There have been growing concerns about the rising number of old diesel cars driving around on the roads of the UK and the potential harm that these motors could be having on the nation’s air quality. The RAC Foundation have called upon Ministers to consider bringing in legislation to start scrapping the oldest and least eco-friendly diesel vehicles in the country, in a bid to improve the pollution concerns. RAC have recommended that the most polluting models, which are those that are around 10 years or older, should be taken off the road.
In a recently published report, the Foundation has made claims that there are as many as 29,000 premature deaths in the UK every year because of the air quality people are forced to breathe in. It is for this reason that they are now calling on the British Government to act in order to lower harmful pollutants, which could prevent premature deaths caused by serious illnesses such as lung cancer, heart conditions, diabetes and asthma.
The report also highlighted that the poor air quality in the UK is currently reducing the average life expectancy at birth, by six months. By removing these particles from the air, this would have a bigger impact in England and Wales than eliminating all road deaths or deaths from passive smoking. European regulations in recent years have helped achieve significant reductions in particulate emissions from new diesel cars.
The UK car market has seen the popularity of diesel cars soar over the past 20 years as motorists look for vehicles that can offer lower CO2 emissions and better fuel economy. Diesels now make up almost one-in-three of the vehicles on the UK’s roads. There have also been offers such as Vehicle Excise Duty and company car incentives, which have helped the number of Diesel cars rise from 1.6 million in 1994 to 10.1 million in 2013.
However, the older diesel motors are now more likely to emit increased levels of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter compared to petrol cars, particularly when accelerating when black dust is often thrown from the exhaust. These emissions are what have been linked to the concerns about poor air quality and related health issues. Prof. Stephen Glaister, Director of the RAC Foundation said, “Many people believed that by buying diesels they’d get better fuel consumption and help fight global warming through low CO2 emissions. But 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 need to deal with the legacy of the dirtiest diesels.”
Prof. Glaister added, “To 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. You have to ask: if it is important to promote the take-up of electric vehicles through the plug-in car grant scheme, then shouldn’t government money also be made available to speed up the cleansing of the fleet in air quality terms?”
A spokesperson from the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that despite the calls from the RAC Foundation, there are no current plans to introduce a scheme that will take old diesel cars off the roads. Instead, the DfT say they have introduced other projects that already help to improve air quality. The spokesperson said, “There have been major improvements in air quality over the past two decades, and we’re investing £2 billion on a range of actions to improve it further. These include promoting ultra-low emission vehicles, greener public transport, walking and cycling.”
Greener vehicles have become a more common sight on our roads as new car owners opt for lower CO2 emission motors. The British hybrid car market is now the fourth largest in the world and only trails behind Japan, France and the USA. The ownership of hybrid cars has nearly doubled in the past three years and it is estimated that there are now over 25,000 of these motors currently on British roads.
With the increase in hybrid vehicles, there has also been an increase in the number of independent garages that are now able to service hybrid cars like the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. It is estimated that more than 1,000 garages right across the UK have been through hybrid awareness training courses from the Independent Garage Association. Most of this servicing is routine, but mechanics do need some specialist training to be able to cope with the high voltage and safety systems, before they are able to work on hybrid cars.
The course has been backed by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) and offers workers the opportunity to gain a qualification before being allowed to deal with the eco models. Therefore, motorists can be safe in the knowledge that their hybrid vehicle has been serviced to the same standards that would be expected from a main car dealership.
The increased popularity has come as good news for owners of hybrid motors and the independent garages following new research from Independent Garage Association, Trust My Garage, who claim that 70 per cent of hybrid drivers choose independent garages over main dealers when deciding where to get their new car serviced.
There are widely held beliefs that it is a legal obligation to have your vehicle serviced at a main dealership. However, this is certainly not the case and new European laws have allowed servicing to be carried out at independent garages without the warranty being invalidated. Terry Gibson, a spokesperson from Trust My Garage said, “Many motorists believe their hybrid can only be serviced by a main dealer, but this isn’t the case.”