For those of you who were not fortunate enough to make their way eastwards to the Excel Centre yesterday to join the thousands of others taking part in the Motor Show, let me tell you it’s an interesting experience!

At the Motor Show we launched – with a small fanfare thanks to the less than adequate entrance/exit arrangements at the Centre – our new report Driven. The report was written by David Kenington – one of our young up and coming staff here at the Trust – and a good read it is too.  I will not attempt to repeat all the findings contained in the report and the media briefing (although links to these are given below). What I will concentrate on – having read the report in detail – are some of the more interesting and perhaps surprising nuggets contained within it.

Did you know that the growth of cars has now reached the stage where there are more cars than households in the UK? Not surprising you might think, but interestingly research has shown suggests that eventually you do get to a point where enough is enough.  In California, for instance, the number of cars – believe it or not – per household now exceeds the number of people living in those households. This has had the perverse, but I suppose unsurprising effect of a reduction in miles per vehicle driven.  It’s a strange world.

You probably already knew that diesel cars tend to be 10% to 20% more efficient than petrol cars, in terms of fuel and overall CO2 emissions. However, as manufacturers have needed to develop more and more diesel vehicles to satisfy demand – now running at about 40% of market share – what have they chosen to do?  Yes – they have opted to produce larger engine diesel vehicles rather than the smaller vehicles that previously dominated.  The result? Diesel-fuelled car average CO2 emissions are actually going up. Bizarre! 

These sorts of stats are a real ‘did you know’ for me. And there are more. Did you know that SUV’s are far from the worse performing class of motor vehicle in terms of average CO2 emissions?  Now compared to small and super mini class they may not be good, but compared to the rest of the market they are certainly not the worse. Those accolades lie with the Sports and Luxury Saloon sectors. The Luxury Saloon being the worst of the lot with average CO2 emissions of – get ready for it – 274 grams per kilometre!   Now sales are low compared to other segments, but we all know who drives the luxury saloons: opinion formers, company bosses, politicians…You get my drift – not much of an example!

Finally, some good news! You might think those new fangled MPVs carrying 5, 6, 7 people would be real gas guzzlers, but the pleasingly over the last decade they have actually show the greatest improvement in terms of CO2 reductions at 23% and the best improvement in fuel efficiency.  I think perhaps we need to think about this more when we hear the arguments around the need for larger vehicles.  Larger vehicles don’t need to be 4x4s – not when MPVs have this sort of CO2 track record anyway.

Finally, and no doubt slightly more controversially there needs to be a push back on the current hysteria around Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). A research document published a couple of years ago by our Transport Strategy Manager, Alex Veitch, revealed that even small rises in VED are very effective in reducing CO2. Therefore, I am particularly supportive of a higher first year VED rate as this will make it a more significant financial cost in comparison to the price of the car. VED and hopefully have an impact on purchasing decisions.  I am personally not so sure about the retrospective element of VED, but I am convinced there is a clear signal to people buying new cars to help them change their behaviour. 

I would be interested in views.

Click here to read the Driven report

Click here to read the press release