UK ‘needs mix’ of vehicle technologies to cut air pollution

Relying solely on electric vehicles to cut pollution will be too expensive and take too long, according to EIC

A mix of low emission vehicle technology is needed in the UK as electric vehicles are too expensive to tackle the UK’s “air pollution crisis” alone, according to the UK’s environmental sector.

EIC suggests electric vehicles alone are not the solution to UK air pollution

EIC suggests electric vehicles alone are not the solution to UK air pollution

In a report published last week (November 6), the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) also calls for more “proactive” national policies to boost air quality, adding that the Defra’s draft UK air quality plan “has little to say in terms of new policy initiatives at national level”.

EIC makes a number of recommendations, including reviewing the fuel duty system so that it takes into account both air pollution and carbon emissions impacts.

In addition, it calls for a diesel vehicle scrappage scheme to incentivise the replacement of Euro 4 emissions-standard cars with newer Euro 6c standard or LPG-powered (liquefied petroleum gas) vehicles.

The report — ‘A clear choice for the UK: Technology options for talking air pollution’ — also includes results from air quality monitoring carried out by consultancy Temple Group and examines the costs and air quality benefits of rolling out five different pollution control technologies up to 2020 and 2030.

It finds that no single technology is likely by itself to make “significant” cuts to air pollution, with various technologies having different strengths and weaknesses.

It also warns against the UK focusing too heavily on boosting electric car take-up, as such vehicles can cost five times as much per tonne of pollution reduction compared to the other technology scenarios modelled in the report. These scenarios were:

  • Replacing 300,000 diesel cars with electric vehicles
  • Replacing 90,000 old diesel cars with the latest models when tougher emissions standards come into force in 2018
  • Retrofitting 10,000 old buses with the latest emissions control exhaust systems
  • Switching to renewable diesel for 3,000 construction site generators
  • Applying ‘photocatalytic treatments’ to the surface of 200km of the UK’s most polluted roads (this can work as a ‘paint’ which oxidises air pollutants, turning them into molecules that can be washed away)

Many of the technologies discussed in the report, EIC argues, support and could create more jobs and in future help to boost UK industry abroad, as air pollution is a “global problem”.


EIC smallElsewhere, the report recommends restricting duel carriageway speed limits to 60mph within local Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) and the government’s proposed network of Clean Air Zones.

Indicator boards displaying real time air pollution data (referenced to EU limits) should be set up in major urban centres, the report adds.

It also calls for older buses outside London to be retrofitted with emissions control technology, as well as the proper enforcement of construction site machinery emissions restrictions within London’s new low emission zone for Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM).


And, in order to help drive forward air quality policy and low emission technology, EIC suggests establishing a new statutory Air Quality Committee, which would be independent from government and report annually to Parliament on the UK’s progress towards meeting legal air pollution limits and the effectiveness of government policy.

The Committee, the report explains, would work in a similar manner to the existing Climate Change Committee, which was established as a part of the Climate Change Act.


EIC director, Matthew Farrow, said: “Britain has an air pollution crisis. Electric vehicles have the potential to transform air quality but they are only one part of the jigsaw and in the short term appear relatively expensive compared to the other technologies modelled in our report.

“To protect public health we must make meaningful cuts in air pollution as soon as possible and the truth is we need to use all the cost effective technologies at our disposal alongside an electric car roll out. An additional benefit is the significant number of ‘green jobs’ that air pollution control technologies can create. The government needs to facilitate and support this full range of solutions.”


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8 years ago

Similar arguments can be made for heating buildings and houses … cost of electricity is too high, need to use cost effective technologies, creating green jobs, need to make meaningful cuts in air pollution, etc. How about developing more effective heat pumps? How about heating the individual with layers of clothes instead of the whole house? How about keeping all public buildings at 65F = 15C = average temperature of the planet? Give those who complain a sweater and support the sheep industry!

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