Together with the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Greenpeace today released Lethal and Illegal, new research based on air pollution modelling from King’s College, that demonstrates how clean air will be a reality but only if diesel vehicles are phased out altogether.
The paper will be presented today at City Hall at an event attended by Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, and representatives from the Royal College of Physicians and businesses.
New modelling based on transport emissions and air pollution data undertaken by King’s College as part of this project reveals that, even if London were to return to the lowest recorded level of diesel car ownership in the UK (around 10% of the car fleet in 1995), it would still not reach compliance with World Health Organisation guidelines and UK law by 2025.
To really get to grips with invisible pollutants (such as NO2 and PM2.5) the UK government would need to progressively reform Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) to disincentive diesel vehicles. Also, a scrappage scheme should be put in place for older diesel cars across the UK or in areas of non-compliance with air pollution laws.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:
“Protecting Londoners from our toxic filthy air is an issue of life and death. In our city nearly 10,000 Londoners die every year from exposure to pollution – which is simply unacceptable.
Rather than turn a blind eye to this growing health crisis it is high time ministers faced up to their responsibilities.
“This important report is published whilst I’m conducting a major public consultation on my plans to crack down on the most polluting vehicles and to bring in hard-hitting new measures to improve our cities air. Nearly 11,000 Londoners have taken part so far but I need even more views and ideas to help me make a dramatic difference to the scandalous toxic pollution in our city.”
Barbara Stoll, Senior Climate & Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace, said:
“The writing’s on the wall for diesel. We need vital leadership from the Government in phasing out diesel cars over the coming years, to reduce the number of early deaths owing to poor air quality. Air pollution is now a public health emergency and children are on the front line. Sadiq Khan is stepping up to the challenge, but London can’t stand alone in this fight. We need urgent action from Theresa May and her new team to help clean up the car industry who’ve got away with polluting our streets for too long and help people make the switch.”
Alan Andrews, lawyer for ClientEarth, who are taking the government to court over air pollution, said:
“This report should send a clear message to the UK government that an ambitious and bold Clean Air Act is needed for the whole country. It should phase out diesel across the country and accelerate the shift to zero emission transport. This would help our cities clean up their air and achieve legal limits as soon as possible. The new government must now step up and deal with this public health crisis so that the whole country can breathe cleaner air.”
Prof Jonathan Grigg, Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine at Queen Mary University, said:
“The growing lungs of children are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. We must therefore act now in order to protect the current generation of children and not just hope that technology will reduce pollution levels in 10 years’ time. Local measures that reduce the exposure of population are of utmost priority. The challenge is to ensure that these local initiatives really do reduce personal exposure”.
Harry Quilter-Pinner, researcher at IPPR and co-author of the report, said:
“London’s air is both lethal and illegal. This is a public health crisis and it should be ignored no longer. As such, we welcome the new Mayor’s ongoing consultation on measures to address pollution in the capital. He should be ambitious going forward – only bold action will make the capital’s air safe to breathe again.”
A survey conducted by Greenpeace had revealed that 62% of Londoners would support the introduction of the wider, more comprehensive Clean Air Zone. The nfpSynergy poll also demonstrate 60% of car owners support the Clean Air Zone proposal.
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?
But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?
The Big Picture
The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.
That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.
One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.
As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.
Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.
Make and Model of Car
Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.
On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?
Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.
Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family
When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?
What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?
As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.
Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.
5 Good Options
As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:
1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country
Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.
2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica
If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.
3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas
Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.
4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.
5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel
If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?
Putting it All Together
You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.
You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.
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