Fleet News

Industry reacts to Government's air quality plan

Car's exhaust pipe

The Government published its draft air quality plan on Friday (March 5), revealing it would prefer local authorities not to charge motorists to enter Clean Air Zones.

Meanwhile, a diesel scrappage scheme is not mentioned in the actual 86-page air quality plan, but a technical report which accompanies it does consider its merits and the Government is keen to know what people think in the consultation.  

There has been a mixed response to the proposals, with some welcoming the Government's plans and others criticising its lack of committment to a scrappage scheme. 

British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA)

BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “We understand the need to address air pollution in the UK, which requires a change in the way we travel and the vehicles we use. While we broadly welcome the government’s revised air quality plan - and we look forward to responding to the Defra consultation - the automotive industry urgently needs detail on the incentives that are available, not another period of consultation.”

On Clean Air Zones, Keaney said: “We’ve long called for a national framework that would require consistent Clean Air Zone (CAZ) emission standards, so it’s good to see this being published today.

"Many of our members are already meeting the standard required by the Mayor of London for his zone which is set to be introduced in 2019. Rental and leasing companies will be able to offer cars that are 100% compliant with this or any other CAZ that uses the Euro 6 emissions standard. We now need to ensure that zones are consistent across the UK – not only having the same emissions standard requirement, but also in terms of their signage, enforcement and penalties for non-compliance.”

Regarding the plan’s reference to the government updating its procurement policy, Keaney comntinued: “It’s reassuring that the Government has listened to our calls and is going to lead by example. The current Government Buying Standard focuses on CO2 emissions, so it’s welcome news that the Government’s revised standard will focus on NOx emissions when it is published later this year. This will further encourage public sector fleets to choose ultra-low emission vehicles where possible.”

On the lack of detail around a diesel scrappage scheme, Keaney said: “It’s disappointing that the Government is still consulting on a scrappage scheme, rather than publishing detail about what incentives drivers of older diesel vehicles will be given, and when the scheme will come into effect.

"We believe a national scrappage scheme could make a significant contribution in reducing NOx emissions by removing some of the oldest, most polluting cars and vans from our roads.

"We believe car owners should be encouraged to look at more sustainable modes of transport, and the Government should give them credits to use for car rental, car club memberships or public transport. Commercial vehicle operators trading in older diesel vehicles should be given a cash incentive – either money off or a discounted lease rate when choosing a Euro 6 van or Euro VI truck.”

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “SMMT welcomes the publication of Government’s proposals for improving air quality across the UK, which clearly states that the new Euro 6 diesels which have been on sale for the past two years will not face any penalty charges anywhere in the UK.

"Furthermore, the Government is keen that local authorities avoid charging consumers and businesses for driving their vehicles if other more effective policies can be found. Industry is committed to improving air quality across our towns and cities and has spent billions developing new low emission cars, vans, trucks and buses and getting these new cleaner vehicles onto our roads quickly is part of the solution.

"As outlined in the plan, any proposed scrappage scheme would need to be targeted and deliver clear environmental benefits. We're encouraged that plans to improve traffic flow and congestion, as well as increase uptake of electric and hybrid vehicles, will be prioritised in towns and cities. We look forward to working with government to encourage the uptake of the latest, low emission vehicles, regardless of fuel type.”

Jaguar Land Rover 

Jeremy Hicks, Jaguar Land Rover UK managing director, said: "We welcome the consultation recognising the fundamental difference between older vehicles which contribute to air pollution and clean, new diesels which are part of the air quality solution.

"Our latest Euro 6 diesel engines are among the cleanest in the world. Highly efficient diesel particulate filters now capture 99.9% of all particles, and we are making further emissions improvements with every new model year vehicle.

“Pollutant emission levels for new diesels are comparable to the equivalent petrol engines, but with CO2 emissions that are around 20% lower. Our customers demand greater fuel economy all the time, and new diesels deliver that.

"Customers can be reassured that Jaguar Land Rover is continuing to invest in cleaner technology, with £1bn invested at our Engine Manufacturing Centre near Wolverhampton, as well as a major hybrid and electrification programme.

"Older car engines are just one potential source of urban air pollutants, and we'd be keen to see the strategy tackling air quality across a range of pollution sources including heating, public transport and shipping."

Meanwhile, Jaguar Land Rover is cutting through the noise of the political debate about diesel by introducing impartial and factual guidance, through retailers, for customers - helping them make an informed decision on whether they should buy a petrol or diesel.

Hicks added: “Recent publicity around the diesel debate has caused significant confusion for customers; we are seeing more and more people ask us whether they should be buying a petrol or a diesel. We have a range of both efficient clean petrol and diesel options so we are providing a simple unbiased guide for customers to make an informed choice.”

Road Haulage Association (RHA)

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “While local authorities have been ordered to implement Clean Air Zones across the country, there is still a failure to commit to tackle the local congestion and traffic management issues that underpin the problem locally.  

“Local authorities that a have been given the responsibility to implement this, they need to focus on hot spots, especially where buses and taxis get stuck in jams.

“The report indicates that applying the scrappage scheme to all pre-Euro 6 diesel cars and vans in the UK in 2019 (eight million cars and two million vans, with grant levels of between £6,000 and £6,500 respectively) could cost the Government £60bn. 

“With the price of a new, Euro-6 HGV costing upwards of £80k, the same scheme cannot realistically, be applied to road haulage operators; the industry sector responsible for the movement of 85% of the UK economy.”


Alex Buttle, director, car buying website Motorway.co.uk, said: "This clean air plan states that a scrappage scheme is 'being considered', but make no bones about it, such a scheme could sound the death knell for diesel. 

"A car scrappage scheme is a positive step for the environment, but would be yet more bad news for diesel car owners.

“First we had the VW scandal, the ‘toxin tax’ announcement, and then last month the London Mayor announced he was bringing forward the introduction of an ultra-low emissions zone in London.

"If the Government announces such a scheme it's basically saying your diesel car is best on the scrapheap. 

“Government is clear in that it is looking to incentivise diesel car owners to move to cleaner alternatives. This will be especially galling for diesel car owners after previous governments actively encouraged people to buy diesel over petrol powered vehicles.

"It may not be the end of diesel right now, but diesel car sales and prices could be expected to plummet uncontrollably with no way back. Diesel cars have been demonised for good.”


Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, the road safety and sustainable transport charity, said: “It appears the Government has abdicated responsibility for reducing air pollution to local authorities.

“If any issue needs tackling on a national – and international – level, it’s this one. We have a national health emergency, and the Government is kicking the issue into the long grass.

“The idea that removing speed bumps on local roads will somehow reduce air pollution is both cynical and misguided. Most of the pollution comes from vehicles travelling on major routes, in big urban conurbations. Speed bumps are a red herring and the government knows it.”


Dearman’s commercial director David Sanders said: “The Clean Air Zone framework published by Government rightly highlights the impact of transport refrigeration units on Britain’s air quality.

“These diesel-run units are disproportionately polluting and local authorities implementing clean air zones should encourage fleet operators to shift to the affordable zero emission units that are already available.

“The transport sector faces ever closer scrutiny because of its reliance on diesel, but the industry needs support as well as regulation if it is to transition to cleaner

Alternatives, that is why the draft air quality plan as a whole must encourage take-up of cleaner, greener technologies.”

“There are roughly 84,000 TRUs on Britain’s roads, many of which depend on outdated auxiliary diesel engines, which can emit up to six times as much nitrogen oxide (NOx) and almost 30 times as much particulate matter (PM) as a Euro 6 heavy goods vehicle engine.

“The first application of Dearman technology is a zero-emission transport refrigeration system, an alternative to traditional diesel units. It has the capacity to have a significant impact on air quality and CO2 emissions, while providing industry leading performance, but without adding significant cost.”


Isotrak CEO Tony English said: “While significant strides have been made in recent years to combat harmful emissions, trends such as the rise in popularity of online shopping and related home/office delivery has unfortunately contributed to increased levels of air pollution.

“Using electric vehicles, particularly in populated areas, would certainly be a viable solution, however there would be substantial cost implications for operators to invest in these types of fleet alternatives, which would ultimately impact end-consumers.

“In the more immediate future, telematics will be highly valued and have a significant role to play as a means to become more operationally efficient and eliminate waste, particularly the reduction of empty loads, which are very bad for the environment."


RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “We welcome many of the proposals which have been included in the air quality strategy published today – namely encouraging local authorities to improve traffic flow, giving consideration to replacing speed humps with other means to safely slow vehicles down, a very clear focus on those most polluting vehicles such as buses and taxis, and encouraging the cutting of unnecessary engine idling.  

“However, it is deeply worrying that local authorities have an option of introducing chargeable Clean Air Zones which would affect owners of relatively new diesel and some petrol vehicles. This potentially could impact millions of motorists and while the Government has said it wants to discourage authorities from going down this route, the strategy does not give a clear steer on how and when local authorities should implement which type of clean air zone.

“The RAC is clear on this - we believe that efforts should squarely be focused on tackling those oldest vehicles that do the highest number of miles in affected areas, and that charges to owners of all but the newest diesel cars should be an absolute last resort.

“There is also no guidance yet published on what charges to motorists might be – which will undoubtedly make many motorists anxious of what may be in store.

“The Government has ruled out a large scale scrappage scheme on value for money grounds, but has indicated it is still open to a more targeted scheme – a move which we cautiously welcome.

“Finally, we believe that improving driving styles can have a much bigger role to play in reducing emissions than is suggested in the consultation. Telematics technology is available today to help drivers achieve change their driving style.”

Environmental Industries Commission (EIC)

EIC’s executive director Matthew Farrow, said: “Air pollution is a real political and policy challenge – many actors, large technical and scientific uncertainties, complex interactions and a public who want the problem solved urgently but hope someone else will pick up the cost. But these are the very problems where political leadership is most needed, and today’s draft plan show’s little.

“The commitment to expanding the network of Clean Air Zones is something EIC has long called for and the emphasis on the role of retrofitting, alternative fuels and innovation more widely is also valuable. 

“But despite the Defra analysis showing that only a significant and rapid drop in use of existing diesel vehicles in urban areas is likely to make a meaningful difference to NOx levels, the plan does nothing to build support for the hard decisions that follow from this: charging polluting vehicles, delivering a scrappage scheme, aligning vehicle tax with NOx and PM emissions  and providing support for additional retrofitting, low emission fuel use and the transition to Ultra Low Emission vehicles.

“Lastly, we must not forget that getting a grip on UK air pollution will help build an industry that can help the rest of the world clean up its dirty air, creating tens of thousands of jobs in the process.”








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