Why it’s important to look beyond tailpipe emissions

With sustainability at the forefront of the agenda for the industry, there is clear evidence that progress has been made in the last few decades, and according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the average new car tailpipe emissions have been slashed by 31% over 15 years.

However, there are growing conversations around vehicle’s environmental impact beyond the tailpipe — namely, the materials and processes used in manufacturing.

Take number plates as an example — we have estimated that a minimum of 2,000 tonnes of unrecyclable plastic — and as many as 4,000 tonnes — are needlessly wasted every year by OEMs and car dealerships opting to use plastic number plate components. To put this into context, when the Government introduced the banning of plastic straws in the UK in 2020, it was estimated that 2,000 tonnes of plastic straws had built up around the world’s beaches. By offering an aluminum number plate alternative, we could do the same for the number plate industry.

What’s happening in the industry currently?

The last decade has seen a shift in the automotive industry with its approach to sustainability — most notably, the large-scale adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

EVs function by plugging into a charge point and taking electricity from the grid to power the car battery, meaning there are zero tailpipe emissions. This is in stark contrast to typical petrol or diesel vehicles which release all sorts of dangerous substances, such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and particulates. In fact, emissions from EVs have emissions up to 43% lower than diesel vehicles.

However, that does not mean EVs are the only answer to reducing sustainability in the automotive industry! While EVs do not produce tailpipe emissions, there is a growing concern about the indirect environmental impact caused by the manufacturing of electric vehicles.

But we can view this as a wider industry issue: how sustainable are the components we use to create automotive vehicles in general? Rubber tyres, plastic dashboards, paint, and so on — it is likely that each of these components themselves is not manufactured sustainably, and coupled with that is the fact they need to be transported all around the world.

Assessing tailpipe emissions simply is not enough; the whole lifecycle of a vehicle needs to be examined to uncover how carbon-friendly it really is. It means we can capitalise on the emission-free benefits of EVs but supercharge their overall sustainability by using more environmentally friendly parts and materials.

Find out how we are exploring these solutions at Hills Numberplates.

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