VOLVO announces three-point plan to help the car industry improve UK air quality

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Volvo Car UK has launched a three-point plan aimed at providing all motorists with a broader range of emissions information when they buy their next car – irrespective of marque – to help combat the UK’s rising problem of poor air quality.

With the UK facing a fine of up to £300m for its poor air quality and the Environmental Audit Committee predicting 50,000 premature deaths through air pollution, Volvo believes that it is time to educate drivers of a car’s complete emissions picture rather than just CO2 in isolation.

Automotive emissions other than CO2 (NOx, Hydrocarbons and Particulates) are the key contributors to poor air quality, particularly in urban areas, and are one of the main reasons why the UK suffers from one of the highest recordable asthma rates in the world.

The nano particles from diesel engines especially, and diesel always was seen as a better choice than gasoline, are a major contributor to asthma in children and adults alike. According to some sources the bio-diesel and other bio-fuels emit even more of those harmful particles than does petroleum-based diesel.

Volvo is proposing:

  • The launch of an automotive air pollutants environmental label to sit alongside the already established CO2 label displayed in new and used car showrooms

  • To launch a phone/PC App, which gives drivers access to total emissions information when visiting a new or used car showroom

  • Setting up the Emissions Equality Think Tank to help put air quality to the forefront of peoples’ minds on a continued basis

Using the government's own Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) data (, that's also available at, it soon becomes clear that when a driver selects a low-CO2 emitting model, petrol or diesel, the waters are muddied and they aren't necessarily selecting a low overall tailpipe emission car. And it's the non-CO2 emissions that are affecting immediate air quality and health.

CO2 emissions are, and it is good to see that someone is finally tackling this, just a small part of the overall emissions of the internal combustion engine and some of the emissions are by way more harmful, to man and the environment, than is CO2.

For some incomprehensible reason, however, everyone, in the recent times, has but been talking about CO2 (carbon) emissions. It has become the new mantra while in the 1960s and 1970s the talk was, in fact, as regards to motorcars, about air pollution in a much more general term and the danger that this pollution was posing to the environment and to life in general.

The comparison between larger Volvo estate and saloon models against a selection of small cars makes for interesting reading. A Volvo V70 premium estate 2.5 petrol manual generates 201mg/km of non-CO2 pollutants, compared with the 1.4 litre Fiat 500 Start Stop which, counter intuitively, at 484mg/km, generates more than twice as many other pollutants. Similarly, a Volvo S80 1.6D DRIVe executive saloon generates 636mg/km of non-CO2 pollutants – around 5% fewer than the 1.3-litre Toyota Yaris diesel supermini (679mg/100km).

“In 1976 Volvo was the first on the market with the three way catalytic converter with oxygen sensor (Lambdasond®) which removes up to 90 per cent of noxious exhaust emissions and was the first company to sign up to the 1992 Kyoto Treaty on Climate Change,” explained Peter Rask, Volvo Car UK’s Managing Director: “Over many decades Volvo has been committed to designing and engineering cars that are kind on the environment and its drivers. Our cars perform very well in all tailpipe emissions and some, but not all, are best-in-class. However, this is more about encouraging greater transparency in the automotive industry across all emissions.”
“This isn't about reducing the focus on CO2, our campaign is about all drivers being given easy access to the complete set of pollutants information so they can make a more informed decision when they buy a new or used car,” he added.

The Volvo three point plan in more detail:

1. Volvo Car UK will encourage the Department for Transport and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders to mandate a second environmental label covering non-CO2 emissions for all new and used cars up to five years of age. This would sit alongside the current CO2 label on all cars displayed. The CO2 and other emissions information shouldn't be combined in one single label as drivers still need to understand CO2 emissions for tax purposes. All of this information is readily available on the VCA website ( but needs presenting in an easier to understand format such as and be made more accessible to all drivers.

Volvo believes there is room for a new environmental label similar to the one in the United States of America, run by the US Environmental Protection Agency which scores the environmental impact of vehicles, including both air quality and CO2 emissions.

2. Volvo Car UK is launching a phone/PC App in the next few weeks to make all air pollution and CO2 emission information readily available to drivers for when they visit a showroom to choose their next car.

3. Volvo Car UK will create an Emissions Equality Automotive Air Pollution Think Tank to move the subject of emissions and air quality further up the agenda of the automotive industry over the coming 12-24 months. The Think Tank already has a number of high-profile members covering all sides of the debate, including Environmental Protection UK's Policy Officer Ed Dearnley, environmentalist and TV naturalist Chris Packham, Professor of Environmental Health from Kings College London Frank Kelly, the automotive environmental commentator Jay Nagley from and Volvo's own environmental consultant Don Potts.

Further discussion and debate will also be directed to and, where conversation will be tagged #EmissionsEquality.

It is, as I have said, high time that we looked at all the emissions associated with vehicles with internal combustion engines and not just on CO2. And it has to be added that, according to a fair number of studies and sources, it would appear that bio-fuels, that is to say, bio-diesel, bio-ethanol, etc. are even more harmful to the environment and to us than are petroleum-based fuels.

In addition to that we may not have to worry about it for all that much longer as, to all intents and purposes, it would appear that cheap oil will very soon be history and thus the infernal combustion engine will become a part of history too in the same way as did the dinosaurs.

Peak Oil appears to be very much upon us and the end of cheap oil and of the oil age just around the corner.

I have written about that and about what a world after the oil age could be like in my new book “The End of Oil” published by Tatchipen Media and available via: and you can read an extract here:

© 2010

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