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Mike Waters' blog: 25 June 2013 - CO2 regulation headache

Date: 25 June 2013

Mike Waters is senior insight & consultancy manager at leasing and fleet management company Arval

In recent years, Government regulation has done a great job in helping to reduce vehicle emissions and get drivers into more efficient cars.

Through vehicle-related taxation and other regionally based benefits such as congestion charge exemption for certain vehicles, they have successfully made the most efficient vehicles an attractive option for many employees.

The problem the Government and regulators now face is that the goalposts are starting to shift. The emergence of a number of new vehicle technologies is beginning to muddy the waters.

Irrespective of the motivation, regulation, taxation and road charging must be fair and consistent, but new powertrains mean that the Government will have to think long and hard about its policy going forward.

Take, for example, hybrid and range-extender technology; a conventional internal combustion engine working in conjunction with an electric motor.

Currently there are three vehicles listed on the TfL website as being exempt from the congestion charge following the introduction of new rules later this year.

They are petrol-electric hybrids but there are already diesel hybrids coming into the market that can operate in exactly the same way. The question is, will exactly the same rules be applied?

The other point to consider is that there is no guarantee that any vehicle with a combination of powertrains will operate on the most environmental one when travelling through a congested area.

It seems like common sense to assume that drivers will choose the most environmentally friendly option.

But without the necessary understanding of the technology and a clear view of how to obtain optimum performance levels, we can't just assume that drivers will automatically do the right thing.

Achieving consistency in regulation is going to be a difficult task for the Government; achieving the available environmental benefits from drivers is going to be a challenge for us all.

So it will be interesting to see how they get around this kind of conundrum and implement a fair approach because there is no doubt that Government policy has a major impact on the vehicles that we buy and lease, so they are under a great deal of pressure to get things right.