Green cars

  

The EU is promoting the marketing of greener cars via a combination of binding and non-binding measures. 'Clean vehicles' include low emission conventionally fuelled vehicles as well as those powered by alternative fuels. The production of such vehicles, generating less CO2 emissions, requires innovation in fuels, alternative powertrain technology, noise reduction and new materials.

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Overview

Motor vehicles have become the prime means of personal and commercial mobility in today's world. Growing prosperity has led to a spectacular rise in car use - a phenomenon being repeated in the new member states which joined the Union in 2004. In China and other booming countries with looser anti-pollution rules than the EU, trends show major increases in private transportation. This success has generated serious concerns about the environmental effects of vehicle use, in particular traffic congestion, air pollution, traffic-related diseases and noise.

Moreover, while 90% of transport (road/rail/air/sea) depends on oil, resources are declining. After a hundred years of exploration and extraction, few new oil reserves are being found. If supply declines and demand continues growing, the world could encounter serious shortages. Some experts warn that oil could become excessively costly.

These concerns have led the EU to formulate the objective of decoupling economic growth from transport growth. The EU has come up with legislation and initiatives to drive the change towards cleaner cars while promoting a shift towards more sustainable transport modes such as trains, inland shipping, publict transport and bikes (see our  LinksDossier on Sustainable mobility). 

Interest in cleaner, less polluting vehicles and fuel has grown rapidly in recent years. Emissions from petrol and diesel engines have been significantly reduced in the last decade, driven mainly by European legislation, and will continue to be reduced in the future.

New cars put on the market are subject to stricter environmental legislation and benefit from improved technologies which make them less polluting. Old cars (10 or 15 years old) are problematic but it is politically difficult to withdraw them from the market as they are owned by middle- or low-wage families who might be dependent on them for their social inclusion.

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