Industry welcomes clean air plans

The industry has responded to the government’s air quality plan, which it published on Friday.

The strategy includes proposals to retrofit buses, lorries and black taxis as well as a scrappage scheme encouraging drivers of older cars to switch to electric.

This could include up to 15,000 older diesel and petrol cars, with grants of up to £8,000 available to the drivers.

It’s also calling for the introduction of clean air zones in dozens of UK cities.

While some experts say government proposals fall way short, the industry has largely responded positively.

Mike Hawes, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (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.’

Meanwhile, Jeremy Hicks, Jaguar Land Rover UK managing director, added, ‘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 Eu6 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, The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (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.”

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett added, ‘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.’