26 Jan
Can the automotive industry lead the charge for global sustainability?

Is a vast reduction in vehicle emissions more than a pipe dream?

One of the main issues with internal combustion engines is that they emit harmful gases as a byproduct of power. While the most modern, clean engines have come a long way since the 'gas guzzlers' of 30 or 40 years ago, the issue of global warming means that emissions are now a hot topic for many.

Sustainability isn't just an issue reserved for huge conglomerates and environmental agencies, either. As more people want accountability from the businesses and individuals they deal with, assessing carbon footprints has become the norm for many.

For fleet managers, there are a number of advantages in trying to reduce emissions. Naturally, there's the impact it can have on the company's environmental sustainability, but attempting to limit the output of pollutants can even prove cost effective, too.

Specifically, the vast majority of modern vehicles can be incredibly efficient. Some use petrol and diesel particularly sparingly, limiting the harmful gases​ that come out of the exhaust while also ensuring drivers get the most of any fuel card purchases.

Volkswagen New Zealand suggested that it will recall around 5,500 vehicles in early 2016.

Vehicle emissions in New Zealand

The Ministry of Transport has a number measures in place that support the reduction of vehicle emissions on these shores. Most recently, the government actually announced that it was seeking ways to address tampering with devices that measure emissions.

The vast majority of cars, vans and trucks entering New Zealand's vehicle fleet are modern, and have complex software that allows their engines to be as efficient as possible. Ultimately, the devices that the government are looking to stamp out are the kind that reduce running costs but actually boost emissions.

While not identical, the decision by the government now seems like a savvy one, given the ongoing scandal surrounding emissions-altering software fitted to many of Volkswagen's new vehicles.

In fact, as part of the developing story, Volkswagen New Zealand suggested that it would have to recall around 5,500 vehicles across the country at some point during early 2016, according to a report collated by Radio New Zealand.

Greenhouse gas emissions are unavoidable to an extent, but is the automotive industry doing enough to combat them?Greenhouse gas emissions are unavoidable to an extent, but is the automotive industry doing enough to combat them?

A global challenge

While there are ongoing emissions issues on these shores, the battle against harmful pollutants is very much a global problem. One manufacturer who's looking to do their bit is Toyota. The Japanese marque has pledged that it will cut the carbon emissions its new vehicles produce by 90 per cent to the end of 2050.

That may sound incredibly ambitious, but the Japanese company is in a good place to lead the charge of more efficient, environmentally friendly vehicles. 

Toyota has been pioneering more efficient vehicles since the launch of its first Prius, which really helped push hybrid technology into the mainstream. Today, other manufacturers have caught up, with many innovative companies such as Tesla creating electric vehicles that are essentially emission free.

What is a 'clean' vehicle?

In light of the issues facing Volkswagen, as well as the need to create more 'clean' vehicles across the globe, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) has suggested that the way vehicles are tested for emissions needs to be changed, and the process made more robust.

"The automobile industry agrees with the need for emissions to more closely reflect real-world conditions, and has been calling for proposals for years," explained an ACEA statement, as noted by chemical research firm ICIS.

Better testing could ultimately nudge manufacturers to focus on how they're treating emissions, and further push the issue to the forefront of the automotive industry.

Ultimately, there's no silver bullet solution that will change the way in which internal combustion engines emit harmful gases. However, raising awareness, and coming up with as many 'clean' solutions will certainly prove to be a step in the right direction in the long term.