Yesterday the SMMT announced that 59,433 cars were sold in August this year, the seventh month of consecutive growth, albeit from a recent low base.
As interesting as the headline figures are, the breakdown of vehicle type is equally revealing.
Small cars dominated sales, and overall diesel and petrol-powered car sales were neck and neck at just over 29,000 each. But the number of alternatively fuelled vehicles – hybrids, electric etc. – was a relatively low 655, just 47 more than the same month in the previous year.
The figures go some way to reflecting the overall UK car parc which comprises: 20 million petrol cars, 8 million diesels, 82,000 hybrids and a little over 2,000 fully electric vehicles.
While many internal-combustion engine cars could be described as good (and getting better) in fuel efficiency terms they do not yet fall in to the low carbon (less than 100 gCO2/km) or ultra-low carbon (less than 50g CO2/km) categories.
Those interested in, and charged with, helping the UK meet its objective of cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels) will not yet be unduly worried for the take-up of the greenest cars was always going to start with a trickle before – hopefully – becoming a flood in the next ten or fifteen years. But nothing is guaranteed and it is worth remembering that for all the hype about battery and hydrogen powered cars we have a long way to go.
The latest RAC Foundation factsheet – Cars and the environment – brings together some of the numbers and challenges to help illustrate what lies ahead.
One of the big issues is what targets there should be for the future. There is already a binding EU target in place which means that the average new car sold on the continent must produce 130 gCO2/km by 2015. The debate now is what the 2020 target should be and how it should be achieved. The RAC Foundation supports the current proposal from the European Commission of 95 gCO2/km but there are plenty of others who say this figure is either too high or too low.
On 3rd November the RAC Future Car Challenge takes place once again, showcasing the very latest in environmentally friendly vehicles on a run between Brighton and London. Many will already be available in the showrooms. But as the SMMT figures demonstrate, just because they can be bought doesn’t necessarily mean that they are.