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Electric vehicles ‘no solution’ to UK air quality

Emissions Analytics has warned the Government not to focus on electric vehicles as the solution to improving air quality, with diesel engines already offering a viable solution to meeting the targets in a short timeframe.

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Technologies such as Selective Catalytic Reduction are already delivering reduced real-world NOx emissions.

Speaking at the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum, Emissions Analytics founder and CEO, Nick Molden, said the company’s independent on-road testing had highlighted significant improvements in the performance of Euro 6 compliant vehicles since the first models were introduced in 2013.

In 2017, the 10% cleanest Euro 6 compliant diesels were averaging NOx emissions of 32mg/km – significantly lower than the 80mg/km laboratory limit, let alone the 1.5-times ‘conformity factor’ needed to meet the Real Driving Emissions Step 2 (RDE2) requirements that underpin diesel taxation in the UK. Of the diesel cars it had tested, Molden said 11 were under 60mg/km, and the cleanest emitted just 12mg/km.

Molden added that a loss of faith in diesel meant many consumers were either holding on to older, more polluting diesel cars or switching to petrol – only a small proportion are moving to electrified models. This, he said, is not a ‘get out of jail free card’ with the cleanest diesels emitting half as much NOx as the 10% dirtiest petrol models. Regardless of fuel type, end-users need to be able to access this information on a model-by-model basis.

“To meet the air quality goals on the timetable required by the courts does not require more innovation,” he said. “What we don’t want as a country, is having to plough a lot of resource and expertise into a solving a problem that’s already been solved. The particle and NOx problem has essentially been solved, we just don’t know it.

“The danger is there’s a massive mis-allocation of resources away from the longer-term CO2 reduction problem. My view is electrification is no solution to the air quality problems we’ve got. Electrification is about longer-term CO2 reductions, and the more we blur the distinction between those two points the more we will get confused and mis-allocate our efforts.”

Unfair taxation against diesel engines forms a core part of Fleet World’s campaign to Save the Company Car, which launched last week. The 4% levy on company car tax adds a cost burden for operators and drivers, potentially incentivising less efficient or less suitable vehicles, and increasing reliance on grey fleet.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.