Councils have been warned against ‘demonising’ diesel cars and penalising drivers, under efforts by vehicle manufacturers to ‘set the record straight’.
With a growing number of local authorities imposing higher parking charges for residents with diesel cars, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has today joined car makers in urging town halls to instead encourage adoption of low emission vehicles.
Islington Council will later this year launch a yearly surcharge for resident parking permits on diesel vehicles, while Hackney Council will begin to align parking permit charges with a vehicles CO2 emissions from 2016. Both boroughs argue these policies will encourage residents away from higher polluting modes of transport.
However SMMT said widespread confusion over diesel technology in part caused by such penalties could limit take up of the latest green vehicles and undermine national efforts to meet strict air quality and climate change obligations.
A YouGov poll also found that almost three quarters of questioned UK adults were against penalties for the cleanest diesel vehicles. Of these respondents, 56% said diesel cars should not incur any parking surcharge regardless of their emissions rating.
SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, said bans and parking taxes on diesel vehicles ‘make no sense from an environmental point of view’ because today’s diesel engines were among the ‘cleanest ever’.
‘We need to avoid penalising one vehicle technology over another and instead avoid penalising one vehicle technology over another. The allegations against diesel cars made in recent months threaten to misguide policy making and undermine public confidence in diesel. It’s time to put the record straight,’ he added.
Graeme Grieve, CEO BMW Group UK, said: ‘Diesel cars produce, on average, 20% less CO2 than equivalent petrol cars and so have a vital role to play in helping to arrest climate change. It is only if British drivers continue to choose diesel cars that the UK can meet its tough CO2 targets.’
Islington has argued that new petrol vehicles are now equal to diesel for CO2 emissions whereas diesel vehicles can emit up to four times more nitrogen oxides and 20 times more particulate matter - linked to cancer, heart and lung damage, the onset of asthma in vulnerable people, and other health problems.
All new vehicles will be required to meet tighter Euro-6 emissions standards from September 1. However the YouGov poll found almost nine in 10 respondents had never heard of this new restriction.
Research from Cambridge Econometrics and the European Climate Foundation has suggested continuing efforts to tackle carbon emissions and reduce air pollution in Britain will see the cost of motoring plummet and save up to £1.2bn in health costs.
Edmund King, president of the Automobile Association, said: ‘The cost of motoring is still the number one concern for motorists so the fact that low carbon vehicles are driving down costs is great news both for drivers and for Britain’s economy.’