The Government should consider higher taxes on large cars in order to reduce carbon emissions, a leading expert in sustainable energy has said.
The size of cars on Irish roads has steadily increased over the past two decades and the average vehicle weighs roughly 300kg more than they did in 2001.
All of this means cars cost more to run and cause greater wear and tear on roads as time goes on.
“The [extra] weight of the car requires more petrol and diesel to drive and they’re usually less aerodynamic as well,” UCC Professor Hannah Daly told The Pat Kenny Show.
“So, accelerating the car creates drag and we think that if cars had not grown in size as they did in the past two decades, then emissions per kilometre would be down by about 10% - and we really need to get that figure down significantly.”
Generally speaking, electric and hybrid cars are better for the environment than petrol or diesel cars.
However, hybrid cars are often heavier than a standard petrol or diesel vehicle.
“The move towards electric cars hasn’t created this trend but plugin hybrid cars are the heaviest [of them all] because you’re carrying around a battery and an engine,” Professor Daly said.
“So, the plugin hybrids are the least optimal from this perspective.”
Professor Daly feels a system could be devised that does not “unfairly penalise people” and would encourage consumers to make a choice with a less harmful impact on the planet.
“Taxation is already a very big stick and we can basically redesign it so that it’s revenue neutral,” she said.
“It doesn’t have to be a revenue raising exercise for Government.”
Overall, she feels there is an argument to be made that large cars should be treated like other substances the Government considers harmful to society.
“There’s also a reason to discuss whether we’re advertising big cars too much - selling them as a sort of luxury lifestyle choice and whether we should be treating them more like cigarettes,” she said.
In 2021, the State raised €785.7 million in revenue from Vehicle Registration Tax.
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