Feature Report: Everyday Energy

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On the Move: More Environmentally Friendly Transportation

In France, road transportation accounts for 34% of total carbon dioxide emissions, with cars responsible for more than half. From tax incentives to ecodriving, a wide range of measures are available to optimize energy spend and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

The electric car is one of a range of solutions for more sustainable transportation. © TOTAL / M. LAUTENSCHLAEGER

In addition to its already stringent standards on vehicle emissions that affect air quality, the European Union has begun to introduce new standards relating to emissions of carbon dioxide, which is not classified as an air pollutant. In February 2014, the European Parliament endorsed legislation lowering the limit on carbon dioxide emissions from new cars from 160 grams per kilometer traveled to 120 grams in 2015 and then to 95 grams in 2020. The limit applies to the average emissions from new cars. This means that carmakers can continue to offer models with large engines (a deal-breaker for Germany), but will have to offset the higher emissions by producing more smaller cars or vehicles with electric or hybrid engines.1

France’s Approach to Improving Vehicle Energy Efficiency

To encourage car buyers to opt for fuel-efficient vehicles, the French authorities have improved consumer information and introduced tax incentives.

The first measure taken to enhance driver awareness was the institution of an energy efficiencyIn economic terms, energy efficiency refers to the efforts made to reduce the energy consumption of a system... label for vehicles, indicating their fuelFuel is any solid, liquid or gaseous substance or material that can be combined with an oxidant... consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. Since 2006, every new car on the market in France must have an energy efficiency label. The label indicates how much fuel the vehicle consumes, in liters per 100 kilometers, and its carbon dioxide emissions, in grams per kilometer. Like the energy performance certificate for buildings (See Close-Up: "On the Shelf: Carbon and Environmental Labeling"), the label also includes a color-coded chart with bands ranging from A in green for the cleanest vehicles to G in red for the worst polluters.2

Your car consumes 45% more fuel in the first kilometer and 25% more fuel in the second kilometer, compared with the rest of your journey.

The other measure taken by the French government was the introduction of tax incentives, such as a feebate scheme, to make purchasing low-emission vehicles more financially attractive.3 The additional tax now applies to all vehicles whose emissions exceed 130 grams per kilometer. According to the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), the feebate scheme drove a change in buying habits that avoided the emission of 85,000 tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of around 42,500 vehicles.

Ecodriving to Reduce Fuel Consumption

To reduce your car’s fuel consumption:

  • Don’t overload the vehicle 
  • Drive smoothly and steadily and avoid sudden braking
  • Switch off the engine if you stop for longer than 20 seconds
  • Check your tire pressure regularly
  • Combine journeys and use the shortest routes

Of course, the best way to reduce fuel consumption is to avoid using your car when you don’t really need to.

For short distances, it is much better to walk, ride a bike or take public transportation. This is because, when you start your car, you use a considerable amount of fuel to warm up the engine. As a result, your car consumes 45% more fuel in the first kilometer and 25% more fuel in the second kilometer, compared with the rest of your journey.

French petroleum and renewable energies institute IFP Energies Nouvelles (IFPEN)Formerly the Institut Français du Pétrole (French Petroleum Institute)... launched a mobile ecodriving app for smartphones in 2014.2

Bikes, Public Transportation and Car Sharing

greenhouse gas (ghg) Gas with physical properties that cause the Earth's atmosphere to warm up. There are a number of naturally occurring greenhouse gases... emissions can also be reduced by using different transportation modes, particularly in urban areas, where public transportation offers a viable alternative.

The emissions avoided in 2012 thanks to France’s feebate scheme were equivalent to the annual emissions of around 42,500 vehicles

Several European cities, primarily in Northern Europe, have developed an extensive network of bike lanes. In Stockholm, for example, despite the colder climate, 68% of commuters go to work on foot or by bike, 25% use public transportation and only 7% take their car.4

In urban areas, public transportation is more energy-efficient for longer journeys. For the same distance traveled, taking the subway uses ten times less energy than driving your own car. Bus networks are also a good alternative, as long as they use energy-efficient vehicles and attract a sufficient number of passengers.

Various other ideas have also been tested over the past few years. The Autolib car sharing system introduced in Paris has now been adopted in several other cities. In the suburbs of Brussels, the VAP ride sharing network encourages drivers to offer their neighbors a lift. And several websites offering peer-to-peer rides haring or car sharing services, such as European leader BlaBlaCar, have met with great success.



(1) Europa Forum (French only)

(2) Conditions for France’s financial incentives in 2014 (French only)

(3) ADEME (French only)

(4) Siemens