RAC Cars News


Old diesels damaging the environment

By raccars Published

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The RAC Foundation has expressed concern that air quality in the UK is being affected by the number of older diesel cars on the road and is calling upon government ministers to implement a new scrappage scheme to improve the situation.

The organisation is targeting older models - 10 years or more - as these are the dirtiest and most polluting. Diesel cars have become increasingly popular in the UK over the last two decades as consumers chase better fuel consumption. In 1994, there were 1.6 million diesel cars on British roads, but that figure has risen to 10.1 million cars by 2013, or nearly a third of all cars on the road, as motorists choose vehicles with lower CO2 emissions and more economical engines, particularly those buying company cars. However, motorists buying these more economical vehicles also seem to believe that as a result, they are more environmentally friendly, but in fact, the reverse is true.

Unfortunately, while diesel engines may be better for the environment, they can have an adverse impact upon human health, particularly in urban areas. While European regulations have forced auto manufacturers to tackle the problem with more modern diesel engines, older models are still on the road and causing problems.

Diesel engined cars emit higher levels of nitrogen oxide and other damaging particulate matters than petrol powered vehicles and, as such, could be degrading air quality further. The RAC Foundation's recent study into the matter suggests that poor quality air accounts for up to 29,000 premature deaths on an annual basis. Furthermore, better air quality could extend life expectancy across the board by six months. The Foundation is now pressing government ministers to take action to reduce the levels of unhealthy air pollutants, which contribute to ill health in the form of heart conditions, asthma and cancer.

At this stage, the Department for Transport claims it has no plans to start scrapping older diesel cars and is focusing on existing projects, designed to improve the quality of air in the UK. The department claims to have plans to invest a further £2 billion into air quality improvement schemes, on top of a number of campaigns that have already seen improvements in air quality over the last twenty years, such as promoting walking and cycling as transport, more environmentally friendly public transport and encouraging motorists to buy ultra low emissions cars.

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