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Emissions guide

A green light for car emissions?Your choice of car has a number of impacts; firstly on your wallet, as there are always additional outlays to make, for fuel, servicing, parts and insurance. However, your choice of car also has an affect on the environment, both locally and globally. By choosing a vehicle that emits lower levels of CO2 and other particulates means you will be doing your green duty and saving the environment. And as a big plus point, cars with lower emissions also tend to be more efficient with fuel usage.

Choose the right vehicle for your needs

The size of car you buy should suit what you are going to use it for. If you have a large family and regularly make trips together, then it makes sense to buy a gas-guzzling people carrier. If you travel on your own or with a partner, then a compact car with a smaller engine will be much better on your pocket and the environment.

Whilst engine size plays a big part in the fuel economy of a vehicle, what is even more important is the weight of the car. A big heavy Chelsea tractor will require a large amount of fuel to get it running, whereas a small car with a big engine will require far less.

Your choice of gearbox also has an affect on your overall emissions/fuel economy. You may be used to an automatic, and indeed they can be great for urban driving. However, an automatic tends to use up to ten percent more fuel than one with a manual gearbox. Newer cars are coming out that use a combination of electronics and hydraulic systems to provide more efficient gear changes and clutch usage, and these models are on par with manuals in the fuel efficiency stakes. Paddle-switched gears are becoming more popular for changing gear, and these can also help to reduce fuel usage.

This is all well for urban drivers, but if you spend most of your time on the motorway, then the choice between automatic and manual gearbox will have very little affect on your fuel consumption.


Four-by-fours are never going to be as economical as two-wheel drives. Even vehicles with the same body will have about a five percent higher fuel consumption than it's two-wheel counterpart. In fact, if you put a 4x4 up against the most economical two-wheeler, when carrying the same load the two-wheeler could use up to 15 percent less fuel than the 4x4.

Of course, you may need a 4x4 for other uses than to ferry the kids to school and do the shopping. For those who need the power of a 4x4 but want to lessen their emissions, there are a number of fuel efficient models coming onto the market every year. Whilst still not as economical as a two-wheeler, they are still worth considering to lessen your impact on the environment.

CO2 Emissions

Conventionally-fuelled cars and vehicle all emit CO2 gas when they burn their fuel, and this is thought to be the main gas involved in climate change. The amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide) emitted depends on the amount of fuel consumed, and this is one of the reasons why carmakers are attempting to make their vehicles as economic with their fuel usage as possible. Current road tax is also determined by the amount of CO2 gas a car emits.

The burning of conventional fuel produces other harmful emissions too, for example NOx (nitrogen oxide), but technology has yet to eliminate this totally (unless you use an electric car). Newer vehicles will however produce less of these emissions.

When a car manufacturer produces a new model for sale in the EU, an array of tests must be made, covering environmental emissions and safety amongst others, in order to be approved for the European market. These tests encompass the emissions from the exhaust of the vehicle in question, as they must meet specific standards which have been in effect since the 90s.

The Euro I standard was the first such standard to be enforced in Europe, and at the time (July 1992) was responsible for the prevalence of so many catalytic converters being fitted to petrol cars. The Euro standards become more stringent with every increment. The latest standard to come into force was the Euro V and was introduced in September 2009. It's guidelines have been responsible for the fitting of particulate filters in all new diesel vehicles to come onto the market. The next Euro standard is due to come into force in September 2014.

The main message here is that newer cars are kinder to the environment. Indeed, it is thought that a car built before the Euro I standard came into force produces up to 20 times the emissions of modern vehicles.

The role fuel type plays

A selection of fuelsVehicles that use petrol tend to produce a higher amount of CO2 gasses, about 10% more than diesels. This is mainly because they use more fuel. However, less toxic emissions are produced by burning petrol than diesel.

Diesel-powered vehicles tend to be more economical than petrol ones and use less fuel, and thus produce less CO2. Engines that use direct injection tend to be the most economical. However, diesel cars are not really suited for urban driving, though if you're mainly a motorway driver you should definitely opt for one.

LPG gas produces less toxic gas when burned than diesel, however the fuel consumption of an LPG powered car is around a quarter more than a petrol powered one.


The amount of Road Tax you'll pay depends on your car's CO2 emissions; therefore the cheapest vehicle to have on the road will be a newer small car with a big petrol engine.

Similarly, Company Car Tax payments are also dependant on your car's CO2 emissions. However, with company cars, a 3 percent surcharge is added if it's diesel-powered; this is because of higher overall emissions and particulates.

If yours is a newer car, and meets the Euro V standards, and you travel around the London area, you may be able to get the benefits of the Greener Vehicle Discount to the congestion charge.

Your checklist for a green car

Think of your driving needs, and get the smallest car you can that suits them.

More fuel being burned equals more pollution. Opt for the most economical model you can get.

Technology gets better every year, and this includes the technology needed for cleaner emissions. A newer car will most often be greener.

A vehicle with a manual gearbox usually produces less emissions.

Your driving style can also have an affect on your fuel usage, and thusly your CO2 production.

A greener car is usually a cheaper car to run, so get the best of both worlds and choose an economical vehicle. The leaps in clean car technology over the past few years are only a good thing, as anyone who lived in a big city centre a decade or so ago can attest.

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