A Definitive Guide to Car Emissions

What’s coming out of your exhaust? With car emissions contributing to climate change, air pollution and an increase in respiratory illnesses, it’s clear that something needs to be done to limit the gases emitted from our vehicles.

Find out more about emissions targets in the UK and discover how to burn less fuel, improve air quality and stay on the right side of the law with our definitive guide.

Exhaust gases and their effects on the environment

The fuel burned by a typical car or 4X4 produces:

  • Carbon monoxide. A poisonous gas that can be fatal to humans in high doses.
  • Nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide. These fumes can affect lung function and can also cause smog and acid rain.
  • These contribute to climate change. Hydrocarbons also do harm to ecosystems and are associated with increased incidences of cancer and respiratory problems.
  • Particulate matter. This consists of solid and liquid particles derived from a number of different chemicals. When inhaled, these particles can damage your health.

Legislation and targets

It sounds pretty grim, but lots is being done in the UK and worldwide to limit the emissions that occur in today’s environment.

  • The Climate Change Act 2008 sets out targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including from cars. ‘Carbon budgets’ limit the emissions produced by new cars.
  • The recently ratified Paris Agreement places even more stringent limits on carbon emissions.
  • European Emissions Standards limit car emissions in the EU.
  • The congestion charge in London aims to limit traffic emissions. It is waived for fuel-free electric vehicles as well as hybrid cars.

Is your car within the limits?

Many drivers have no idea how their vehicles measure up in terms of emissions. However, every car must have its emissions tested once a year in the MOT test. You won’t pass your MOT if your car’s emissions are too high.

You can also check your vehicle using this Transport for London online tool.

How to reduce your car emissions

Cars and other vehicles are a major contributor to air pollution and climate change, and the more fuel they burn, the greater their emissions. Here are some easy ways to reduce your personal car emissions:

  • When choosing a new vehicle, check its miles per gallon rating for fuel efficiency. You might be tempted by a part-electric car like the latest Range Rover Hybrid
  • Only carry what you need. The heavier your vehicle, the more fuel it will burn.
  • Keep your tyres inflated and your engine tuned, for better fuel efficiency. Get your car serviced regularly to ensure everything is in tip top shape.
  • Avoid turning right! We’re not sure how practical this may be for the average driver, but delivery giant UPS’s policy of limiting turns against the traffic has led to a reduction in carbon emissions of 20,000 tonnes across its entire operation. Definitely fuel for thought.
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