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Zero emissions by 2050?

By raccars Published

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A conference held in Paris to discuss climate change has seen the UK and 12 other countries agree to aim for zero emissions in all new cars by 2050.

COP21 Conference

The Government's commitment to cleaner motoring was confirmed along with other members of the Zero Emissions Vehicle Alliance this month at the United Nations COP21 conference on climate change which was held in the French capital. The UK has now signed up to an agreement to aim for zero emissions in all new passenger vehicle sales at an accelerated schedule, and by 2050 at the latest. As part of the deal, the UK will be obliged to continue to provide subsidies or other financial incentives to car buyers choosing zero emissions vehicles. The deal also means that the UK is obliged to help companies develop new environmentally friendly technology in the form of Government grants or tax breaks.

The small print on the agreement includes a stipulation that infrastructure to promote the ownership of ZEVs must be a priority, which could include investment in more hydrogen refilling stations or electric car charging points. Public transport policies must also be informed by the decision to go zero emissions.

Zero Emissions Vehicle Alliance

Germany, the Netherlands and Norway are among the other European signatories to the agreement, together with US states California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Environmental experts claim that increasing the deployment of ZEVs on the roads could reduce vehicle emissions by 40% and lower greenhouse gas output by over a billion tonnes annually by 2050. The Zero Emissions Vehicles Alliance was formed in September this year with the aim of advancing ZEV deployment. Plug in hybrid, battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can all claim zero emissions status and are now widely available in the UK, even though public uptake has been fairly slow.

Car buyers are still exhibiting concern about the range limitations of electric cars and motoring organisations have stated that manufacturers must be encouraged to develop desirable zero emissions alternatives to combustion engined cars and that the Government must collaborate by investing in infrastructure for the same. Nonetheless the UK still has the most successful ultra-low emissions vehicle market in Europe and comes fourth worldwide.

The good news is that the BBC is reporting a predicted slight reduction in or stabilisation of global carbon dioxide emissions this year, a reversal of the standard trend during periods of global economic growth. The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) published a report stating that there are now about a million plug-in electric cars on the roads globally. That's a tiny proportion of the estimated two billion worldwide vehicle total but it has, in fact, only taken about six years to reach that level of saturation, which is far quicker than it took hybrid cars to reach the same point.

It's hard to imagine that petrolheads will be happy to give up their V8s any time soon, and the idea that there will be no petrol or diesel cars available within 35 years sounds rather alien at a time when UK car production and sales are booming. The current crop of electric performance cars proves that environmentally friendly cars don't have to be boring. Think Tesla Model S or Porsche Mission E, a radical electric saloon with 600bhp set to go into production soon.

BMW's i8 hybrid has also made a good case for ultra-low emissions vehicle, but buyers still don't seem quite ready to give up their dirty exhausts. What the Government really needs is not technological development but the world's most effective PR campaign.

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