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Time to put an end to the ‘diatribe’ of misinformation about diesel

The UK boss of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is warning improvements in air quality could be delayed if the diesel debate continues to be dominated by misinformation.

Speaking at the International Automotive Summit organised by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Jeremy Hicks argued that diesel cars are being unfairly targeted.

Calling the current debate a “misnomer”, JLR’s managing director said: “What we’ve had so far hasn’t been so much of a debate, as a diatribe or at best a monologue.”

In fact, campaign body FairFuel UK accused “environmentalists and opportunist politicians” of manipulating the argument, damaging residual values, while ignoring significant other sources of NOx and particulate pollution.

Howard Cox, the founder of FairFuel UK, said: “Drivers want solutions to lowering emissions that don’t involve ineffectual and malevolent knee-jerk tax hikes.” 

His comments came as Westminster City Council launched a new £2.45 parking surcharge for pre-2015 diesel cars in central London. Dubbed the ‘D-Charge’, it is being trialled in Hyde Park, Marylebone and parts of Fitzrovia (area around the BT Tower), with diesel drivers now having to pay 50% more to park. It costs £4.90 an hour to park in Westminster, but pre-2015 diesel cars will now be charged £7.35.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also revealed plans to introduce a zero emission zone in central London from 2025.

Hicks said: “The impression being given is the way to improve air quality in our cities is simply to ban diesel cars, but it’s not quite that simple.”

A recent report from the London Assembly’s environment committee highlighted how diesel cars were responsible for 11% of NOx in London, compared to gas central heating (16%) and diesel plant and machinery (14%). Hicks said: “There has been a seismic shift in diesel [engine] technology almost eliminating NOx.”

Since 2000, NOx emissions from cars have fallen by 62.8% and harmful particulates by 52.7%, according to the SMMT. Under the latest Euro 6 standards, the NOx emissions of petrol and diesel are approaching parity – 60mg/km for petrol and 80mg/km for diesel (limits for previous Euro 5 diesel were 180mg/km), although real-world testing by Emissions Analytics shows wide variances with the official figures. 

Hicks said: “If air quality is going to improve, our vision has to be broader than the private motorist.” Otherwise, he warned, a dip in diesel sales could starve the industry of funds to plough back into developing new powertrains.

He concluded: “It would be tragic for our environment and our mobility if these developments were delayed because of the negative impact of a mishandled and misinformed diesel debate.” 

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  • The Engineer - 10/07/2017 20:17

    diatribe - is that the technical name for the cloud of soot you get in the face when following a diesel Land Rover vehicle every time it accelerates?

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  • David Banner - 11/07/2017 10:04

    Jeremy Hicks is right. Nobody is arguing that diesel isn’t impacting the air we breathe but to suggest it is the cause of ills, while ignoring advancements in engine technology and emissions from other sources, is disingenuous. Gas central heating systems in the capital were responsible for 16% of all NOx emissions compared to 11% from diesel cars, but are we calling for them to be banned? No we’re not and nor should we, but we should tackle all sources of NOx if we really want to improve air quality. It is also vitally important that people like the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, make sure they don’t lump all diesel vehicles together when he blames them for the capital’s “killer toxic air”. Policies around London’s ultra-low emission zone acknowledge the advancements Euro 6 technology has brought by excusing these vehicles from the forthcoming charge. Yet, lazy reporting in some parts of the national media doesn’t differentiate between engine technologies and leaves the public thinking all diesels are bad. They are not. Since 2000, NOx emissions from cars have fallen by 62.8% and harmful particulates by 52.7%. More can and needs to be done, but blaming all diesel cars is just plain lazy. Hybrid and pure EVs have their place but, even with more EV charge points at fuel stations, it remains the only realistic fuel choice for many fleets.

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