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For many years vehicle manufacturers have been working to reduce the environmental impact of their products and manufacturing processes. Achieving the right balance of economic progress, environmental care and social responsibility is of vital importance.

In the last 15 years, the automotive industry has made huge strides to reduce the environmental impact of its products throughout the life cycle. Since 1999, improvements in production processes mean energy used to produce vehicles is down 19%, water use is has been cut by 35% and 91% less waste enters landfill sites. Average new car tailpipe CO2 emissions have also been slashed and are down 31% over 15 years ago.

Looking to the future, industry will continue to drive down emissions as technical progress and a collaborative government approach will help to move the UK towards a more sustainable and low carbon future.

There are several key environmental policies which will affect the UK automotive industry and more details can be found in SMMT’s Annual Automotive Sustainability Report.


What is the motor industry doing to stop global warming?

During the last decade, the UK motor industry has made progress against a wide range of environmental indicators, new car CO2 emissions, total energy consumed and CO2 emitted from manufacturing. You can learn more by downloading the annual SMMT Sustainability Report and the SMMT New Car CO2 report.

Wouldn’t it be better if we stopped making new vehicles?

The majority of life cycle CO2 emissions of a vehicle come from the use phase. That is, 10% comes from production, 85% from the use phase and 5% from recycling. In the last decade, CO2 emitted from the tailpipe has reduced by 22% to 2010.

What is the industry doing to reduce emissions from vehicles?

Industry has reduced tailpipe CO2 emission by 22% in the last decade to 2010. The improvement in performance can be attributed to a number of factors. In recent years, vehicle manufacturers have been investing huge resources in developing lower emitting vehicles and technologies. Industry is looking forward to a 25% reduction in new car CO2 through the European Commission Regulation, to 130g/km by 2012-15, with an additional 10g/km from ‘complementary measures’.

When are we going to see alternative fuels?

Alternative fuels are available today. Flex-fuel vehicles which run on E85 (85 per cent bio-ethanol/15% fossil fuel blend) can be purchased from car showrooms now. Conventional fuels in the market are currently 5% biofuel for petrol (EN228) and 7% for diesel (EN590). Some manufacturers are also working on the use of hydrogen as an alternative to diesel and petrol as well as electric. Registrations of alternatively fuelled vehicles rose by 52.8% in 2010 to 22,865 units. This is 64 times the number in 2000.

How many vehicles are recycled every year?

Under the End of Life Vehicle Directive, in place since 2007, every car which comes to the end of its life can be recycled free of charge to the customer at an Authorised Treatment Facility. This means that up to 95% of the weight of the vehicle will be recycled and reused.

Should manufacturers recycle every vehicle free of charge?

It is now the manufacturers’ responsibility to recycle all cars which have come to the end of their use, under the End of Life Vehicle directive if there is a cost. The consumer should take their vehicle to an authorised treatment facility, where they will be presented with a certificate of destruction.

What does sustainability mean to the motor industry?

The motor industry sees sustainability as a commitment to the environmental, economical and social welfare of everyone working both in the sector and those affected by it. Each year SMMT reports on this through its annual Sustainability Report.

Why are we still using petrol and diesel to fuel vehicles?

All manufacturers are working to develop alternative powertrains. However in the interim conventional engines are more fuel efficient than ever before and Euro engine emission standards introduced in the early 1990s have led to significant improvements in emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulates and hydrocarbons from passenger cars, vans and trucks. Since 1992, NOx emissions have been reduced by around 67% and diesel particulates have dropped by 94%.

SMMT statement on diesel proposals

Responding to recent media reports and campaigns, an SMMT spokesperson said: “Industry is concerned that some criticism of diesel engines fails to distinguish between decades-old diesel technologies and today’s modern, clean, diesel engines. Recent coverage also overlooks the role of policymakers, infrastructure planning, consumer behaviour, and the many other areas of society that contribute to

Saving energy, saving money

SMMT, in association with the RMI and the Carbon Trust, has published the Dealer Energy Efficiency Guide providing expert advice on how best to reduce your energy use and improve your bottom line profits.

The automotive industry is committed to improving its environmental performance throughout the sector and will continue to support dealerships and their efforts to increase energy efficiency with zero or very low cost measures.

The average dealership could save up to £10,000 a year by cutting its energy use… and £4,000 of this could be saved without spending a penny.

SMMT has published a detailed Guide which provides steps on how best to take action to reduce energy use and improve business profits. Its findings are based on visits to a sample of dealerships across the UK, by a Carbon Trust-appointed consultant which found that significant savings could be made, often only resulting from small changes.

The survey revealed that savings of 25% are possible with modest undertakings. This is equivalent to £10,000, given the gas and electricity costs in an averaged-sized dealership, which is typically paying £40,000 per year. Energy savings of 10%, or £4,000, are possible from zero cost activities.

As energy costs are widely expected to increase over time, action now will deliver increased benefits in the future.

SMMT has also developed some guidance and tips for saving water and how best to dispose of waste. These follow many of the same basic principles of how to become energy efficient and suggest adopting a seven step action plan for change.

SMMT has summarised the key steps towards improving your environmental performance in the video below.

To download the full Guide, click here, or for a brief summary click here.

Undertake the seven step action plan

Step 1: Appoint an energy champion

Appoint an appropriate person to drive energy management and provide senior level support and endorsement.

Step 2: Develop an energy policy

Produce a written energy policy for the Group or site which is signed and approved by the most senior manager and communicated to all employees.

Step 3: Identify meters and invoices

Identify the location of all utility meters and gain regular access to all utility invoices.

Step 4: Monitor and target energy use

Read meters regularly, plot consumption, check usage against targets, identify waste and take corrective action.

Step 5: Conduct regular energy walkabouts

Conduct regular energy walkabouts identifying and recording energy waste, maintenance issues and opportunities for no cost, low cost and investment measures.

Step 6: Implement energy saving measures

Produce a clear written plan in each area with priorities for action against identified measures, with timescales, costs, savings and those responsible for action.

Step 7: Engage employees and the public

Regularly raise staff awareness, gain support/ideas, train key people and provide regular feedback on progress toward targets. Communicate objectives and successes with the public.

Saving energy is easier than you think

“You don’t need lots of technical knowledge. If you do need technical advice it can be easily accessed. Energy management is essentially good management of a measureable resource and makes business sense. That is why the best run companies in the UK are the most energy efficient. It is in no-one’s interest to waste energy and everyone benefits including business performance.”

Tom Delay, Chief Executive, The Carbon Trust

£10,000 worth of savings to be made


  • Switch off lights that are not in use.
  • Make better use of natural light.
  • Replace filament and halogen lights with LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs or Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL).
  • Replace T12 fluorescent tubes with thinner, more efficient, T5 tubes.

FACT: On average, 40% of energy costs are related to lighting.

Heating and hot water

  • Switch off heating systems that are not in use.
  • Close doors when heating or air conditioning is on.
  • Save up to £8,000 a year by resetting heating controls on the boiler.
  • Save £300 a year by repairing door seals.
  • Save £1,000 a year by installing radiant heaters.

FACT: On average, 30% of dealership energy costs relate to heating.

Settings and controls

  • Save up to £4,000 a year by installing a Building Management System in workshop and bodyshop areas.
  • Use timers for car park lights and save up to £3,000 a year.
  • Save up to £5,000 a year by reducing the fan speed on air-handling units.
  • Save up to £6,000 a year by adjusting air-conditioning settings.

FACT: For every 1oC the A/C is set below 24oC, electricity consumption and costs increase by 11%.

Compressed air equipment

  • Save £100 a year by enabling time controls on the air compressor.
  • Save £1,000 a year by maintaining air compressors to prevent leaks.
  • Compressed air escaping from a 3mm hole can cost up to £700 a year in wasted electricity.

FACT: On average, 6% of energy costs relate to the air compressor.

Monitor and improve

  • Track energy use to see the difference improvements can make.
  • Energy consumption data is best taken from meters. If not available then use invoice data.
  • Analyse data in comparison to historical data to understand how your site is performing.
  • Act on findings, or contact SMMT for help by e-mailing energyefficiency@smmt.co.uk.

FACT: Reducing temperature settings by just 1oC can reduce consumption by 8%.

The above savings were found during the site visits undertaken in 2010/2011.

Next steps:

Download the full Dealer Energy Efficiency Guide or contact energyefficiency@smmt.co.uk for further advice on how to save energy and save money.

A summary version outlining the Guide’s key steps is also available here.

SMMT hosted a webinar regarding dealer energy efficiency. Click through to download the presentation given by John Mullholland of NIFES, the Guide author.

If you would like more information, you can download a web version of the Dealer Energy Efficiency presentation from the report launch.

Industry will continue to provide insight and advice on how dealers can improve their energy efficiency. Contact energyefficiency@smmt.co.uk to receive updated information or regularly check for updates on the SMMT dealer energy efficiency page.

SMMT has also developed some guidance and tips for saving water and how best to dispose of waste. These follow many of the same basic principles of how to become energy efficient and suggest adopting a seven step action plan for change.

Water use in dealerships

Water, like any other resource, costs money to use – and if you are on a meter, which most businesses are, then reducing usage will also reduce costs, as well as creating a more sustainable business.

Areas of water use:

  • Car wash – If you have this facility it is likely to be the main user of water on site.
  • Taps – a left on tap can use 1,000 litres of water an hour.
  • Toilets
  • Sinks
  • Kitchen

Just as with energy, the seven step action plan is directly relevant to water usage. Step 1 – appoint an appropriate person to drive water management, then follow the other steps, develop a water use policy, identify meters and invoices, monitor water use, conduct regular walkabouts to check water use, implement water saving measures and engage with staff and the public to raise awareness, get feedback and encourage action.

It is important to try to fix any leaks as soon as possible to reduce wastage. Hot water issues should be tackled first, as hot water can cost up to 10 times the cost of cold water.

No cost measures

  • Turn taps off when not in use.
  • Make staff aware of the cost of wasting water.

Low cost measures

  • Fit on/off nozzles or triggers to hoses
  • Collect and use rain-water where possible.
  • Fit self-closing taps
  • Fit aerators to taps, to restrict water flow
  • Use displacement devices in toilet cisterns
  • Fit dual-flush toilets (can retro-fit, or when updating system put new ones in).
  • Set urinals so they do not waste water, eg so they only flush with usage.

Higher cost measures

  • Use a water re-use system in the car wash.

Water contamination

Ensure hazardous waste does not leak and cause contamination to water supplies. There can be fines and penalties for water contamination. Keep containers sealed and ensure no leaks or spills. If accidents do happen clean them up as soon as possible and report them, if necessary. Fit interceptors onto drainage systems if dealing with trade effluent or if you have petrol/diesel refuelling system on site. Ensure those inceptors are regularly maintained.


Disposal of waste in dealerships

Waste can be split into the following categories:

  • Hazardous Waste (eg oil, oil filters, batteries, etc)
  • Recyclables (eg paper, cardboard, plastics)
  • Metals
  • General waste

In most cases you will have to pay for the removal of waste. Always try to minimise the amount of waste you produce, eg talk to suppliers about reducing packaging. Shop around for the best deal on waste removal.

In some cases you can get paid for waste materials, notably for metals. Speak to a waste contractor and they should be able to offer you advice and support. The contractor may provide a container to store metal in for collection.

Try to separate your waste as much as possible to ensure it is stored and disposed of as effectively as possible.

Avoid using open storage bins or skips. Not only do they discourage separation, but they can also be used by non-garage staff and filled with rainwater (if kept outside) – which would mean less space for waste, but also add weight and mess which may add to the cost of collection.

Hazardous waste

  • Waste oil
  • Oil filters
  • Oily rags
  • Oil fines (eg saw dust used to soak up oil spills)
  • Mixed fuels (eg petrol, diesel, etc)
  • Brake fluid
  • Anti-freeze
  • Car batteries and other smaller batteries
  • Tyres
  • Waste electrical and electronic equipment
  • Unused air bags
  • Oil brake pads
  • Fluorescent lights
  • Aerosols
  • Mobile air conditioning units

Ensure hazardous waste is correctly stored. Avoid leaks and spills and take appropriate action if accidents do happen.

Ensure hazardous waste is collected by licensed contractor, and keep appropriate records of contractors licence and permit numbers and amount of waste collected.

Ensure hazardous waste is not put in with general waste.

Just as with energy and water, the seven step action plan is directly relevant to disposing of waste properly. Step 1 – appoint an appropriate person to drive waste management, then follow the other steps, develop a waste disposal policy, monitor waste type and volume, implement waste minimisation, improved storage, separation and disposal cost saving measures and engage with staff to raise awareness, get feedback and encourage action on better waste management.