Cars and fuel options
This guide contains data on vehicles running on petrol and diesel, as well as alternative fuels, such as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), and hybrid and electric vehicles. Descriptions of the different fuel types and technologies are provided in the table below.
Table 1: Summary of fuels and technologies
*usually eligible for a plug-in car grant to help with the purchase cost of a new car. Please visit the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) website for a list of current eligible vehicles: https://www.gov.uk/plug-in-car-van-grants
The Road to Zero Strategy considers the importance of the choice of fuel options in meeting the UKs carbon and air quality objectives and advice presented here is drawn from the strategy.
The Government remains committed to policies and incentives that are technology neutral. But it is essential that we understand the relative environmental performance of different technologies in the real world.
Battery electric vehicles are highly energy efficient and have zero tailpipe emissions. The assessment made in the Road to Zero Strategy shows that battery electric vehicles also have substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions than conventional vehicles, even when taking into account the electricity source and the electricity used for battery production. Assuming the current UK energy mix, battery electric vehicles produce the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of all the energy sources and fuels assessed, irrespective of vehicle type and operation. As electricity generation is decarbonised the vehicles being driven by electricity are effectively de-carbonised as well.
Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles also have zero tailpipe emissions. Like battery electric vehicles, their well-to-wheel (the overall assessment of climate change impact) greenhouse gas emissions depend on the method of energy production.
Although the environmental performance of range extended, plug-in, and non-plug-in hybrids depends on their use and zero emission range, these vehicles are amongst the cleanest vehicles on the market and can bring significant environmental benefits. They are an important way of helping motorists make the switch to a different way of powering their vehicles.
Petrol cars and vans tend to have higher greenhouse gas emissions than their diesel equivalents but significantly lower emissions of NOx. Real world particulate emissions from petrol cars and vans are variable, with some petrol cars and vans (particularly those with direct injection engines) emitting higher levels of particulates than diesel equivalents. We expect this to be addressed by the introduction of the Real Driving Emission (RDE) standards.
Cleaner diesel cars and vans can play an important part in reducing CO2 emissions from road transport during the transition to zero emission vehicles whilst meeting ever more stringent air quality standards. Since September 2019 RDE step 1 (Euro 6d (Temp)) will be compulsory for almost all new registered cars on sale, with the more stringent RDE step 2 (Euro 6d) being a requirement from January 2021. RDE has seen a significant reduction in real-world NOx emissions in diesel vehicles meeting those requirements and brings them much closer to petrol equivalents in terms of NOx emissions.
Liquid petroleum gas (LPG) vehicles have similar well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions as diesel equivalents but generally have lower air pollutant emissions. Although a niche market, LPG vehicles may be a good current alternative to diesel in urban driving conditions. Natural gas vehicles also generally have lower air pollutant emissions than diesel equivalents but more efficient engines are required if they are to deliver significant greenhouse gas savings in heavy vehicles.
There are more than 150,000 ULEVs on UK roads and zero emission vehicles are an attractive option for many consumers today – offering the best environmental performance and in many cases cheaper running costs. If zero emission technologies are not currently practical options, the most appropriate vehicle technology will depend on individual circumstances, including location and usage pattern. For cars principally being used in urban areas where journeys tend to be shorter and at slower speeds, petrol hybrid, other alternatively fuelled or new conventional petrol cars are likely to be most suitable. Diesel is more suitable for cars that regularly drive long distances or carry heavy loads.
To help provide consumers with the information they need about the environmental performance of different vehicle and fuel options the Government will, in partnership with industry, consumer groups and motoring organisations, set up a Road Transport Emissions Advice Group to work together to ensure clear and consistent consumer messaging and advice. EST produced an animation to help navigate around all these technologies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hs55JzcOg3s
To find out more about battery electric and other zero emission vehicles, please visit www.goultralow.com. This highlights the range of ultra low emission cars on the market today and address myths about driving electric cars, notably cost and range. With driving costs from 3p a mile and typical driving range exceeding 150 miles in a pure electric car on a single charge, pure electric vehicles, and range extended and plug in hybrid electric vehicles are an ever more attractive alternative to conventionally fuelled cars. Costs and range are based upon the official NEDC economy and range figures which are obtained from official EU test data. These are intended for comparisons between vehicles and may not reflect real driving results.
EST has also produced a short film covering a range of issues around electric vehicles, running costs, maximising range and recharging: www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Travel/Electric-vehicles
This covers most of the questions potential buyers may have including charging, range and the cost of fuel (electricity) for the vehicles. They offer a realistic and in-depth review of the viability of electric cars and vans, covering the choice, driving and living with an electric vehicle.
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