Greener cars and fuel

The type of car you own, the way you drive it and the fuel you use can have a big impact on the emissions it produces. Personal car travel contributes to local air pollution and congestion.

Greener cars

A greener car is one that either uses alternative fuels to petrol or diesel ones, or one that produces less harmful impacts to the environment than similar cars. They:

  • reduce air pollution because of fewer or zero fumes
  • cost less in vehicle tax

A new, fuel-efficient car emits less CO2. When looking at the fuel efficiency of a car remember:

  • different versions of the same car model or type of car can vary significantly in fuel efficiency
  • as a general rule, smaller cars and those with smaller engines are more fuel efficient

You can find out more about fuel use and tax bands at this link:

Greener driving

The way you drive your car will affect how much fuel you use and the amount of emissions your car produces.

By following the tips below you could save fuel as well as reducing your emissions:

  • driving smoothly can cut fuel costs
  • shift to a higher gear at the right time
  • get in and go - keeping the engine running or pumping the accelerator wastes fuel, increases engine wear and increases emissions
  • switch your engine off if you know you won't be moving for a while
  • check your tyre pressures regularly - under-inflated tyres can increase your fuel use
  • stick to the speed limits - at 70mph you could be using up to 30 per cent more fuel than at 50mph
  • remove unnecessary weight and roof racks - they increase the weight and air resistance, so they increase the amount of fuel you use
  • air conditioning and other on-board electrical devices (like mobile phone chargers) increase fuel use, so only use them when necessary

Electric and hybrid cars

Electric cars do not produce any emissions when they drive (but emissions are produced from electricity generation).

Find out more on the electric vehicles page.

Biofuels

Biofuels, for example biodiesel and bioethanol, are made from plant materials like vegetable oils or wheat.

They can be mixed with ordinary diesel or petrol and used in normal cars. Much of the diesel available in Northern Ireland, and some petrol, now contains biofuel.

Biofuels can cut climate change impacts because the plants they're made from remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air when they grow. This helps balance out the CO2 emissions produced when the fuel is used in a car.

There are concerns that some biofuels compete with food production or contribute to deforestation. Sustainable production of biofuels is encouraged by making biofuel suppliers report on:

  • where the fuels are produced from
  • other information, like the greenhouse gas emissions saved by the fuels

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)

LPG is mainly made up of propane and is obtained as a by-product of oil refining or from natural gas fields.

LPG can be used as fuel in most petrol engines after they have been converted. Conversions can be dangerous if not done correctly, so you should:

  • check with your car’s manufacturer before getting the engine converted
  • only use an installer approved by UKLPG, the association for the LPG industry

Most LPG vehicles are bi-fuel (or ‘dual fuel’), meaning they can run on either LPG or petrol. This lets the vehicle use petrol in areas where LPG isn’t available.

Car maintenance

Well-maintained cars tend to run more efficiently - find out how to keep your car in good condition.

Waste from car maintenance is often hazardous - use council waste facilities for safe disposal.

Unwanted vehicles should be taken to an Authorised Treatment Facility. They arrange vehicles to be disposed of in an environmentally-friendly way and give owners a certificate which shows they are no longer responsible for it.

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