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Understanding the Emission Benefits of Car Clubs

December 2009

Car clubs are springing up across the country. They provide a viable alternative to private car ownership and are viewed by many local authorities as an important piece of the sustainable transport jigsaw. From an emissions viewpoint, car clubs can potentially reduce transport emissions by:

  • Reducing miles driven by ensuring that motoring costs apply at the point of use
  • Allowing integration of longer journeys by public transport with use of car clubs for local travel at destination
  • Giving choice of vehicle size and type, allowing appropriate choice for a given journey or situation

Car clubs also have potential to blaze a trail in the promotion and deployment of low emission technologies, such as electric vehicles. Not surprisingly, some local authorities are keen to see car clubs grasp this opportunity. Some car club operators are starting to introduce the use of electric cars, while others remain wary. They are yet to be convinced of the potential returns for the investment and risks involved.

Car clubs are promoted for a variety of reasons and to date their emission benefits receive a fairly low profile. One reason for this is the uncertainty as to the extent of the benefits which are achieved. Some promising data exists, suggesting that significant savings are possible. However, uncertainties remain and more robust data is needed.

Rob Pilling, LES Manager, said: “The LES partnership (LESP) has been in talks with Carplus, the car club industry body, to explore ways of working together to support the development of car clubs. The LESP wants to improve the evidence base surrounding the emissions benefits Carplus could achieve. We hope that an important step will be to include a car club measure within the planned Low Emission Toolkit.”

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