Boris Johnson's diesel scrappage scheme could cost £300m

Diesel smog, haze, pollution
12 Sep, 2014 10:30am Calum Burns

Diesel scrappage scheme could cost £300m but would take dirtiest diesels off the road under plans supported by Mayor of London

Drivers of dirty diesels could be handed up to £2,000 to scrap their cars as part of £300m proposals to clean up the roads laid out by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

The Mayor wants the Government to reward drivers for ditching the most polluting diesels in a bid to help London meet stringent EU smog laws. Cars would need to be older than 12 months and around 300,000 diesels could be included.

Boris Johnson's diesel vendetta

Mr Johnson has already announced his plans for a £10 extra fee for diesels entering the London congestion charge zone from 2020 to help reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions. Speaking at the Environmental Audit Committee, Johnson said it was “only fair” that the Government provide support to those who had bought diesels in “good faith.”

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Diesels now make up half of the car market in the UK and are extremely popular amongst company car drivers. Mr Johnson said: “Everyone should be very clear this has been a massive failure of policy, millions were told they were doing the right thing, the environmentally-friendly thing, by buying a diesel. They now feel very hacked off now they’re told they are more polluting.”

Are diesels really that bad for pollution?

Diesels generally return better emission and economy figures than petrols but are worse for sulphur and nitrogen dioxide. Tiny particles emitted from Diesels called PM2.5 and PM10 have been linked to thousands of deaths related to air pollution in London.

The UK is currently in breach of EU air pollution laws with London unlikely to meet EU standards until 2030. Two thirds of the target will be met by the Ultra Low Emission Zone due to come into effect from 2020 where cars entering central London will have to be ultra low or zero emission vehicles.

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The Government has already announced plans to help pollution by giving 17 local authorities grants totalling £5 million to fit cleaner tech to vehicles such as buses and the emergency services. For example, the Yorkshire Ambulance Service has been awarded £166,000 to retro-fit solar panels to 175 ambulances.

Will the proposed scrappage scheme mark the end for diesels?

The diesel scrappage scheme proposed by the Mayor doesn’t mean all diesels will be forced off the road, though. Already new car buyers can get hold of Euro 6 diesel engines which meet super-strict EU emissions regulations and these will be the norm from next year.

All new diesels from January 2015 will have to be Euro 6 compliant, a standard that aggressively targets the emission of nitrous oxides. The emissions from the current Euro 5 rules which have been mandatory since 2011 will be slashed in half by the Euro 6 engines. 

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In 2000, the nitrous oxide limit was 500mg/km, from 2015 it’ll be 80mg/km so you can see the impact older diesels are having on the environment. This sort of reduction comes at a price and with diesels already pricier than petrol alternatives, manufacturers are having to invest even more money to create super-efficient and super-clean particulate filters.

In London and other major cities a high proportion of the vehicles using old diesel engines are HGVs, buses and taxis private cars tend to be newer and cleaner.

Will the recent PR assault on diesels make you think twice about buying one in the future? Let us know in the comments section below...