Green cars threatened by sulphur in fuel

A European Union fuel quality directive could scupper attempts to cut carbon dioxide emissions, as it allows too much sulphur to remain in petrol and diesel, car manufacturers have warned. The warning follows a deal between the European Parliament and the EU’s Council of Ministers, which will allow 50 parts per million of sulphur in […]

A European Union fuel quality directive could scupper attempts to cut carbon dioxide emissions, as it allows too much sulphur to remain in petrol and diesel, car manufacturers have warned.

The warning follows a deal between the European Parliament and the EU’s Council of Ministers, which will allow 50 parts per million of sulphur in fuel from 2005.

Roger King, acting chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said that if the directive is formally adopted, it would be impossible for manufacturers to design vehicles to meet European Commission CO2 targets of 120g/km.

He said: ‘The quality of the fuel is not as good as we had required. We will have to go back and get the tighter standards relieved a little, or they will have to bring forward a lower sulphur level for the year 2005.’

Brussels has been talking to the industry to see if it can reach a voluntary agreement on CO2 levels, before a formal directive is discussed and passed.

King said that with sulphur levels of 50ppm, the 120g/km target would be unattainable.

The problem for car manufacturers is that sulphur coats the mechanisms of catalytic converters that remove many pollutants and unwanted gases from the atmosphere, reducing their effectiveness.