Environmentally Friendly VehiclesA view from JAMA
As part of the United Kingdom’s presidency of the European Union and G8, the UK Department for Transport hosted a conference on ‘Environmentally Friendly Vehicles’ (EFVs) in Birmingham (UK) on 10-11 November 2005. The two-day event was chaired by Alistair Darling, the UK Secretary of State for Transport.
The conference carried forward a biennial series of global conferences, which commenced with the first Environmentally Friendly Vehicles conference held in Tokyo in January 2003, and also addressed some of the issues raised at the ‘Energy in Motion’ conference, hosted by the Netherlands as part of its 2004 presidency of the EU. The next EFV conference will be hosted by Germany in 2007.
Over 250 delegates attended, including senior members of government, motor manufacturers and industry bodies, academics, and international organisations interested in the development and diffusion of more environmentally friendly motor vehicles. JAMA members participated actively in the event.
The conference was essentially an exchange of best practice on how to encourage the development and commercialisation of clean and fuel-efficient vehicles. The main objectives of the conference were to bring together the various stakeholders to share the latest thinking and experience on how best to shape the future market for clean and fuel-efficient vehicles, and to examine the rationale for doing so and the technological options available today. Participants also discussed current policy frameworks and the steps that are needed to go forward and enable the creation of an EFV market.
Three focal topics were debated during the 2-day event:
- Recent and future technological developments, focusing on vehicle technologies, alternative fuels, and improvements to efficiency through reductions in vehicle size and weight. One of the key points made by participants was that governments must not overregulate or be too prescriptive about what vehicle technologies should be developed. A performance-based approach is deemed much more appropriate. In addition, a number of participants stressed the need to establish global vehicle and fuel standards: it was recognised that the UN/ECE World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations (Working Party 29) was the right forum to continue working towards this goal. This view is totally supported by JAMA.
One other key point highlighted is the fact that there is no single technological solution to ensure long-term sustainable, clean and efficient road transportation. Numerous options are therefore being developed, so as to reflect trends and consumer requirements in different parts of the world.
- Consumer-focused approach to encourage the purchase of environmentally friendly vehicles: It was the view of many participants that governments have a responsibility to setup the policy framework that will encourage the uptake of environmentally friendly vehicles. This requires the development and implementation of an integrated approach that encompasses vehicles, fuels, fiscal and tax systems and involves government, industry and consumers. JAMA fully supports such an integrated approach and is very much encouraged by the creation of an EU Working Group tasked to tackle road transport CO2 in the EU based on that approach.
Following on from the above, it was highlighted that solutions must consider the realities of the market and local economies. In other words, new technologies must be introduced at a price acceptable to consumers. Both government and industry therefore have a responsibility to ensure that consumers are informed about the environmental impact of their vehicle choice. This is very much in line with the EU approach on consumer information on fuel economy and labelling, an approach supported by JAMA.
- Challenges faced by emerging economies with rapidly expanding car ownership and use: The key message delivered was that continued communication between international stakeholders was essential to avoid divergence on multiple measures or duplication of effort. Future international co-operation would particularly help the introduction of environmentally friendly vehicles in emerging economies.
JAMA noted with interest that the UK Secretary of State confirmed at the conference that under a new Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, fuel companies will have to ensure that at least five percent of fuels sold in the UK by 2010 are from renewable sources. Such issues are currently being discussed at an EU level within the context of the CARS 21 discussions. The CARS 21 group intends to publish its recommendations by 12 December. JAMA looks forward to engaging with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that the recommendations will provide an adequate framework for all automotive manufacturers present in the EU.