How to lower car emissions

As global warming has become such a prominent issue over the last few decades, lowering carbon emissions has become a hot talking point amongst politicians, car manufacturers and even car owners. With new proposed levies and charges set to be introduced for higher-emission vehicles in 2030 and the impact of excessive carbon emissions being felt around the world, it’s certainly worth considering new ways to  lower your own carbon emissions, particularly when it comes to driving. Here, we’ll explain ways that you can lower car emissions by changing your travel habits and future car buying choices.


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Only drive when necessary

Car's giving off emissions in a traffic jam

While the first tip on our list may seem a little obvious, it’s certainly worth mentioning. Ensuring you only use your car for essential journeys is a great way to lower the amount of carbon emissions you produce each year, and could save you hundreds of pounds in fuel costs each year too.

While longer journeys often justify using the car, a quick trip to the local shop doesn’t necessarily mean you have to drive. Making shorter journeys on foot or by bike means you get more exercise, save fuel and eliminate carbon emissions that you would have otherwise produced!


Drive less in general


If you’re really looking to reduce how much you’re spending on fuel and the amount of carbon emissions you are producing, you may wish to consider cutting down on day-to-day driving too. It can also help to retain as much of the car's value as possible when it comes to selling your car by reducing the mileage, one of the key influencers in depreciation.

Again, using a bike is a great substitute for those who need to make a local morning commute to work, and for those who are self-employed or can work remotely, setting up a home office allows you to eliminate the need to commute altogether.

For those whose commute is too far to cycle, using public transportation or setting up a carpool arrangement with a colleague is another cost-effective and carbon-efficient way of travelling.


Choose fuel efficient vehicles

Emissions from a car exhaust

Newer cars are much more fuel-efficient than older models and produce far fewer emissions, so purchasing a newer model of vehicle can quickly reduce carbon emissions for some owners. In fact, interest in ‘green’ vehicles has increased considerably over the past few years, with technology fans across the world becoming excited about the prospect of autonomous electric cars. Furthermore, fuel efficient cars produce lower CO2 emissions and are cheaper to tax than those which produce higher emissions - you can check how much C02 emissions a car produces using our free car check


Drive efficiently


You can also drastically reduce the amount of carbon emissions you are responsible for by simply amending the way you drive your car.

Firstly, aggressive driving such as quickly accelerating to high speeds can unnecessarily burn up excess fuel. In fact, it can lessen your fuel mileage by 15-30% at motorway speeds, and 10-40% in ‘stop-start’ traffic. Using driver feedback devices or the built-in feedback system in some newer cars can help understand how economically you are driving, and encourage you to drive at steadier speeds.

Secondly, adhering to the speed limit at all times also greatly reduces carbon emissions (as well as your chances of causing a collision). While each vehicle has a different optimal speed for fuel economy, fuel mileage often decreases much more quickly at speeds over 50mph.


Lower-emission vehicle types

  • Electric cars

    Vehicles being powered solely by electricity (or EVs) produce no direct carbon emissions, meaning there is no additional carbon added to the atmosphere as a direct result of you charging and driving an EV.

  • Plug-in hybrid electric cars

    PHEVs are partially powered by fuel, partly by electricity, and often come with an option to switch to an ‘all-electric’ mode during transit. Depending on how much the driver opts to use the traditional combustion engine to power the vehicle, will ultimately determine how much carbon emissions are produced by the car.

  • Hydrogen fuel cell cars

    FCEVs are zero emission vehicles, as the only emission from the ‘exhaust’ is water vapor. The only ways carbon emissions can be attributed to FCEVs is in relation to their production and delivery, and in some instances even the production is powered by renewable energy sources.

  • Cleaner burning gasoline cars

    Car manufacturers are constantly finding new ways to improve the performance and efficiency of their vehicles, and this applies to how pollutive each model is too. While traditional combustion-engine vehicles are still very much on the market, the amount of carbon emissions produced in newer models is considerably lower than those of older models.


Weight watching

driving car

Reducing the weight carried by your vehicle will allow you to use less fuel during each journey (providing you are driving steadily and safely as mentioned above), and therefore produces less carbon emissions over time.

A boot full of heavy items such as toolboxes or packed suitcases can quickly work away on your fuel economy. An extra 100lbs in your car can reduce your MPG by around 1%, based on the percentage of extra weight relative to the vehicle's weight. The effect of this over time can really have an impact on the amount you’re spending on fuel, and the number of carbon emissions you are producing as a result.

Adding further additions to the roof of your vehicle such as cargo holders or having the ability to tow other vehicles can also have a sizeable effect on your fuel economy by creating extra wind resistance and weight. For example, a large, roof-mounted cargo holder could reduce fuel economy by 2-8% on city roads, and a whopping 10-25% at motorway speeds (65 mph to 75 mph).


How to reduce car emissions


The garage which conducted your car’s MOT should be able to help you pinpoint the problem and provide an estimate for restoring your emissions to the required standard. If you decide to delay the necessary work, you’ll have to notify the DVLA and apply for a SORN certificate.

There are four main ways to reduce diesel emissions, two of which require additional parts and two you can do for free in your driveway. The first two methods require installing a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) or a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR). The latter techniques involve regularly checking your tyre pressure and using premium fuel.

You can check our table above to discover your car’s emissions category. If your car was made before 31/12/92, however, it won’t have a Euro emission standard, and you’ll be prohibited from entering some towns and cities at certain times.

You can reduce your car’s emissions by ensuring your tyre pressure is at the optimal level and using premium fuel. Reducing idle time, driving carefully, and avoiding unnecessary car journeys can also help to lower your car’s emissions.

The only exemptions from emissions tests are hybrid cars, vehicles with fewer than four wheels, and vehicles with 2-stroke engines.


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