Has diesel finally had its day?

Andrew Newbound

By: Andrew Newbound

Has diesel finally had its day?

If the example of London’s public authority is followed across the entire country, the death knell of the diesel vehicle could be about to sound. The City of London Corporation has recently issued a ban on its procurement department leasing or buying any new diesel vehicles. For an organisation with a fleet with over 300 vehicles, many of them vans, this is a huge decision.Perhaps even more significantly, the Corporation is actively encouraging businesses to limit deliveries in the Square Mile and is encouraging the use of electric hybrid cars.

A DIRTY WORD IN LONDON

Although this is clearly a concerning development for the capitol’s diesel drivers, no everyone shares those concerns. In fact, for organisations such as LoCITY, an industry-led project aimed at lowering emissions from commercial vehicles, it’s positively great news.

Fergus Worthy, project manager for LoCITY, explains why: “The City of London Corporation is leading the way in helping to reduce emissions and improve air quality for all Londoners, so we welcome its decision not to acquire any more diesel vehicles where a non-diesel alternative is available.

“I would encourage anyone interested in following its lead by changing their own procurement processes to get in touch with LoCITY and benefit from our advice, Working Groups and resources.”

The City of London Corporation’s stance appears to be supported by a report recently produced by the Institute for Public Policy Research.

DRIVING A MOVE TOWARDS ALTERNATIVE FUELS

Entitled ‘Lethal & Illegal – London’s Air Pollution Crisis,’ the IPPR report states the need for a policy that will, “focus on driving a move away from diesel vehicles – which are at the heart of the air pollution problem – towards petrol and, ultimately only, hybrid and electric alternatives.”

This report also states that; “As long as some diesel cars (along with diesel buses, taxis, vans and lorries) remain on London’s roads, the capital will remain in breach of UK law.”In addition, it puts forward proposals supporting “the phasing out of diesel cars in the capital entirely”, with the clear “aim of progressively phasing out diesel buses and taxis altogether.”

Despite this, not everyone is in support of the City of London Corporation or the IPPR. Many cite the limited availability of economical alternatives to diesel-powered vehicles and the current limitations of the technology that powers electric cars.

RETURN TO PETROL - THE RIGHT THING TO DO?

The IPPR’s report also suggests switching from diesel to petrol – a reversing of the previous initiative that led to the popularity of diesel vehicles rising from just 10% in the nineties to its current 57% level.

Indeed, many argue this would just mean swapping one pollutant for another. Switching from diesel might reduce particulate pollution but if petrol was the main alternative, this would result in a dramatic increase in greenhouse gas emissions - hardly the ideal solution to the capitol’s or the nation’s pollution problems.

So what is the answer? Continued investment in electronic vehicle technology is obviously essential but at current capability levels, this simply isn’t a viable alternative to established diesel and petrol vehicles.

However, as the technology improves, this may change. Until then, it seems like a straight choice between those trusted stalwarts diesel and petrol. Right now, Britain’s van drivers have a choice over the vehicle they drive. Organisations like the City of London Corporation seem intent on taking that away.