaviour.

‘The public mood on this issue must be thoroughly and scientifically gauged,’ the authors admit.’

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