‘Engagement’ plea over petrol and diesel ban

Consultancy firm Bureau Veritas has backed calls for the UK to bring forward its target date for the phase out of diesel and petrol-only cars, but has claimed that ‘greater understanding’ of barriers to the uptake of low emission alternatives is needed.

The government has set a deadline for the end of the sale of conventional internal combustion engine vehicles by 2040 — a goal that has been described as ‘unambitious’ by green groups.

A greater understanding of consumer attitudes to cars is needed if the UK is to speed up the end of the sale of petrol and diesel only cars, Bureau Veritas has claimed

More recently, the Joint Air Quality Committee, comprising MPs from health, environmental and transport select committees called for this date to be brought forward in a report on the government’s response to the UK’s air quality crisis (see story).

Dr Richard Maggs, consulting group manager on air quality at Bureau Veritas has backed the call for the end of the sale of diesel and petrol cars to be brought forward in order to help address air pollution in the UK.


However, he claimed that this will require a greater level of engagement to ‘rapidly change’ the public’s perception of low emission alternatives such as battery electric, hybrid, LPG or hydrogen vehicles.

He said: “The poor level of air quality in the UK, particularly in urban areas, is a massive concern to population health and wellbeing. To tackle the problem head on, the move away from diesel and petrol vehicles must be accelerated.

“However, to achieve this requires the active engagement between behavioural scientists and air quality experts in order to rapidly change the British public’s perception of alternatives to petrol and diesel vehicles.

“Added to this, a complete overhaul of public transport and associated infrastructure for adoption of electric vehicles (e.g. charging points and battery storage) should be prioritised to overcome the significant barriers to a quicker adoption of low polluting vehicles and private vehicle alternatives.”

He added that at present, vehicle ownership is still largely driven by socio-economic factors related to household incomes and reflects an individual’s ‘status in society’.

‘Polluting’ vehicles

Unless scrappage schemes remove older more polluting vehicles, their continued use remains an attractive proposition for low income households, he said.

This could be borne out by recent data from the car industry has suggested that sales of used diesel cars increased by around 3% in 2017, whilst sales of new diesel cars dropped dramatically (see story).

Used diesel car sales have spiked, despite consumers turning away from diesels in the new car market

This has prompted concerns that a backlash against diesel cars has not served to remove some of the most polluting vehicles from the road, whilst newer cleaner models are not being sold.

Dr Maggs added: “On top of this, with the choice of vehicle also determined by performance and access to charging points, there also needs to be adequate infrastructure in place first to support alternatively-fuelled options; be it electric, liquid nitrogen or emerging hydrogen models.

“This, of course, is just one area of concern; local transport networks and pricing remain inefficient and unless an overall authority has control and management of transport modes similar to the Transport for London model, passengers will continue to find it difficult to move around using multiple payments across buses, trains and trams.

“Crucially, while the choice for better air quality is an obvious one, the plan for delivery is inherently complex and requires a greater understanding of how best we can influence consumers to switch faster to low polluting transport such as electric cars in order to achieve the level of air quality we all deserve.”

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