Mark Sinclair's Blog: 26 August 2009 - Ten years is a short time in emissions reduction as well as politics
26 August 2009
Mark Sinclair is boss of leasing firm Alphabet
Imagine for a moment that your company's CEO has suddenly turned completely "green". He decrees that henceforth all fleet purchases must conform to the 95g/km of CO2 recently adopted by Government as its target for average new car emissions in 2020.
What does today's car market offer?
I'll give you a clue - you only need the fingers of two hands to count your options.
Out of 3,500 car models currently listed by the Vehicle Certification Agency, only seven emit less than 95g/km of CO2 - the target that the Government has set for the average new car in ten years' time.
Not that there is anything wrong with that. Today's market works with today's standards and driver expectations.
But, while ten years is a very long time in politics or business, it is only two or three car replacements away for a driver on a four-year company car cycle. In his or her terms, ten years becomes a very compressed timescale to make a transition that - in today's market - would mean swapping (say) a two-litre, 140bhp Ford Mondeo for a 799cc Smart Fortwo Coupé.
The contrast highlights the scale of the challenge facing the car manufacturers. In less than a decade's time they must deliver all the working qualities of a car like the Mondeo in packages with the CO2 emissions of the Smart.
The good news is that they are well on their way to succeeding. The greenest Mondeo is already down to 139g/km. And just last week, BMW cracked the 110g/km barrier in the upper medium class with its 109g/km 320d EfficientDynamics model.
With 163bhp on tap, the new 320d ED is also a far cry from the kind of small-engined, ultra-compact-sized unit that, I daresay, most drivers tend to think of as typical low carbon vehicles.
Fleets need to educate drivers on this question. Current sub-100g/km cars are still, in the main, small in not well suited to long distances. At the same time, the mass media naturally focuses on potential high tech developments in alternative engine and drive train technologies.
It's easy for drivers to stick with their existing habits and preferences in the belief that someone will come up with a 'magic bullet' solution in a few years. In fact, the Government doesn't expect electric cars, plug-in hybrids or fuel cell vehicles to start making an impact much before 2030.
The technologies that will carry fleets and drivers through to the all-sub-100g/km fleet in only another ten years are already mostly with us. At present, the actual performance cars with similar CO2 emissions vary quite widely but as time goes on customers will develop a clearer idea of what can be achieved and they will raise their sights accordingly.
The good news is that all the evidence suggests the leading manufacturers are already delivering cars with the potential to meet tomorrow's tough emissions targets with very little, if any, diminution in the dynamics that make today's conventional versions attractive to job-need and perk drivers alike.