There’s been a lot of coverage this week of the protests by Extinction Rebellion in London, with roads blocked (not least outside SMMT offices) and much noise being made about the country’s progress on climate change. It goes without saying that the automotive industry is committed to reducing pollution and making the transition to zero emissions. And we have a track record of progress to prove it.
Emissions performance has improved dramatically in recent decades – it would take 50 new cars to produce the same amount of pollutant emissions as one vehicle built in 1970. Progress has been significant – catalytic converters were widely introduced in 1993 to reduce carbon monoxide, diesel particulate filters, which capture 99% of soot particles, came along in 2011, and 2015 saw the introduction of selective catalytic reduction systems, which convert NOx into nitrogen and water.
Enormous strides have also been made in reducing carbon emissions, with average new car CO2 down by -31.2% since 2000. Engine downsizing, turbocharging, use of lightweight materials and technologies such as stop-start have all helped deliver huge fuel efficiency gains. Of course, UK fleet CO2 levels have risen in 2017 and 2018 after 19 years of decline following the drop in diesel sales. All fuels have a part to play in the transition to zero emissions – including modern petrol and diesel technology which delivers lower CO2, vastly reduced NOx and almost zero particulates.
The vast majority of cars on our roads are powered by internal combustion engines, so the quickest way to start reducing emissions is for fleet renewal and the filtering of these advanced technologies on to the used market, accompanied by a push to accelerate the take-up of alternatively fuelled vehicles. Drivers now have the choice of powertrains to suit every driving need, from low emission petrols and diesels, to ultra low emission hybrids and plug-ins, zero tailpipe emission pure electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
But SMMT is investing in the promotion of next-generation technologies beyond powertrains. Next week we will host the second annual Future Mobility Challenge taking place at Plexal in East London. More than 40 start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs will be pitching their innovative ideas to representatives from Bosch, Ford Mobility, Honda, Toyota and Volvo. Many of last year’s successful pitchers are well on the way to seeing their ideas come to fruition thanks to this exciting event and we hope to have similar success with the latest innovative thinkers.