New UK Cars to Get Climate Emissions Eco-Labels

LONDON, UK, February 14, 2005 (ENS) - New car customers in the United Kingdom soon will be able to assess how environmentally friendly any vehicle is through a system of color coded eco-labels displayed on the vehicles in dealers' showrooms. The label will show how much of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide a vehicle emits and relates that figure to the vehicle tax that must be paid.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said the fuel efficiency stickers would be similar to those displayed on fridges and would enable consumers to compare brands.

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The new eco-labels will be on 2006 model cars in dealers' showrooms. (Photo courtesy LowCVP)
They will help buyers decide "how green" a new car is, he said, launching the eco-label plan at the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership Annual Conference held at the Heritage Motor Centre, Gaydon, Warwickshire on Thursday.

The labels, in showrooms after September 1, will display information on how much motorists can expect to pay in fuel bills in a typical year, and whether the car qualifies for a reduction in excise duty.

All 42 vehicle brands in the UK have signed up to the voluntary labeling plan.

The scheme was developed by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP), a group set up by the Blair government in 2003 to help find new ways of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from road transport.

Darling told some 250 conference delegates, These colour-coded labels will allow people to see at a glance just how fuel-efficient a particular vehicle is, and - critically - how it compares with other models. The labels can also display the VED vehicle excise duty (tax disc) band that the car is in, which will enable motorists to recognize instantly cars which benefit from lower rates.

"This shows the UK government's commitment to tackling climate change," said Darling, who arrived at the LowCVP conference in a hydrogen fuel-cell bus. "It shows what can be done when government, industry and other stakeholders work in partnership to achieve shared goals. The labels will send a clear message to motorists that they can make a real difference by choosing clean, fuel-efficient cars."

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UK Transport Minister Alistair Darling addresses delegates to the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership Annual Conference (Photo courtesy LowCVP)
The new color-coded CO2 label system is to be rolled out across new car showrooms in the UK this summer, to help consumers make informed choices about fuel economy when purchasing a vehicle. It comes ahead of EU legislation amending the current EU Labelling Directive and is hoped to demonstrate the UK’s commitment to combating climate change.

The automobile industry is onboard for launch of the new scheme. "Consumers will now be able to make an informed choice about running costs when choosing a new vehicle," said Matthew Carrington, chief executive of the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI), commenting Thursday on the new vehicle labeling system.

The label has two visible messages regarding the cost of running the vehicle - the estimated fuel cost, based on average annual mileage of 12,000 miles, and the cost of 12 months of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED).

The new label has color-coded arrows graduating from green to red, aligning carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to the VED bands.

CO2 labeling is already a statutory requirement, but the existing label has not been successful in catching consumer attention.

Carrington said, "The emissions figures on the existing label are not put into context and it doesn’t get the message across that good fuel economy is good for your pocket as well as the environment. However, the new enhanced labelling system can be understood at a glance."

The new label is the result of an agreement between the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP) Passenger Car Working Group, and vehicle manufacturers.

"Dealers will welcome the new system as well," said Carrington. Vehicle manufacturers will begin to roll out the labels across their dealer networks in July in time for the start of new car registrations on September 1.

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Rush hour traffic on the A1 Gateshead Western Bypass, the busiest non-motorway two-lane dual carriageway in the United Kingdom. (Photo courtesy FreeFoto)
Friends of the Earth UK welcomed the new eco-labels, but the environmental campaign group says that increasing tax on gas-guzzlers and reducing it for fuel-efficient vehicles would be even more effective in encouraging the purchase of greener cars.

Friends of the Earth's transport campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said, "Giving motorists more information about how polluting cars are is important. But we must also encourage people to make the right choices by cutting car tax on the most fuel efficient cars and increasing it for gas guzzlers."

Friends of the Earth said the group is "angry" that the government has taken until this year to bring in the new label. Government funded research showed in 1999 that color-coded comparative labels of this sort are more effective than the label proposed by the motor industry. But the government has taken since then to persuade the industry to change, Bosworth said.

The environmental group wants government to introduce four new road tax bands or levels - with £50 (US$94) between each band - to encourage people to buy less-polluting cars.

The vehicle excise duty for the most polluting cars should be raised to £500 ($945) per year within five years, with the cleanest, most fuel-efficient cars charged no VED, Friends of the Earth said.

Government research shows such a tax strategy would persuade one third of new car buyers to choose a more fuel efficient model.