Proposals to outlaw the retailing of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 in an extraordinary move to persuade people to purchase electric vehicles are a ‘big ask’ and will put unparalleled pressure on the National Grid, automotive experts have cautioned. Our motoring journalist, Tim Barnes-Clay, reports.
Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, has said that the UK can’t go on with diesel and petrol cars because of the harm they are doing to the planet our health. He claims that the way forward is to accept new technology.
Yet, the AA has advised that the National Grid would be under strain, especially following the evening rush hour, and Which? Car magazine says that, at present, electric cars are costly and less pragmatic. Currently, only four per cent of new car sales are for electric vehicles, and fears have also been aired about whether the UK will have adequate charging points for the fresh generation of vehicles.
Motorists who drive diesel powered motors on overcrowded roads in urban areas across Britain face even more pollution levies, and could also be banned from driving at peak times. Ministers have earmarked 81 key roads in 17 cities and towns where crucial action is needed because they are in violation of EU emissions standards, putting human health in jeopardy.
The air quality policy advises local councils to first try to lower emissions by retro-fitting the dirtiest diesels, altering road layouts and eradicating speed bumps. Nevertheless, it acknowledges that as a fall-back, local authorities will be allowed to enforce limits on the most contaminating diesels from 2020 to slash the levels of damaging emissions. The Government will also pledge to forbid the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 in an effort to inspire people to change to hybrid and electric autos.
It’s expected that the Environment Secretary will alert local councils against unfairly punishing motorists by enforcing pollution tariffs and other restraints on drivers of diesels. Mr Gove also advocated that supplementary wind farms may be required to meet the Government’s plans.
A recent study found that 48 of the dirtiest roads are in London. Other polluted roads have been found in Derby, Birmingham, Coventry, Nottingham, Leeds, Bristol, Southampton, Manchester, Bolton, Bury, Sheffield, Newcastle, Middlesborough, Belfast and Cardiff. The contamination hot-spots are mainly on A-roads but also comprise sections of the M32 in Bristol and the M4 motorway near London. The policy will insist that any limitations on diesel vehicles must be time-limited and relaxed as soon as air pollution levels drop within permissible limits.
As an alternative to pollution tolls, local authorities will be pressed to improve the movement of traffic, with methods such as getting rid speed bumps to stop cars continually slowing down then speeding up, which nearly doubles the quantity of gasses they emit. Other possibilities include improved sequencing of traffic lights to make sure motorists will keep reaching green lights rather than red lights if they cruise within the legal speed limit. Ministers will make an additional £255 million available to help local authorities apply their strategies, which could take effect in just three years’ time.
The amount of diesel-powered vehicles on the UK’s roads has ballooned from 3.2 million in the year 2000 to over 10 million vehicles today. This is because the Labour Government cut fuel duty on diesels in a bid to decrease carbon dioxide emissions. It has since transpired that diesel-propelled vehicles produce damaging nitrogen dioxide, which can raise the possibility of heart attacks, asthma attacks and strokes.
Sue Robinson, Director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), which represents commercial vehicle and franchised car retailers across the UK commented on the 2040 ban plan. She said: “Whilst we recognise that the Government has to address the urgent issue of a clean air quality policy, we are concerned that the total focus has been so heavily placed on the automotive industry. A ban on diesel and petrol vehicles is obviously of concern to the industry.”
Ms Robinson continued: “It is important that consumers who purchased cleaner Euro 6 diesel cars should not be penalised. In 2016, over half a million new diesel vehicles were sold. The Government needs to ensure that the correct measures are in place in areas where pollution is at its highest and ensure that these are not detrimental to the local economy.”
She added: “It is also important that there is investment in electric vehicle infrastructure, particularly charging points. There is pressure from local authorities on private business to invest in the local grid infrastructure, to ensure that the UK electric provisions can cope with the increase in electricity used for charging these vehicles.
“The Government has postponed a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, as it would be an expensive blunt instrument as any subsidy or scrappage allowance would need to be directed at the oldest cars which give off the most pollution,” concluded Ms Robinson.