Exhaust all the options

Offering alternatives to petrol, imposing limits on carbon emissions and providing incentives help build a green fleet

Weaning executives off their petrol-hungry status symbols in favour of low-emission cars, can enhance the green credentials of organisations and result in tax and fuel savings.

Generally, diesel engines belch out less carbon dioxide and burn less fuel than their petrol cousins. Yet the downside is they are a source of particulate and smog-forming pollution. As a rule of thumb, diesel is better suited for long distance drivers and petrol for urban drivers, where air quality is a greater issue.

Another option is hybrid cars, which run on petrol and electricity, making them more efficient. The Honda Civic Hybrid, for example, emits only 109 grams of CO2 per kilometre; the petrol-run version spews out 139 g/km. Moreover, hybrids attract lower car tax and are exempt from the London congestion charge.

However, David Russell, deputy head of postgraduate studies, department of accounting and finance, at Leicester Business Scool, says: “Much of the technology is quite new, it is considered unproven and the asset life-cycle costs [how much it will cost over the entire time the employer owns the car] are difficult to assess.”

This should not stop employers encouraging the use of fuel-efficient models by either putting a CO2 emission ceiling on company cars or by offering cash incentives. Mitie Property Services, for instance, gives drivers an extra £10 per month in their car allowance if they choose a car with 10% lower CO2 than the benchmark company car they would normally be eligible for.

Even if organisations don’t start to get a grip on emissions, legislation may well force the issue. The European Commission has proposed legislation limiting CO2 emissions on new passenger vehicles to an average of 130g per kilometre by 2012. They currently stand at around 160g/km.

Green cars on the web

• To check how kind a car is to the planet visit the Vehicle Certification Agency’s website at vcacarfueldata.org.uk, which lists emissions.

• The Department for Transport also has a website, www.dft.gov.uk/ActOnCO2, which enables individuals to search for the ten least polluting cars in each class.

• For an accurate picture of cars’ running costs visit the AA’s table at http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/running_costs/index.html

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