Who will be the CO2 outcasts in 2012?
21 February 2007
Are the EU's CO2 limits for all new cars by 2012 fair - or even realistic - and how will your own fleet measure up? asks Guy Bird
A very public spat has been taking place in recent weeks between the EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas, who wants a blanket average of 120g/km CO2 by 2012 and the German government who - representing the interests of many high-profile German carmakers that make lots of big and sporty cars that don't fare well in the CO2 stakes - wants variable limits by vehicle type.
The EU proposal for a binding legal limit rather than the current 'we'll try to harder' missive from carmakers, comes hot on the heels of news that 75% of major Euro carmakers are set to fall short of their own voluntary target of a 140g/km average by 2008.
Quite how this proposed law would be enforced has yet to be decided - big fines and public flogging of the managing directors at a Greenpeace rally could be one way. Meantime, it made me think how our seven-strong long term BusinessCar fleet would fare. We have a reasonable mix of vehicles (four modern diesels and three petrols) that we like to think is fairly representative of a user-chooser driven UK fleet - perhaps with more brands in there for variety of comment. But after a bit of digging and maths, I'm unhappy to report our CO2 average is still 175g/km - well off the 140g/km 2008 target and miles off the five-year 120g/km target of 2012.
“Even if carmakers concentrate more on CO2 and mpg rather than increasingly unusable power and top speeds, we could still need a more realistic proposal as current superminis don't suit everyone.”
Taking an unscientific look back five years I dug through seven long-termers we ran back in 2002 and there's worse news - our 2007 average is just 10g/km better. At this rate of change, in 2012 the BusinessCar fleet will offer a 153g/km CO2 average at best - not even close to the 2008 target let alone 2012's. And we think we're ahead of the game with CO2 tax awareness and general fleet frugality compared to retail drivers? Cleary something has to give. Even if carmakers concentrate more on CO2 and mpg rather than increasingly unusable power and top speeds, we could still need a more realistic proposal as current superminis don't suit everyone.
Meanwhile, independently-owned Porsche is in real danger from this proposal as it can't piggyback off lower emitting vehicles in its parent group like Aston Martin and Land Rover can for now with Ford to lower the overall average. But whatever happens, I can't see Porsche being banned from selling in its own continent by 2012. A similar thing did happen to Lada a few years ago when the emissions were of a non-CO2 kind, but then I suspect Germany holds more political clout in Western Europe than Russia's. The world won't fry because of a few well-engineered and generally low mileage sportscars. A bit of perspective is needed.
Guy Bird is our editor-at-large and political columnist.