Those evil polluting Swedes!

A few people have emailed me about the articles appearing in this week’s papers about Swedes apparently having the highest CO2 outputs per capita from automobiles in Europe. It started with this article in the International Herald Tribune and has since crossed over into articles in the New York Times and The Guardian.

Here’s the issue in a nutshell:

The most recent available European Union statistics show that Sweden has the highest level of pollution-emitting cars in Western Europe. Many of those happen to be Volvos and Saabs, which tend to be roomy, high-horsepower models that emit a high count of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas.

What’s there to say about this?

Well, some of ou may remember that I noted during my trip to Sweden last month that the Swedes certainly do love their wagons. Around 80% of new cars sold there are wagons and the highest selling car in Sweden since I’ve been tracking sales there has been the Ovlov V70 – a large-ish wagon.

Having said that, there’s a hell of a lot less SUV’s per capita than what there is here in Australia, for example, and I’d guess in other countries too. Swedes love their land and whilst this article’s happy to take a swipe at them on the proliference of wagons there, I’d suggest driving a 2.3 litre turbocharged four cylinder vehicle is better than a much bigger and heavier SUV.

And that’s without mentioning the emergence of E85 in Sweden, which is a relatively recent phenomenon.

If there’s one thing this article does bring to light, it’s a relative lack of investment in smaller engines and smaller models. Ovlov have addressed this with the C30, though it still remains to be seen how Swedes will adopt that model.

Saab’s smaller, entry-level model can’t come soon enough. Though Saab’s recent responses are worth mentioning, too. BioPower has now been available in the smaller 9-3 range, which has in very quick time replaced the 9-5 in second spot on the Swedish sales chart and increased the opportunities to use Biofuels in a bid to curtail new CO2 emissions. A small start, but a start nonetheless.

I’ll leave it to the Swedes who visit this site to deal with the rest of the article as they’re much better equipped to do so that I am, but I’ll finish with this quote, which in combination with smaller model development is one that I believe to be fairly accurate:

The number of cars running on biofuels in Sweden has risen rapidly in recent years: More than 16 percent of new cars sold in May were classified by the government as environmentally friendly because most run on ethanol, up from 13 percent in the same period a year before, according to BIL Sweden.

“The industry has developed products that mean you don’t have to choose between safety and comfort, and environmental friendliness,” Molden said, pointing to the rising use of biofuels. “No country is changing as rapidly as Sweden, and all we have to do is keep working in the same direction.”

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13 Comments

  1. I feel like this must have to do with the fact that, at least in Saab’s case, most of the cars are designed to be competitive in the US market and they don’t have enough development dollars to make smaller cars.

  2. A few clarifications

    Historically sweden have had high emmissions from cars, due to predomitately larger cars. A side note to this is that the nr of casualties in the trafic is among the lowest in europe.

    However in the last few years, the fuel consumption on new wehicles have decreased dramatically, both due to diesel, which in the past was heavely taxes, resulting in only taxi cars driving a very long distance during the year used it. How “clean” diesels are out, and the taxes have been reduced to much lower levels.

    I think that the increase in diesel sales have been double digit in the last few months…. So the TT will probably do good.

    This combined with a 10K SEK government discount for cars poluting less than 120 gram of carbon dioxide have resulted in a very large increase in sales of “green” cars, so the fuel consumption in new cars are by far not the worst in europe.

  3. At least Swedish automobile manufacturers and gov’t are working on solving the problem rather than denying it exists or fighting any legislation to improve the problem. That’s a feather in their caps.

    Here in the States we’ve got some factions of government fighting itself trying to get fuel economy standards raised to match those in the ROW, and the auto manufacturers and putting tons of money into lobbying gov’t officials to oppose this legislation on grounds that it would be too expensive.

    Regulating greenhouse gases is basically the same story.

  4. If you read the (Swedish) information on this page,
    http://www.bilsweden.se/aktuellt_arkiv.asp?ArticleID=265&
    you will see that 23 058 “green” cars were sold in Sweden during the first 6 months of 2007, a 25% increase and 15 % of all sold cars. The diesel share of the total sales were 29.4%.
    These figures have started a very good trend. 2005 Sweden where last in EU, but today Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Luxemburg, Greece, UK, Denmark, Ireland and Austria has been passed (now 6:th place). It looks like Belgium and Spain will be passed during the second half of 2007 and the rest (France, Italy and Portugal) during 2008.

  5. ..CO2 output per person in Sweden is not only high because of cars but industry. That should be taken into account.
    Furthermore, people in Luxenburg are worse than Swedes regarding CO2 emmissions per c.

    But as a rule ot thumb: The higher the living standard, the higher the CO2 output per c.

    About this E85 hype, I have my doupts that Sweden has the capacity to produce the needed fuel out of there forestry wast.

    And imagine, VOLVO and SAAB would have developed a HYBRID system as efficent as TOYOTA´s. Rememebr, Sweden does have a speed limit! Combiened, Stockholm city traffic and 90/110 km/h higway traffic plus the tax incentives taken from E85 to HYBRID would prove the HYBRID the best solution.But since FORD and GM stumble behind the technological development there is now thing like HYBRID in the VOLVO and SAAB lineup today.

    And than, it remains to be seen wheather CO2 output would decrease significantly?

    So, how about a all electric car those needed electricity comes from a electrical power plant that cleanly processes the forestry wast. Inreasing all around efficency is that we need! Combustinion engine have hardly any potential left to decrease energy consumption in individual transport.

    And hey GM guys. Imagine you would have created a SAAB brand based on HYBRID! TOYOTA is doing it with PRIUS (TOYOTA, LEXUS, SCION, PRIUS).

    Look for example under the old C900 hatch. Lot´s of space for some batteries and rear wheel motors, isn´t it? But GM lost any hope to sell more than 150.000 SAABs a year including future 94x and 95. As history has shown, only the most imaginary people won battles. GM´s battles for market shares.

    That bring me to another point: Look at the almost “socialistic” Swedish welfare state and compare it with the almost “communistic” GM health care and pension system. Which one seems to be the more flexebil system? It´s one of the reason, GM is doing badly. Unfortunately,in doing this, SAAB is suffering too, despite their workforce is part of the Swedish welfare state.

    Since PORSCHEs are built in Slovakia and Finland, it may be good moving SAAB production to Germany where almost nobody is buying a SAAB.

  6. Michael, regarding the speed limits:
    From http://www.alltravelsweden.com/Sweden/Car_Rental/Driving_Tips.htm#4
    What is the speed limit on Swedish Roads?
    Speed limit on Motorway: 110kph/68mph
    Speed limit in Towns: 50kph/31mph
    Speed limit on Major roads: 90kph/56mph
    If you speed in Sweden, you risk a heavy fine and maybe even losing your driving license.

    I don’t agree with you on the hybrid, I don’t think it’s a solution to anything. There’s too much cradle-to-grave environmental cost. But your comment about an electric car using power from a plant efficiently processing waste sounds pretty good to me. It’s better to put the technology in place once on a big scale than millions of times on a smaller scale. Then, the technology can update as needed. I would like them to add sound effects to the cars though, like a nice turbo whine on an inline 4. 🙂

  7. Thanks for linking to the article Swade. I enjoyed reading about all the moral posturing going on in Europe about CO2, including the obligatory quote from an enviro hectoring people to just put on their hair shirts and make do with less.

  8. Ted Y: I remember reading when the Mazda Miata first came out that they did some creative work with the shape of the engine compartment to make the small engine have a throatier sound, or something. Maybe adding a hidden loudspeaker to electric cars blaring the sound from a 427 Shelby Cobra would be just the ticket? 😉

  9. Adding sound effects would be cheesy. I don’t want the idiot kid next door to have a better sounding car than I do when he’s driving a Scion and I’m driving, say, a car that actually has engine.

    As far as an entirely hybrid based Saab…it’s stupid that Toyota is doing it, and it would be stupid if Saab did it. The only reason Prius’ are so popular is because so the people inside feel good that they’re driving something that everyone else can tell is a hybrid car. I don’t want Saab thinking like that.

  10. Jeff, the Prius is also popular in the States due to its low cost-of-ownership: first you get a nice big tax break and incentives on the original purchase price, then you save money in gasoline due to its lower consumption. The yearly cost to lease and operate a Prius would be much lower than doing so on a SAAB. Some people would claim you only buy a SAAB to show off the name plate and be “different”. 😉

    I wouldn’t want a traditional hybrid and don’t think SAAB should move in that direction either (traditional hybrids are a stopgap I’m hoping SAAB will skip altogether for the next-gen stopgap: the EV w/ “range extender” GM E-Flex platform).

    As for the sound effects I was joking about that. However, that story about the Miata is allegedly true.

  11. You don’t buy a Saab to show your friends how hip you are…yet. :p

    Sure, they’re cheap to own and whatnot, but according to Autoblog, 50% of Prius owners say that they bought their cars to “make a statement”, which I think is stupid.

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