Motoring research charity calls for a scheme to take the most polluting diesel vehicles off the road
Ministers should consider introducing a new scrappage scheme aimed at taking the oldest and most polluting diesel cars off the road, transport policy and research charity the RAC Foundation has claimed.
The organisation claims that over the past two decades consumers have increasingly been buying diesels because of the better fuel consumption they achieve compared to petrol powered cars.
And, it is estimated that this shift in buying habits means that of the 28 million cars on the road today, 10 million are diesels. In 1994 there were just 1.6 million diesels.
However, the RAC Foundation claims that diesel cars tend to emit significantly more particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) than petrol cars both of which are linked to poor air quality and health issues.
And the group adds that while over recent years Euro standards have helped achieve significant reductions in PM emissions from diesels, these have not been matched by falls in NOx.
A report for the RAC Foundation by the environmental consultants Ricardo-AEA claims there is an argument for discriminating against the highest emitting diesel vehicles in favour of other, less polluting, vehicle technologies. For example this could mean differential pricing in the London Congestion Charging Zone.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: â€œMany people believed that by buying diesels they would get better fuel consumption and help fight global warming through low CO2 emissions.
â€œBut such was the focus on the planet that policy makers missed the impact older diesel models in particular have on health in urban areas. The car industry has risen to the challenge of cleaning up diesel engines but we still need to deal with the legacy of the dirtiest diesels.â€
According to the Ricardo-AEA report: â€˜transport contributes some 30% of total nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and 20% of total PM emissions, but these are mostly concentrated on the road network in towns and cities where the majority of air quality limit breaches occur and where the population density is often high.â€™
The report also notes that EU limits on air quality-related emissions are much less stringent than those used by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Under the tighter WHO guidelines more than nine out of ten (91-96%) of people living in urban areas would be classed as being exposed to excess levels of the smallest type of particulates (PM2.5) which can get deep into the lungs.
Professer Glaister added: â€œTo hasten the take-up of cars with the healthiest credentials ministers should consider another scrappage scheme. If they do not local politicians across the country will increasingly take matters into their own hands and restrict the movement of those vehicles which most compromise our wellbeing.
â€œYou have to ask: if it is important to promote the take up of electric vehicles through the plug-in car grant scheme then shouldnâ€™t government money also be made available to speed up the cleansing of the fleet in air quality terms?â€