Eco-labelling for cars: is there such a thing?


Can a car have an eco-label? How do I wash my car in an environmentally responsible way? Are there any environmentally certified tyres?

These are examples of questions that we receive every day. The fact is that eco-labels make things a little simpler when the time comes for customers to do their shopping. For example, Sweden’s “Svanen” is an eco-label that can be found on many products – everything from fuel (the gas used to propel vehicles) and newsprint to tyres, car washes and so on. You can find out more from Svanen.se. There you can read, for instance, that eco-labelled car washes actually exist. This means they meet tough demands concerning water consumption and that the chemicals used have the least possible negative impact on the environment. What is more, these demands also include a quality requirement. It is a poor choice from the environmental viewpoint if you have to wash your car twice, so by choosing an eco-labelled car wash you get both a cleaner car and a cleaner conscience.

When it comes to tyres, HA oils are forbidden in all tyres as of about a year ago. What is more, there is an eco-label for tyres too. Thus far only one tyre model has received this eco-label but more are on the way. For tyres it is important to bear in mind that tread depth must be sufficient, and for a tyre to function safely Volvo recommends a minimum of 3 mm. There are also many tyre models with low rolling resistance; this helps cut fuel consumption without lengthening the stopping distance. Remember also to frequently check tyre pressures. Incorrect tyre inflation has more of an impact on fuel consumption than you might believe. What is more, there is an eco-pressure level which is somewhat higher than the standard tyre inflation and which helps cut fuel consumption still further.

Finally, is there an eco-label for the car as a whole? The answer is both yes and no. There is no eco-label for the entire car, but several of Volvo’s models have interiors that have been certified and approved by the Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association. It is not an eco-label in the traditional sense of the term, but it is an excellent guideline for good in-car air quality. This requires much more than just a good air filter in the ventilation system – a whole range of things have been done to these cars to achieve this high interior standard, including:

• IAQS – (Interior Air Quality System) fitted as standard on all new Volvo models since 2003. This system automatically shuts off incoming air and activates the recirculation system when it registers high levels of carbon monoxide, ozone and nitrogen oxide in the incoming air. The air inside the car is thus actually cleaner than the air outside.
• The passenger compartment filter prevents particles and pollen from entering the car.
• Interior materials are tested for contact allergies. These materials meet the same strict requirements as for jewellery with regard to nickel seepage, among other things.
• Plastics are chosen that release as little vapour as possible.
• The cabin fan starts automatically when the car is unlocked so as to ventilate as much of the shut-in air as possible when the outside temperature is 10 degrees or more.
• Finally, all materials and designs are chosen to ensure that the car is as easy to clean as possible. This helps minimise the amount of dust inside the passenger compartment.

Volvo is the only car manufacturer to have this environmental declaration system, and it is used on all the company’s more recent models.

In addition, there is of course the state-legislated definition of environmentally optimised or “green” cars but this is not an eco-label as such but rather a regulation that exempts such cars from road tax for five years. Anyone wanting to find out more about this can visit the Swedish Tax Authority’s website and look at the link about “green” cars http://www.skatteverket.se/privat/skatter/biltrafik/fordonsskatt.4.18e1b10334ebe8bc80003

David Weiner, Volvo