CO2 standards behind 'profound change' in Ireland's vehicle efficiency

Ireland’s car taxation on carbon dioxide emissions has caused ‘a profound change’ in the new car fleet, according to data published by the country’s sustainable energy authority, SEAI. However, the positive news is tempered by further evidence of the widening gap between car test results for CO2 emissions and their real-world performance.

According to the data, the number of new cars in the lowest-emitting band has gone up from 1.5% in 2007 to 67.2% this year, resulting in a 25% drop in transport energy use. Ireland introduced a CO2-linked car tax regime in 2008 and made it stricter in 2012.
 
The reductions have taken Ireland to the psychologically significant 120 grams per kilometre mark. However, the figures were published as further evidence emerged of the growing gap between real-world fuel consumption and CO2 emission values for passenger cars. The average discrepancy between them increased from less than 10% in 2001 to 25% in 2011, according to a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).
 
The ICCT said the growing disparity was likely due to technologies that show a higher benefit in type-approval tests than under real-world driving conditions, such as start-stop technology, as well as due to flexibilities in testing exploited by carmakers.
 
T&E’s clean vehicles manager Greg Archer said: ‘The EU’s first emissions standards proposed in the mid-1990s had 120 g/km as the target for 2005. It later became the target for 2012, and the current target is 130 g/km by 2015, so for a country to be on 120 in 2014 shows just how much can be achieved by moderately ambitious legislative standards, and just how much more could be achieved by seriously ambitious standards.’
 
The news is not all good from Ireland. Although transport energy consumption has fallen since 2007, some of that is due to the economic recession, and transport is still the sector consuming most energy, much of it oil. Ireland spent €3.5 billion importing fossil fuels for transport last year, transport energy consumption per capita is the fifth highest in Europe – 30% above the EU average – and the country is unlikely to meet its CO2 reduction target as set under the EU’s burden-sharing scheme to tackle climate change.