Shaun Sadlier's blog: Thinking about emissions beyond the tailpipe
21 August 2019
When we talk about company cars and the environment, we have long tended towards quite specific objectives. For many years, we talked only in terms of CO2 at the tailpipe. Now, the diesel emissions scandal means that we have effectively added particulates - but the focus remains relatively narrow.
This has largely happened as a result of government policy which has tended towards single points of measurement, especially CO2. It is only recently that we have seen incentives from the authorities that offer a little more of a rounded environmental profile. Arguably, that approach should be widened further still.
That was why it was interesting to read that the government has asked the motor industry to start looking in detail at particulates generated by tyre and brake wear, following an initial call for evidence last year. Research suggests that it is a genuine issue.
This development set me thinking about whether, as we learn more about the environmental impact of cars, the information gathered needs to be made widely available when purchasing choices are being made - perhaps provided by both the government and other sources.
For a start, there are areas of service and maintenance to potentially consider beyond tyres and pads. A range of consumables are used during the life of a car that all add to its overall environmental cost, from oil and adblue to filters and wipers. Repairability and the recycling of damaged parts should also perhaps be studied. Few cars escape accident damage completely and the repair process needs to be as simple as possible, especially at a time when cars are becoming more complex. Also, a significant part of the environmental impact of any vehicle comes from its manufacture and this is something about which few or no facts are available for car buyers. As we move to using more electric vehicles, with large batteries, this is a subject that may gain prominence.
The question is how to incorporate all of this information into the car buying choices that fleets make in a practical and effective manner? One option might be the style of rating that the EU applies to white goods, taking a range of variables into account. In the motor industry, this approach is already applied to tyres, of course.
Whatever happens in the future, it is certainly likely that fleets will face more, rather than fewer, environmental challenges - and that these will be most effectively met if decision making can be made both as wide-ranging and as simple as possible.
Shaun Sadlier is head of consultancy at Arval