RAC

5.0 The environment and the motorist

Pump knotAs evidenced earlier in the Report, environmental concerns have continued to slip down the priority list for motorists. For the majority, financial issues come first. If they coincide with helping the environment then so much the better, but saving money is driving motorists' decisions. This trend was evident last year, and as then it is difficult to know if this behaviour will be reversed once the economy is back on its feet. With motorists' current mindset however, it appears the only way to get the environment back on the agenda would be to promote the uptake of more environmentally-friendly vehicles through greater incentives - or disincentives for less environmentally-friendly vehicles. But will motorists ever voluntarily help save the planet through their motoring choices?

5.1 Current Thinking

Almost two thirds of motorists think they play their part by making changes to be more environmentally-friendly, though 38% would do more but don't know where to start. This willingness is tempered however by the 16% who are not going to change their behaviour until they are made to and the one in three who will drive how they like regardless of the effect on the environment. More worryingly for policymakers, 35% don't believe anything they do will make a difference and a further 35% are not sure if it will.

Environment - toll boths

5.2 New Car Purchases

Environmental considerations are not coming naturally to motorists but manufacturers are contributing by constantly improving the environmental performance of their vehicles. Also, better in-car information, such as current fuel consumption, can encourage more fuel efficient and thus more environmentally-friendly driving.

  • Only 45% take CO2 emissions into account when choosing a car.
  • Just a third will definitely consider buying a more environmentally-friendly car next time, and 56% would only commit to a maybe.
  • Almost three quarters of motorists would buy a more environmentally-friendly car if the tax incentives were better.
  • Slightly over a third would consider an alternative fuel powered vehicle.

Of those that said 'definitely' or 'maybe' to considering an environmentally-friendly car, three quarters would look at a smaller / lower CO2 emitting car, 62% would consider a hybrid and 50% a natural gas powered car. Forty-four per cent would consider an electric car, of which more in the next chapter.

5.3 Company Car Drivers

There are almost 3.3 million company car drivers, and they appear to be the least environmentally conscious group of motorists. They are least likely to downsize their car, with almost half reluctant to buy a smaller car as their next purchase, against a third of those who own their car privately. They are also marginally less likely to buy a car powered by alternative fuels, with more than a third unlikely to consider such vehicles as opposed to three in 10 of private car drivers. While their views are understandable, in that they clock up high mileages and often drive in city congestion, any company wanting to prove its green credentials may want to incentivise its workforce to buy smaller and more environmentally-friendly vehicles. Employers could also explore the CBI proposal to change working patterns to ease congestion, contained in its report 'Tackling congestion, driving growth - a new approach to roads policy'.

Motorists' preferences shown above reflect the amount of information and understanding they have of different types of environmentally-friendly cars. The challenge facing Government and manufacturers is to properly explain and demonstrate the benefits of switching to these types of vehicles over more traditional fuel powered cars. They need to prove to motorists that it will save them money to own and run a more environmentally-friendly car.

6.0 The future of motoring

4.0 The law abiding driver