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Mike Waters' Blog: 24 March 2009 - Green thinking is having an impact

Date: 24 March 2009

Mike Waters is senior insight & consultancy manager at Arval, the leading vehicle leasing and fleet management company.

Not so long ago sustainable vehicles were perceived as more of a spectacle than a serious purchase and green technology was one for the future. However, the publicity battle that is hotting up between the latest hybrid heavyweights (the new Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight) demonstrates that sustainable vehicles are becoming a credible option for mainstream consumers.

Manufacturers are greening their product ranges and drivers are purchasing in greater numbers than ever before. This is supported by new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which show the average emissions of a new car in the UK fell by the biggest margin ever in 2008.

The average model now emits 158g/km, which is 4% less than in 2007, and the improvement that the UK is showing is reflected in many other countries around the world. In the US, sales of Toyota's hybrid cars have now passed one million, highlighting the rising popularity of vehicles that are perceived to have an ecological benefit.

What's more, while it took seven years for Toyota to sell the first 500,000 hybrids in the US, the next 500,000 have been sold in just two.

In a month when electric vehicle specialist Nice has been resurrected after going into administration last November, the drive towards electric has never been stronger, and because of the current worldwide recession, in many ways has never been more relevant.

Last year's volatile fuel prices combined with the economic downturn have made sustainable vehicles more attractive because of their cost-saving potential. This has helped to accelerate a switch to low-cost, more efficient vehicles, while squeezing demand for the more expensive cars that tend to be higher emitters of CO2.

Other initiatives are also playing a part in educating consumers at the point of purchase. The introduction of voluntary colour-coded new-car CO2 labels have clearly contributed to an increase in the awareness of environmental performance of new cars.

The green credentials of new vehicles have never been more important and as a result information on the best-performing cars has never been more readily available. Just log onto the 'Act on CO2' website and you can look at a list of the best-performing cars by class.

With Government investment in manufacturers linked to green performance we will see the technology developing at a more rapid pace than ever before. The result will be greater choice and quality of sustainable vehicles, which can only help to grow their popularity.