Special Report on the Motor Show (11): Towards a green machine: The internal combustion engine is a polluter but great steps are being taken to perfect the cleaner car, says Matthew Carter

WHETHER you see the motor car as a scourge on society, a necessary evil or the key to personal freedom depends on where you sit.

Few enthusiasts will argue against the fact that the car is slowly choking our city centres to death while few car-haters can deny that it has transformed our lives. A necessary evil? Perhaps.

The internal combustion engine is a polluter. Worldwide, it is estimated, almost half the carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides given off by burning fossil fuels are emitted by petrol and diesel engines. Around 18 per cent of the world's carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas, is also directly attributable to the car.

It is a position recognised by governments and the motor industry worldwide. Ever tougher legislation seeks to reduce polluting exhaust emissions and speed up development of alternatives to the petrol engine.

In Britain, British Gas is set to convert 100 of its vans and cars to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) by the end of the year and has plans to run a further 200 on gas by the end of 1993. It is also taking steps to set up a nationwide network of gas filling stations, vital if gas is to be seen as a viable alternative to oil-based fuels.

CNG is widely used as an alternative fuel, especially in Italy, but it may not provide the full answer as CNG's main constituent, methane, is more active as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Petrol-engined cars now happily drink unleaded fuel and since the beginning of September all are built with catalytic converters. Indeed, until a few weeks ago, EC legislation demanded that all new cars sold in 1993 should be fitted with a 'cat'. The recession, and the resulting huge stocks of unsold new cars, means the industry has been given a reprieve and 'non- cat' cars may be sold next year.

The use of the catalytic converter is already so widespread that the numbers of non-cat cars sold in 1993 will represent only 3 per cent of the total UK market.

In addition, Michael Howard, the Secretary of State for Environment, has announced that the government may impose environmental taxes on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders welcomed the news that 'any taxes used to encourage an improved environment will be applied to the use, rather than ownership, of motor vehicles'.

Efforts are also being made to prevent the car from polluting the world after its useful life is over. Experiments in Germany have brought recycling centres in place of the scrapyard. A large proportion of a car is made from metal which can easily be reclaimed, but the remainder - a cocktail of glass, rubber and different plastics - is difficult to recycle.

Manufacturers such as BMW and Volkswagen have reduced the number of different plastics in their cars. Some recycling projects are already in place, but according to a recent study by Coopers & Lybrand, more needs to be done.

Its report says that from the 13 million cars scrapped annually across Europe, about 15.5 million tons of waste is recycled, but a further 4.9 million tons is sent to landfill sites. Rover, which in conjunction with The Bird Group, a reclamation firm, is undertaking a comprehensive study into recycling, wants the Government to establish national recycling centres.

In Germany, draft legislation is under discussion which would make it compulsory for manufacturers to take back their old cars when they are scrapped.

With these and many other projects underway, the car industry is convinced it has its house in order. But while environmental groups might agree that progress has been made, they still see the car as an enemy of the planet.

Lynn Sloman, assistant director of Transport 2000, suggests the real problem is the growth in traffic on our roads. 'According to Government projections, the car population of the UK will grow by 140 per cent between 1988 and 2025. With 39 million cars on the roads of the UK by then, we will need a motorway between London and Edinburgh 275 lanes wide just to park them all.

'Our real complaint is that government policy is directed towards roads and away from improving alternative forms of transport . . . And society needs to change its attitude to the car, to become less dependent on it,' she says.

Neither is cycling the pleasure it once was. A report compiled by Travers Morgan, transport consultants, reveals that the death rate for British cyclists is among the worst in Europe, five times higher than in the Netherlands and 10 times worse than in Denmark.

News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    General Cover Teacher

    £120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

    SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

    £120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

    General Cover Teacher

    £120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...

    SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

    £50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?