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Eco-driving: Innovative Approach to Cutting Emissions of Transport Vehicles

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By Valentina Gasbarri | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

NEW YORK (IDN) - Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time. Governments, private sector, civil society organisations and individuals around the globe are engaged in reducing C02 emissions and diminishing the environmental impact both on people and on eco-systems.

The car industry is one of the main stakeholders responding actively and constructively to this major threat of the 21st Century. Through huge investment in a wide range of technological innovations, emissions from new cars are progressively declining.

However, achieving a low-carbon global society from driving is not just about making more efficient vehicles nor is it the unique responsibility of car manufacturers.

Current investment trend of car industry has focused on technological solutions to environmental changes, but CO2 emission reduction can also be accomplished by thinking about driver behaviour, looking not only at the vehicle but also at how people drive it.

This is the main argument around the conceptual and operational development of the eco-driving, a unique successful example of behavioural change approach to reducing CO2 emissions through the adoption of more efficient and conscious manner of driving.

The concept of eco-driving has risen considerably in popularity in recent years, as the impacts of climate change and global warming have been perceived more dangerous and globally widespread.

Eco-driving courses, capacity-building, studies all over the globe have produced evidence of the potential for eco-driving to reduce almost 20% of individual’s fuel consumption and emissions. The eco-driving landscape was drawn during the first International Conference on Global Environment, Carbon Reduction and Eco-drive, as a solution towards sustainability, at the centre of the multilateral diplomacy, the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York, on October 17.

Co-hosted by the World Association of Former United Nations Interns and Fellows (WAFUNIF), the ASUA Corporation and the Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations, the high-level debate witnessed the presence of many governments, institutions and local administrations, academic institutions as well as the private sector at the frontline of instituting positive changes through a full engagement to encourage eco-driving methods and initiatives.

Green Eco Project

The significance of the Eco-drive concept was underlined by Keiji Endo, General Manager and Director of the Department of Environment, Tokyo Trucking Association, offering an insider’s view of the main characteristics of one of the most effectives project developed in Japan in the last nine years.

“The Green Eco Project started in 2006. Around 700 companies and 20.000 trucks joined the project”, Endo said. There is a good range of existing information about how eco-driving can reduce the truck fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The accumulated data in the last eight years in driving management sheets in which participating drivers provide the amount of fuel used and the driving distance at the time of filling a gas tank anew” that fuel efficiency has improved by 15.6% on average and CO2 emissions resulted in a decrease by about 63.000 tons.

“If we express this major achievement in term of planting trees, it would be equal to fill up with trees the whole area of Manhattan (about 23 square miles). In financial terms, it would be 34 million dollars of cost reduction,” Endo pointed out. The Green Eco Project also succeeded in reducing traffic accidents by 30%, which consequently resulted in a reduction of almost 54% of insurance fees for transportation companies.

The Green Eco Project has four central tenets: eco-driving is low-cost, accessible and universal, sustainable, accurate in data collection and in behavioural change-based motivation so that drivers are kept motivated.

Moreover, one of the central tenets of the Green Eco Project has been international cooperation to share eco-driving knowledge and experience: good initiatives have been emulated, good ideas have been shared during such conferences as the COP15 side event in Copenhagen in 2009, the 5th Asia EST Forum in Bangkok in 2010, the 1st Low Carbon Summit in Dalian, China in 2011, as well as a meeting with Berlin Brandenburg Transport and Logistics Association (VVL) in Berlin in 2011.

Eco-drive approach brings environmental, financial and safety benefits at zero or low cost. It is therefore no surprise that eco-drive is an increasingly popular concept that was well-received by a wide range of stakeholders during the Conference in New York: policy makers like eco-drive as it contributes to environmental and safety targets; companies like the cost savings; private individuals like the cost savings and the more relaxed and safer style of driving; and vehicle manufacturers appreciate the recognition that it’s not just about technologies and that their vehicles can achieve the official fuel consumption results if driven well.

An important element of this project is “the pen-and-paper approach” to raise awareness of the driver, along with the basic and continuous eco-driving education. “Good drivers are given recognition as a means of motivation”, Endo explained, and also “managers are involved in the project as an equal footing and have the chance to participate to seminars”.

In partnership with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Cargo Transportation Evaluation System, the world’s first fuel efficiency evaluation system, to show results and publicize them to the wide public including cargo owners and consumers is a fundamental activity correlated with the project. Indeed, the evaluation system was constructed in 2013 based on a part of over 6 million data accumulated by the Green Eco Project.

Expressing the enthusiasm and positive reactions of all participants, Glen Kedzie, Vice President Energy and Environment Affairs Counsel at the American Trucking Association, said that the good practices and the philosophy of the Green-Eco Project brought to the Conference a valuable added-value.

Hugues Van Honacker, Team Leader, Directorate General of Mobility and Transport, European Commission, expressed his appreciation for the Conference and the Green Eco Project, highlighting the EU commitments in recent years to develop and implement of eco-friendly projects concerning alternative fuels strategy. Some of the main achievement at the EU level would be the creation of harmonised EU-wide standards and common technical specification as well as consumer information and awareness-raising activities.

Following the main theoretical nature and principles of the Green- Eco Project, the EU Commission in partnership with the Intelligent Energy Europe programme of the European Union, designed and implemented a project called ECOWILL. It is aimed at widespread eco-driving training courses by deploying the existing infrastructure of driving schools. ECOWILL further introduced and rolled out e-learning methods. In addition, ECOWILL aimed at harmonisation of driving lessons and driving tests for learner drivers.

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) in partnership with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Road Transport Bureau, and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, edited a publication titled: “Fuel Efficiency of your Car- Why is it different from the Catalogue Fuel Efficiency?”. It points out that eco-driving signifies driving techniques and manners that help drivers reduce fuel consumption, exhaust emissions and global warming as well as traffic accidents.

“Fuel-conserving driving not only saves fuel expenses but also gives passengers greater safety and riding comfort, with the key principle of driving in a relaxed an unhurried manner,” as Hiroshi Maji, President of ASUA Corporation, told the Conference participants. [IDN-InDepthNews – October 31, 2014]

2014 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

Image: Group photo of a Panel Discussion in New York

Valentina Gasbarri's previous IDN articles:
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