What motorists can do to help reduce the effects of climate change
By Reino Gevers Feb 14, 2007, 7:58 GMT
Hamburg - The cars that motorists buy and their daily driving habits have an enormous influence on the amount of greenhouse gases spewed into the atmosphere and will have a major impact on mitigating or speeding up the effects of climate change in the next decades, scientists say.
The climate report released earlier this month in Paris by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pinpointed human transportation as a big contributor to the emission of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.
Some 14 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions are from transportation, according to the IPCC report with 76 per cent stemming from road transport of which cars and vans in turn make up 45 per cent.
Countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions are stepping up the pressure on car manufacturers to produce more 'green' cars.
Major European car makers have so far failed to comply with their voluntary commitment to reduce CO2 emissions of new cars to an average of 140 grammes per kilometre by 2008. The average emission currently is at a level of 160 g.
Car makers earn a large portion of their profits in the top market segment with unabatetd demand for high-powered Porsche, BMW, Bentleys and Jaguars. On average these super sports cars spew 300 grammes and more of CO2 into the atmosphere.
But as the devastating effects of climate change are already being felt in many parts of the world and scientists are presenting more and more stark evidence of human-induced climate change, public opinion is beginning to change. Sales of petrol-guzzling Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) have slumped not only because of high prices at the pump but because they are being vilified by environmentalists as 'climate killers'.
Some environmental groups like the German Environmental Aid Fund (DUH) are even demanding a total ban on advertising for cars with an emission exceeding 210 g of CO2.
But every motorist can help mitigate the effects of climate change immediately simply by changing his/her driving habits. According to Gerd Lottsiepen from the German traffic association (VCD), some 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are spewed into the atmosphere by cars in Germany every year.
'At least 20 per cent of that figure can easily be saved,' Lottsiepen says simply by changing gears at lower revs and driving at a constant speed.
The VCD recommends a top speed of 80 km/h on country roads and 120 km/h on motorways. A real fuel guzzler is the permanent use of the air conditioning system in the car which can make fuel consumption shoot up by up by an additional 1.8 litres per 100 kilometres.
It is also advisable to use a bicycle, bus or subway for short trips. A cold engine uses up to four times more fuel than a motor that has reached average driving temperature after four kilometres.
What type of car people buy also has a major impact and can really make a difference to the money in your pocket. Many industrialised countries are debating or planning high taxation of cars with high fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
Converting your petrol-engined car to liquid petroleum gas (LPG) or autogas is one alternative. A conversion in Europe currently costs about 2,000 euros (2,590 dollars0 for the average car. If there is no LPG filling station on your route, the car can be switched back to conventional petrol use. Fuel costs of an LPG vehicle are about 40 per cent lower than for a comparable petrol-engined car.
Tests conducted at Vauxhall's British Millbrook proving ground found that autogas can help reduce the emission of particulates by 90 per cent compared to diesel with Euro III vehicles and 95 per cent less particulate emissions compared with a diesel Euro II vehicle. CO2 emissions in autogas cars were 11 to 12 per cent lower than from petrol vehicles and up to 50 per cent less in cold start conditions.
If you prefer a diesel car, make sure that it is fitted with a particle filter. It might also be advisable to wait a few months to buy a vehicle fitted with the latest 'Bluetec' diesel technology.
Described by car makers as the cleanest diesel in the world, Bluetec especially reduces nitrogen oxide emissions, the only exhaust components from diesel engines which still exceed the levels in petrol units. The Bluetec cars are also between 20 and 40 per cent more fuel-efficient than petrol cars, according to DaimlerChrysler. The car maker is also considering plans to produce a hybrid fitted with the Bluetec technology.
Hybrid vehicles fitted with an electric motor and petrol engine are an option if you do a lot of city driving or commuting with stop- and-go traffic. If most of your driving is on flat country roads the extra weight carried by the hybrid in fact increases fuel consumption.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur