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Green cars 'likely to become more popular'
All the major car manufacturers are making them, EU legislation and government targets are promoting them, and even the Queen is reported to be converting to them.
Environmentally friendly vehicles are becoming an increasing presence on the market and with high fuel prices and the credit crunch, their popularity could grow faster than first expected, according to experts.
Her Royal Highness is going green by having her two Bentleys converted so that they run on biofuels, as part of the luxury car manufacturer's attempts to become more eco-friendly, the Daily Mail reports.
She is following in the footsteps of her son Prince Charles, who earlier this year converted his classic Aston Martin - a 21st birthday present from his Mother - so that it runs on bioethanol fuel made from surplus wine.
In October, the government laid out plans to spend £100 million on advancing the production of green vehicles, including providing 100 electric cars in UK towns and cities for families to test-drive and give feedback in a £10 million project overseen by the Technology Strategy Board.
"Electric cars and other low carbon vehicles, like plug-in hybrids, cut fuel costs and reduce harmful emissions. If we can inspire more people to use them, it will help us to make a positive impact on climate change," said transport secretary Geoff Hoon at the time.
The government is also spending £20 million on research into making green cars more practical and affordable and says the proposals will not only be good for the environment but also the economy, as they have the potential to create up to 10,000 new jobs in Britain.
As well as focusing on cars, MPs also want to tackle rising emissions from vans, with a scheme in which ten companies have been shortlisted to bid to provide electric and low carbon vehicles to councils and other public sector bodies such as Royal Mail.
Ford, Mercedes Benz, Citroen, Ashwoods, Land Rover, Modec, Smiths, Electric Vehicles, LDV, Nissan and Allied Vehicles will all have the opportunity to take part in the £20 million programme, which will see councils in Liverpool, Newcastle, Gateshead, Coventry, Glasgow and Leeds road-testing the vans.
More recently, the EU passed new legislation dictating that manufacturers must reduce CO2 emissions to an average 130g per km in all new cars by 2015.
This will be a staged process, with carmakers having to meet the limit in 65 per cent of new cars by 2012, three-quarters by 2013 and 80 per cent by 2014.
If any cars within a manufacturer's fleet exceed these limits then they will be fined, with premiums of five euros (£4.80) for the first gram per kilometre, 15 euros for the second and 25 euros for the third. From 2019 they will be forced to pay 95 euros for surpassing the limit at all.
The European Commission is also in the process of developing proposals to reduce CO2 emissions in "light commercial vehicles", or vans and minibuses.
In addition, the EU has set a target of ten per cent renewable transport fuels by 2020, part of the Renewable Energy Directive which is due to be adopted by the European Council in the new year.
While many of these measures are aimed at the big industry players, John Buckley, managing director at carbonfootprint.com, believes the eco-friendly message is getting across to ordinary drivers as well, not just from a green aspect, but also from a financial one.
"Obviously, if you drive [in a] more environmentally-friendly [way] then you will also be saving petrol which obviously hits your bank account," he says.
"There are two aspects. I'm not sure that everybody is going green over night, but certainly with the high petrol prices that we have seen over the last few months – although they are coming down now – people are trying to save some money," Mr Buckley continues.
He cites the reason for falling oil prices as a reduction of the amount of fuel being burnt across the world, which in turn lowers carbon emissions.
Green cars are "definitely" going to become more popular in the next few years, he asserts, because they will become cheaper to operate.
"Electric cars are very cheap to run although at the moment there are not too many of them on the roads so they are quite expensive to buy," he adds.
Among the latest models soon to be released on to the market are the Electric Mini, the Renault ZE and the Mitsubishi I-MiEV, while the leading manufacturers are introducing new innovations on a regular basis.
BMW is currently the only manufacturer to sell a hydrogen-powered car, Audi is working on high-efficiency diesel models, Citroen is set to introduce a diesel hybrid in 2010, Ford is bringing in bioethanol versions of the Focus and Mondeo and Honda offers a hybrid version of its Civic model.
"As more and more people do start buying them, and the quantities are out there, then the manufacturing costs will go down as well so it becomes much more affordable," says Mr Buckley.
"It's partly environmentally driven and partly price driven; petrol prices will go up again in the future, I'm sure about it."
For drivers who want to be more environmentally-friendly, but do not want to invest in electric, hybrid or low-emission cars yet, Mr Buckley suggests buying a diesel vehicle, as they achieve more miles per gallon than petrol cars.
"Diesel cars tend to be typically a little bit more expensive than the petrol version but you get such a good saving on the running costs. Nowadays a lot of people are already buying diesel cars and in the future, as there are more opportunities and more options...people will be looking at those," he concludes.
22 Jun 2009