Memorandum from SMMT
1. The UK motor industry is committed to
working towards sustainable development. It is one of the first
sectors to have launched a sectoral Sustainability Strategy. In
March 2000, 11 major vehicle and component manufacturers, representing
over 40 per cent of the sector's annual turnover, were founding
signatories to the strategy. The document entitled "Towards
Sustainability: The Automotive Sector Strategy", outlines
the industry's commitment to balance economic progress with environmental
care and social responsibility in order to ensure continuing progress
across the Triple Bottom Line.
2. Vehicle manufacturers have translated
their voluntary commitment into a drive for cleaner, sustainable
products. A car built today produces only around 5 per cent of
the emissions of local air pollutants of a car produced in the
1970s. European automotive manufacturers are constantly improving
the fuel efficiency and environmental performance of their vehicles
in response to market pressures. In 1998, European, Japanese and
Korean vehicle manufacturers have entered into a unique and groundbreaking
voluntary agreement with the European Commission to reduce CO2
emissions from new passenger cars by 25 per cent from 1995 levels
by 2008. This agreement is expected to contribute up to 15 per
cent of the total reduction in CO2 emissions agreed
by the EU under the Kyoto agreement. It presents continuing major
technological, commercial and marketing challenges to the industry
which will require manufacturers to undertake substantial additional
investment in R&D.
3. A variety of cleaner vehicle technologies
are currently being developed to meet European emissions standards
and achieve the automotive industry's voluntary commitment. This
paper will outline the R&D work undertaken by UK vehicle manufacturers
to curb vehicle emissions through reduced vehicle weight, cleaner
engine and after-treatment technology, and alternative fuel technologies.
II. LATEST DEVELOPMENTS
Reduced Vehicle Weight
4. The weight of a vehicle has probably
the greatest overall impact on its fuel efficiency and CO2
emissions. Most of the materials weight in vehicles consists of
steel together with smaller amounts of other materials such as
iron, aluminium, zinc and copper. The remainder is mainly non-metallic
containing plastics, glass, textiles, rubber and paint residues.
Vehicle manufacturers are at the forefront of research and development
into the use of high strength lightweight materials.
5. They are working hard to reduce vehicle
weight while still increasing vehicle safety and durability. Structural
plastics used in bodywork can provide 40 times more resistance
to damage than steel for half the weight. Plastics and plastic
components currently make up about 13 per cent of a modern car's
weight, and this proportion is rising as progress is made in materials
development and recyclability. At the same time, vehicle manufacturers
have been co-operating to mark all plastic parts with international
symbols for easy identification, which aids the recycling process.
6. In its final report the Cleaner Vehicle
Task Force (CVTF) recognises that despite the concerted efforts
of vehicle manufacturers to improve engine efficiency considerably
in recent years, the improvements in fuel-efficiency of new cars
have not matched the considerable reductions in emissions of local
air pollutants. The CVTF acknowledges that this is the case largely
"because vehicles have become heavier in response to other
environmental demands, safety improvements and greater consumer
7. Competing regulatory demands in the fields
of road safety and environmental protection prove a great challenge
to vehicle manufacturers in the UK. What manufacturers need from
Government is consistent and joined-up thinking between departments
that sets out clear, non-competing policy priorities to which
they can respond in the design and manufacture of new vehicles.
Cleaner Engine and After-Treatment Technologies
8. The UK automotive industry welcomes the
cuts and incentivisation of fuel excise duty for ultra-low sulphur
petrol and diesel as announced in the Chancellor's pre-budget
report 2000. The recognition within the company car tax regime
of the benefits of modern diesel and alternative fuels will encourage
the market for low emission vehicles. These are positive incentives
for the production and use of cleaner fuels and vehicles.
9. Reduced sulphur levels in petrol and
diesel directly influence the emission of local pollutants, acidifying
gases, and ozone precursors and have a role to play in improving
the fuel efficiency of new cars. Ultra-low sulphur diesel and
gasoline are needed not only to achieve further reductions in
pollution from existing cars, but also to allow the introduction
of advanced, cleaner vehicle technologies in new cars. The effectiveness
of the fiscal incentives announced in the pre-Budget report to
promote cleaner fuels and vehicle technology will ultimately depend
on the availability of ultra-low sulphur fuels at petrol stations
in all parts of the country at a price to consumers which is not
higher than that for conventional fuels.
10. Current EU fuel standards. Since January
2000, EU fuel standards as mandated in Directive 98/70 allow a
maximum sulphur content for gasoline of 150 parts per million
(ppm) and for diesel of 350 ppm. These standards will be considerably
tightened from 2005 to increase the environmental benefits of
reduced sulphur content in conventional fuels. From January 2005,
petrol and diesel must not contain more than 50 parts per million
of sulphur throughout the EU. Environment Commissioner Margot
Wallström has also completed a consultation on the need to
reduce the sulphur content below 50ppm in order to keep pace with
technological developments in the areas of cleaner automotive
engines and advanced abatement technology.
11. Ultra-low sulphur fuels in the UK. Following
the fiscal incentivisation of ultra-low sulphur diesel in the
UK about two years ago, all road diesel sold in the UK already
voluntarily meets the European fuels standard for 2005. Typical
roadside diesel fuel values currently are 25 to 30ppm. By further
incentivising the future European standard of 50ppm maximum sulphur
content for gasoline and diesel, the UK Government is effectively
promoting the implementation of the standard five years ahead
of the mandatory date. The UK motor industry welcomes this initiative.
It urges Government to take the lead within the EU in pushing
for a concerted and early adoption of ultra-low sulphur fuels
below 50ppm across Europe. If the UK motor industry is to take
advantage of ultra-low sulphur fuels and introduce appropriate
low emission technologies, UK produced vehicles need to be able
to use fuels of ultra-low sulphur standard not only in the UK
but in all EU countries.
12. World wide Fuel Charter. The global
automotive industry is responding to regulatory and market pressures
towards more stringent vehicle emissions control and reduced fuel
consumption. The World-wide Fuel Charter, a joint initiative by
bodies representing automotive and engine manufacturers from around
the world, was established two years ago to define automotive
fuel quality needs and to harmonise fuel specifications world
wide. The latest edition of the Charter issued in April 2000,
defines the maximum fuel sulphur level required for the introduction
of cleaner vehicle technologies as five to 10 parts per million
13. ACEA Report on the Effects of Sulphur
in Fuel. A recent report by the Association of European Automobile
Manufacturers (ACEA) collated the latest in-house data from vehicle
manufacturers and showed the different technological solutions
that manufactures are pursuing to make their vehicles with gasoline
and diesel engines cleaner (see para 14). The message sent out
by the report is clear. In order to develop and apply the latest
automotive engines and emission abatement technologies required
to meet future European emission limits, the sulphur content in
diesel and gasoline fuels needs to be reduced well below the future
European standard of 50 parts per million, in line with the recommendations
of the World wide Fuel Charter.
14. Best available cleaner diesel and gasoline
technology. The in-house data compiled by European motor manufacturers
show that for gasoline engines the most promising vehicle technologies
to satisfy CO2 commitments and future exhaust emission
legislation are the three-way catalyst (TWC) and the NOx storage
catalyst. For diesel engines, the most advanced technologies include
the oxidation catalyst, the DeNOx passive catalyst, diesel NOx
storage catalyst, selective catalyst Reduction (SCR) systems and
diesel particulate filters.
15. Benefits of ultra-low sulphur fuels.
Ultra-low sulphur fuels will permit and optimise the application
of these advanced engine and emission abatement technologies needed
to comply with future European exhaust emission standards. The
introduction of sophisticated PM and NOx aftertreatment devices,
which do not tolerate sulphur, is predicated upon the availability
of fuels containing no or extremely low levels of sulphur. The
diesel NOx storage catalyst and continuously regenerative traps
(CRT), used in diesel and heavy duty diesel vehicles, can only
function properly when operated with ultra-low sulphur diesel.
These two technologies are essential to comply with the Euro 4
exhaust emission standards for both diesel passenger cars and
commercial vehicles. Due to the sulphur sensitivity of gasoline
NOx storage catalysts, the full potential of gasoline lean burn
engines in terms of fuel efficiency cannot be exploited unless
operated with gasoline with less than 10ppm sulphur content.
16. Similarly, the presence of sulphur in
three way catalysts and new catalyst technologies, that are suitable
for retrofitting to old cars, competes strongly with pollutants
for contact with the active surface. This can cause irreversible
changes to the washcoat and some base metals within the catalyst.
Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) technology which is highly promising
in reducing tailpipe emissions depends on the use of three way
catalysts. Sulphur presence at any concentration limits the efficiency
of catalysts to convert pollutants, and this reduced efficiency
becomes more critical at very low emission levels. Sulphur levels
also have an effect on durability and accelerate the deterioration
of catalyst performance.
17. Studies at Minnesota University show
that removing sulphur from fuel almost eliminated the formation
of nano-particulates. It is widely recognised that such technologies
offer the potential for significant improvements in air quality
in terms of NOx reductions. Major markets like the USA, Japan
and several European countries have already recognised the need
to reduce fuel sulphur levels. Preliminary ACEA results see the
fuel consumption reduction that is attainable by reducing sulphur
in gasoline from 50ppm to 10ppm to be in the range of 3-5 per
cent due to the consequently available catalyst materials. The
cost of reducing the sulphur content to below 10pm has been assessed
at less than 2p a gallon for petrol and 3p a gallon for diesel.
18. Government action needed. The Government
needs to follow through the policies announced in the Chancellor's
pre-Budget report 2000 in order to realise the environmental benefits
of cleaner fuels and vehicle technology. Reduced rates of fuel
duty have to reach the motorist. Ultra-low sulphur petrol and
diesel need to become available at petrol stations across the
country and the EU. The sulphur content in conventional fuels
ultimately needs to be reduced below 10 parts per million.
Alternative Fuel Technologies
19. Liquid Petroleum and Compressed Natural
Gas. Other areas of rapidly developing vehicle technology include
the use of alternative fuels such as Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG)
and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). The motor industry actively
supports the promotion of alternative fuels that promise substantial
environmental benefits. A number of manufacturers have developed
vehicles with a bi-fuel capacity (petrol and LPG or petrol and
CNG) which are now available in the UK across a range of vehicles.
Through the Energy Savings Trust, the Powershift programme funds
between 25 to 75 per cent of the additional cost of buying a vehicle
using alternative fuel.
20. Lack of re-fuelling infrastructure.
The limited re-fuelling infrastructure for these fuels, however,
currently restricts the full environmental benefits of dedicated
alternative fuel vehicles from being realised, although a number
of fuel companies are pursuing major expansion plans. Further
problems have also been encountered when, despite Government's
declared support for the use of alternative fuels, fuel suppliers
are refused planning permission by Government Agencies. The Government
must ensure that "joined-up thinking" is carried through
if the take-up of alternatively fuelled vehicles is to increase.
21. Other technologies. In addition to the
use of gaseous fuels in motor vehicles, manufacturers are continuing
to develop hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles and fuel cell technology
which all offer improved environmental benefits. The fuel cell
for example is potentially the best alternative to conventional,
fossil fuel burning engines and offers prospects for high efficiency
and low environmental impact.
22. Fuel Cell Technology. The fuel cell
works on the principle that energy is released on the electro-chemical
conversion of hydrogen and oxygen into water. Instead of burning
the hydrogen fuel as in an internal combustion engine, the fuel
cell uses a catalyst to promote the conversion and produce electrical
energy. During the 1980s growing recognition of the environmental
impacts of the internal combustion engine and the zero emission
levels offered by the fuel cell accelerated interest in fuel cell
technology. Significant advancements allowed further developments,
such as the proton Member Exchange or Solid Polymer fuel Cell.
However, the current high costs involved mean applications tend
only to be in very specialised areas.
23. Apart from the cost issues, no agreement
has been reached between vehicle manufacturers and the fuel industry
on the refuelling infrastructure. Fuel cells can only run on hydrogen,
and there is currently no infrastructure capable of supporting
hydrogen re-fuelling, and there are safety concerns surrounding
the use of this fuel. The automotive industry is therefore investigating
the technologies needed to generate hydrogen on board the vehicle
through fuel reformers.
24. The motor industry is also heavily involved
in the Foresight Vehicle Programme. The aim of the programme is
to secure a globally competitive UK automotive industry by developing,
demonstrating and promoting the adoption of technology and acquire
the knowledge to design, manufacture and deliver to the market
vehicles for 2020.
25. The UK automotive industry supports
the use of economic instruments to achieve environmental objectives.
The fiscal incentivisation of cleaner options in both fuel and
vehicle technology by the Government is a highly welcome step
that can send out a strong message to the market. The transformation
of the UK diesel market towards ultra low sulphur fuel is a recognisable
achievement. To move towards a similar shift in the petrol market
and to increase the benefits offered by cleaner vehicle technology,
Government policy has to be based on joined-up thinking between
26. Safety regulations that increase the
weight of new cars threaten the ability to reduce tail pipe emissions.
Fiscal incentives for ultra-low sulphur fuels will only impact
on the market if these fuels are readily available in the UK and
across the EU, if fuel duty incentives reach the motorist and
are being adapted to changing oil prices. Vehicle manufacturers
are constantly working to make their products cleaner, more fuel
efficient and ultimately sustainable. Tail pipe emissions of new
cars have seen dramatic reductions over the last 20 years. New
technology has the potential to match reductions in local air
pollutants to the achievements in CO2 abatement.
27. To achieve further improvements on even
low level emissions, ultra-low sulphur fuels, advanced engine
and abatement technologies and alternative fuel vehicles need
to become available and affordable in the UK. Fiscal incentives
for cleaner fuels, cleaner vehicles and scrappage schemes for
older and more polluting vehicles are therefore key instruments
for transforming the market and making the UK vehicle park one
of the cleanest in Europe.