The United Kingdom’s government has unveiled plans to ban all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from the year 2040 due to fears that ever increasing nitrogen oxide levels in the air pose a significant health risk to the British public. Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, said that Britain simply cannot carry on allowed petrol and diesel cars because the levels of pollution they create is seriously damaging people’s health and that of the planet, and that people have no alternative to embracing new technology.
Diesel powered engines have long been popular due to them offering better fuel economy, increased longevity of the engine compared to a petrol engine, more torque at lower engine speeds and minimal carbon monoxide exhaust emissions.
Back in 2001, the UK’s government introduced new vehicle tax rates as a measure to cut CO2 emissions. Diesel engines, as a rule, produce approximately 15 percent less CO2 than petrol, although they create four times more NO2 and a staggering 22 times more particles into the atmosphere, leading to some people stating diesel is a dirty fuel. Motorists in London are soon to be hit with a daily £10 toxic “T-charge” tax if they own one of the 10,000 oldest, most polluting vehicles. This is in addition to the congestion charged levied on motorists wanting to drive in the centre of London on a weekday. The government hopes this will claw back some of the £2.7 billion in productivity it claims is lost each year by British workers falling ill due to environmental factors.
The hope is to make improvements to infrastructure, charge vehicles to enter so-called “clean zones,” introduce a scrappage scheme where owners of older diesel cars can scrap their old vehicle and receive a significant discount on a new car or van, before a complete blanket ban on all petrol and diesel powered cars and vans by the year 2040. While everyone should be getting behind initiatives that improve the standard of living for everyone, the banning of these engines could have a major negative effect and people’s wellbeing and the United Kingdom’s economy.
Bus operators, which primarily use diesel engines, would have to retrofit their buses and coaches with new technology, while haulage firms would see their fuel and maintenance costs rise astronomically, which could cause all but the biggest companies go out of business. Then there is the massive extra strain put onto the National Grid, the high-voltage electric power transmission network in Great Britain; the National Grid connects power stations and substations and ensures homes and businesses have a steady supply of electricity.
Should the government effectively force motorists to switch to electric cars, the peak demand for electricity could increase by more than 50 percent, particularly during rush hour when potentially millions of cars are plugged in and needing charging. One analyst claims the extra electricity needed will be almost 10 times the total power output that the soon-to-be-built Hinckley Point C nuclear power station can produce, forcing power stations to burn even more gas and import a much larger percentage of its power. If diesel cars are causing health problems then something has to change and change quickly, but a blanket ban doesn’t look like the answer, or even possible, with the current state of the infrastructure in the UK.