Intelligent Energy

Save the environment: Drive a car

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An amazing view on the future of transportation.

Train Parity Jones: Former Ford top engineer Richard Parry-Jones (above) lauds advances in low emissions cars. Britain makes a lot of them, for companies like Nissan, Toyota and Tata. The UK will start producing Nissan's Leaf next year, if all goes to schedule.

It will be just as environmentally friendly eight years from now to drive a car to work as it will be to take a train. That is, if you use the right car and sometimes share the ride with another person.

So says former Ford Motor Co. chief technical officer Richard Parry-Jones, who told a transportation conference in London last week that by 2020, the greenest cars on the market will rival electric trains for low per passenger CO2 emissions, the website Autocar reports.

"By 2020, the car industry is targeting just 40g/km of tailpipe carbon, which translates to 25g/km per passenger when the average number of occupants in cars - 1.6 - is factored in," the website writes in a summary of Parry-Jones' keynote speech to the Intelligent Mobility Summit.

"That's a remarkable development when you think that the typical average was 140g/km in 2000," Parry-Jones says in the story. The improvements will come through improvements in internal combustion engines as well as through electric and hybrid cars, the website Caradvice adds.

Whether Parry-Jones himself actually said cars will match electric trains, or whether that's Autocar's interpretation, isn't entirely clear. I'm seeking clarification.

The former top Ford engineer and group vice president is now head of the UK Automotive Council, a joint government/industry automotive body. You'd expect him to trumpet the future of cars.

But he walks a fine line: Parry-Jones is also the chairman-designate of Network Rail, the private company that maintains Britain's rail tracks.

In his keynote, Parry-Jones also predicted that intelligently networked cars that communicate with each other and with traffic management systems will facilitate smoother traffic flow in the future.

That was a major theme of the conference, addressed by government ministers and industry executives. More on that another time.

Photo from bisgovuk via Flickr.

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Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure