The diesel car crisis: how we created a new pollution problem

Air pollution is not a new problem. London has been cursed with pollution for centuries. The diarist John Evelyn published a pamphlet in 1661: Fumifugium, or, The inconveniencie of the aer and smoak of London dissipated together with some remedies. He recommended that the burning of noxious sea-coal be abandoned, substituting instead aromatic woods, and that polluting industries be moved elsewhere — not so very different to proposals introduced 300 years later.

In the late 18th and 19th centuries came the industrial revolution. Factories belched out fumes which were carried eastward by the prevailing south-westerly winds. The wealthy chose to live in the west sides of our cities while the east became the dirty, deprived and unhealthy slums of the Victorian era.

Despite numerous calls for action over the decades air pollution only became a national priority following the Great Smog of 1952. During one week of high atmospheric pressure, no wind, and temperature inversion in early December there was a continuous smog day and night so severe that visibility was reduced to two or three yards, bus drivers could not see the edge of the road and road and rail transport came to a halt. It is said that in the East End people could not see their own feet.

Yet another cry for action followed, but as ever the government was reluctant to act, fearing effects on industry and national wealth. However, on this occasion an inspired epidemiological study was carried out comparing death rates to the previous and subsequent years and to those in cities without the smog. The data showed convincingly that there had been over 4,000 extra deaths in that week in London alone. This startling analysis finally induced parliament to act, and the Clean Air Act was passed in 1956. This introduced ‘smoke control zones’, banning the burning of coal in open fires, re-siting power stations and greatly reducing the combustion of coal in cities.

The Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968 gradually had effect, and the levels of pollution fell steadily. By the 1980s official government policy was that air pollution was no longer a problem, needed no further consideration or action, and so the Clean Air Council was abolished. Despite this bureaucratic confidence by the Departments of Transport, Environment, and Health the data generated by the six pollution monitoring stations in British cities were not available, and indeed were subject to the Official Secrets Act.

Meanwhile, research into air pollution was being conducted in the United States and to a lesser extent in Europe. The combustion of coal-generated sulphur dioxide and large smokey particles had diminished, and the levels of these pollutants had fallen greatly.

But instead a new form of pollution generated by vehicles was evident, predominantly nitrogen dioxide and microscopic particles of tar, called PM10 (particulate matter less than 10 micron in diameter) and subsequently PM 2.5 (less than 2.5 micron).

‘In Britain each year about 40,000 people’s lives are shortened by an average of some six to 12 months.’

These tiny particles are not visible to the naked eye and are so small that they are inhaled to the furthermost reaches of the lungs, and can pass across the lung membranes into the blood stream. The idea of inhaling tarry particles into the blood is unappealing to most people and research over the last three decades has confirmed that they are not good for health, causing adverse effects in the function of lungs, blood and blood vessels. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), meanwhile, is a gas which can irritate the airways, exacerbating asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory conditions.

Modern pollution at the levels found in our cities does not cause death directly and the health effect in a given individual depends on their innate susceptibility (genetic determinants), their levels of exposure (environment) and the length of exposure, so is hard to predict. However, numerous epidemiological studies that compare matched populations differing only by their levels of pollution show that lifespan is reduced for those living in the polluted areas.

It is hard to project these studies on to living populations, but the consensus is that in Britain each year about 40,000 people’s lives are shortened by an average of some six to 12 months. Of these deaths 30,000 are attributed to particulates and 10,000 to NO2. Some lives might be shortened by only a few days or weeks, and some may be shortened by several years.

These numbers have wide confidence intervals and could be significant over- or under-estimates. However, death is an extreme health outcome and it is abundantly clear that the tarry particles and the NO2 of vehicle emissions can and do also make existing health conditions worse, and are particularly deleterious in the young and growing lung, and in the elderly.

Some 15 years ago the British government made fiscal incentives for diesel cars and other vehicles, on the (largely correct) grounds that these engines generate less greenhouse gases than petrol engines. This policy has been successful in that about 50 per cent of UK cars are now diesels.

Unfortunately, this has also resulted in a substantial increase in polluting emissions, particularly particulates. The so-called particulate traps on diesel vehicles are ineffective until they reach working heat, which takes 10 to 15 minutes of continuous driving — often not achieved for days or weeks on end by city dwellers or urban vans. They need regular cleansing by a long period of driving when the accumulated particles can be burned up and released into the environment.

Car manufacturers have catastrophically failed to provide effective technical solutions to particulate emissions. This failure has been covered up by lax regulatory and testing standards. To this has been added the mendacious and wholly unacceptable rigging of the testing process by some, notably Volkswagen, by their own admission over many years.

What can be done about all this? First, there needs to be a public and political will to change. The publicity around air pollution does seem to be creating a climate for action, although many of us see this as a problem for regulators, and for others, rather than for each of us.

Manufacturers must put resources and expertise into technical improvements for both diesel and petrol engine emissions. However, their abject failure on this over two to three decades is not a good omen for any major solution in the short to medium term.

Regulators can reverse the fiscal advantages of diesels, which will encourage greater use of the more flexible and less polluting petrol engines, but at the price of climate change gases.

Hybrid technology should be encouraged. However, if we really want clean cities we will have to move away from the internal combustion engine entirely. This means electric cars should become the only transport supported in our cities. The state of Ontario in Canada has introduced a five-year plan to convert to electric cars, including by subsidising new electric cars by a massive $14,000 each. Norway has only five per cent electric cars today but its transport minister says it is realistic to end the sale of fossil fuelled cars by 2025.

Perhaps we should follow these leads now that we can set our own goals and subsidies.

It will require initial funding, which perhaps could be kick started by massive (bank-style) fines on Volkswagen and other miscreants. As with solar-generated electricity, these subsidies can be withdrawn as the market matures and associated infrastructure becomes widely available.

In addition to moving to low- or zero-emission vehicles we must all shift our thinking. We must walk more, bicycle, and use public transport. It is no use moving schools to less polluted streets: pollution comes with the school run. All of us must insist on pollution-free streets and cities in which we feel safe to walk, run, or bicycle to school with our children, go to the shops, or to work.

Professor Sir Malcolm Green is the founder of the British Lung Foundation. From 1975 to 2006 he was a respiratory physician at the Royal Brompton Hospital

  • Colin S

    The V.E.D system based only on CO2 emissions has unfairly penalized petrol car drivers. Can we have a refund, as we (petrol car drivers) are not the worst polluters.

    • info

      Sadly not true. Please read DEFRA 2014 report. Higher CO, CO2, acrid NH3 and particulates from new. Higher NOx after 50,000miles.

  • Hermine Funkington-Rumpelstilz

    There is no ‘diesel car crisis’. Pollution from modern diesel engines is minimal and greatly exaggerated. Emitters of small particulates are the cause of what we perceive as pollution, carbondioxide doesn’t enter the debate.

    • Michael J Richards

      Modern diesels still pollute, particulates have been made smaller by using a DPF and NOx levels are much higher in real world driving. Stop and start driving and short distance driving in cities causes diesel cars no end of trouble and they pollute a lot more, taking a diesel on a long motorway journey is the only way that they come close to being as clean as they are supposed to be.

      • Hermine Funkington-Rumpelstilz

        Funny enough the motorways in England are jam packed.

      • info

        dpf traps pm10 and 2.5. Petrols have no traps. NOx levels are steady throughout a diesel’s long life whereas Petrols exceed equivalent diesel after 50kmi. Urea injection turns NOx into n2 and water.

        • Michael J Richards

          Yet independent studies on real world testing have proved that Euro 6 cars with Urea injection still produce way above lab tests. All this technology for diesel has to be at optimum operating temperatures to work. If you drive short distances then the engine does not fully warm, DPFs will clog up and the car will force a regen which ues more fuel.

          • info

            2016 independent tests done in UK in real world conditions showed BMW, VW, MINI and Audi Euro 6 cars all below EU 80mg NOx requirement. Other manufacturers less good. Combustion is always temperature dependent. NEDC and EPA are based on fixed single data point – so manufacturers always go for the standard test. It’s not surprising real world is different to that data point.

          • Try sampling the output of your gas central heating boiler. You may be surprised. Gas heating in central London produced 16% of the NOX while diesel cars produced 11% in 2010

          • MikeJ Rich

            I am not surprised at all that when you burn something you create pollution and petrol cars also create NOx which would change those percentages. You can’t just say this much percentage is from gas and this much is from diesel and do nothing about it, you have got to start somewhere, pollution is far worse if you are right next to it.
            All of these electric cars make NOx but it is less, power generation is more effective than burning fuel in your car and electric engines are far more efficient than fossil fuel engines.

          • The problem areas of NOX are a very few difficult sites like Marylebone Road in London and a small number of other places which REGULARLY exceed the arbitrarily defined safe levels. If you know anything about engineering and epidemiology, you know that safe levels have a huge safety margin built into them. Check out the DEFRA site right now at almost peak traffic and see how many places in teh country are at unsafe levels. Any balloon that is green means LOW pollution. There is not a site in teh whole country right now – 5 pm on a Wednesday afternoon that is even showing moderate pollution levels.


            This is the reality for most days of the year. On a small number of days, usually because of atmospheric inversions, pollution becomes trapped and concentrated. You can not make national policy on the basis of a few bad days at a few bad sites.

            NOX in London – the most problematic city for air pollution is only 11% from diesel cars. 89% comes from other sources.

            You have been sold a pup. You might mot respect what I say, but DEFRA run a huge interactive pollution monitoring system in every town and city in the UK.

            Go and look now.

  • Daniel

    Interesting article upto the point it recommends switching to electric cars: we have a power crisis brewing that is supposedly so great the government can waste billions on subsidised generation and yet we should move to electric cars?

    • Michael J Richards

      This weekend saw gas and coal fired power stations reducing output to accommodate nearly 8 GW of solar generation, the week before that saw wind generation as the highest percentage of UK power. The grid can be adapted over time with storage and more renewables and seeing as 2.69 million new cars are bought each year and if every person bought an electric car then that would take 13 years to replace all 35 million cars. Lets be honest not every person is going to buy an electric car and it is going to take 30 years or more before everybody owns an electric car, sounds like plenty of time to sort the grid out and not really a crisis is it.

      • Enoch Powell

        So much lack of understanding in your comment. As I type at 6.30am, demand is 31GW. Wind is providing 1.16GW and Solar is providing 0GW. Amazingly, Solar is completely useless in the dark, which consists of 8-16 hours or more of every day and Wind is never ever, ever going to produce 31GW, you would have to multiply current turbines in the country by 31 to cover the demand at 6.30am, let alone whatever it is at 11am or 6pm, literally covering the country in turbines, and even then the wind does not blow everywhere, all the time. And by the time we had multiplied turbines by 31 times, demand will have doubled or tripled. You talk about percentages, but what were the actual figures and when did this occur on the weekend? Was it for an hour at 3am Sunday during gale force winds? I somehow doubt it was for 8 hours on Saturday.

        Britain hardly has any coal fired stations left as they are (stupidly) being phased out leaving us vulnerable to black outs as there is now no spare capacity left in the system, you can push up a coal plant’s output when needed, but you can only get that extra output from Solar on a sunny day. Huge amounts of freezing fog or snow (which, you know, covers solar panels) over the country and you’re relying on solar just when everyone turns up the central heating? Tough, all those pensioners can freeze to death.

        Green power is a nice idea, but it will never ever be our main source of energy generation, it is unreliable and when you add in the costs of installation and maintenance for such little return, you might as well burn money for heat, it’d be cheaper. And on top of all that, turbines are a blight on our environment and bird killers.

        No, 30 years wouldn’t even begin to cut it, especially as the country is coming up to 2 trillion pounds in debt, overspending at the rate of 80 billion per year and no one builds anything fast in this country because of overpowerful planning and safety regs. China builds a coal power station every week. Duabi can build artificial islands in a year. It’s taken us ten years to build a single basic shopping centre in Bradford. Some of Britain’s infrastructure is still, quite literally, Victorian.

        • Michael J Richards

          I never said wind or solar was going to the main source of power and telling me that solar does not work in the dark just shows me that you have some sort of superiority complex. You are the one with a lack of understanding, every electric car is a source of power which can be stored at times with less demand and used at peak demands, power can go both ways with smart charging. Wind power that is turned off when demand is low can be turned back on to back up battery storage . Solar or wind will never be the main source but it is good for many days of the year and how often does it snow in the uk? Having a pessimistic view is probably how most people see the world but I see it differently, selling energy is a business that has returns and can be taxed so electric cars which use energy can be seen as business opportunities to speed up the process. Maybe 30 years isn’t such a barmy claim?

          • Enoch Powell

            Selling energy is a business. So why does selling green energy have to be subsidised at hundreds of millions of pounds per year? Because if it was an open market, no one would touch it with a bargepole. The subsidies are about to be turned off and when that happens, the green energy market is going to crash, because it never existed in the first place. And it still won’t exist in 30 years. This isn’t pessimism. It’s pragmatism. A view of what the world actually is as opposed to what you or I would like it to be. You think I don’t want clean, cheap sustainable energy? Who wouldn’t want that, but it’s a pipe dream.

          • Michael J Richards

            What about global subsidy bill for fossil fuels? Im sure that is still a business or am I wrong. The main point I am trying to make is between midnight and 6 a.m the demand for power is very low and does have more than enough power charge millions of electric cars. Those cars plus other battery storage systems which have already been done in other parts of the world can smooth out the grid.

          • Enoch Powell

            What global subsidies for fossil fuels? Countries make billions from oilfields, they pay billions for green energies. The demand for power from midnight to 6am may be low, but it is not non existent. Plenty of people work nights. Hospitals have lots of life saving machines that run 24/7. The grid requires certainty, not the hope that car drivers are gonna plug their cars in as and when required.

          • Michael J Richards

            A 2016 study estimated that global fossil fuel subsidies were $5.3 trillion in 2015, green subsides are a fraction of that.
            The demand at night is low and is low enough to charge millions of electric cars , this is fact not something I made up and the majority of electric car owners do already charge at night. The facts are this, for some plugging in over night would be enough to cover 90% of their needs also everybody will not be plugging in their cars at the same time during the day, does everybody turn up for petrol or diesel all at the same time? Battery storage will be used in the future and 30 years from now electric cars will be more efficient . Technology moves fast these days and it can be done.

          • Enoch Powell

            Yea, that study was absolute bollocks and did not define fossil fuel subsidies and green subsidies in the same way. They defined fossil fuel subsidies as the following: “The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution as well as to people across the globe affected by the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change.”

            So sure, fossil fuels are subsidised because climate change ‘exists’ (and it existed long before the fossil fuel industry surprisingly enough) and because we haven’t figured out a way to tax them billions of dollars on it yet.

            Utter, utter bollocks, if you’d have known, if you’d bothered to do any research on it at all. A study put out by a lobby designed exclusively to push forward that same lobby’s agenda while discrediting their commercial opponents? Try doing some independent research next time.

          • Michael J Richards

            You can say bollocks all you like, still doesn’t change the fact that there are fossil fuel subsidies. I have done research and these fossil fuels that you keep defending are corrupt and pay to spread propaganda about anything green.
            Sounds like you may have you got a vested interest with fossil fuel companies?

          • Enoch Powell

            Zero fossil fuel subsidies. I don’t deny that there is corruption in say Shell over their pollution, but there are zero subsidies. Nothing against Green Tech, but it’s 50-100 years away from being commercial. And if you’re gonna go down that road, sounds like you may have a vested interest with green companies? See how easy it is to vilify and dismiss your opponent out of hand when they have opinions (and evidence to back it up) that you disagree with? Debate properly and honourably or stand down.

          • Michael J Richards

            I have got a vested interest in anything that leaves a smaller carbon footprint, health reasons for my family from Urban air pollution and globally for greenhouse gasses.
            If people go around saying it can’t be done and it is going to take 50 to 100 years then it puts a negative spin on it and less people invest in greener options.
            Technology moves much faster than it did in the last century and every year advances are made to make electrical items more efficient.
            ‎You can not say zero fossil fuel subsidies because it is not true and you are twisting facts, Oil and Gas exploration is subsidised among other things.

          • Enoch Powell

            CO2 does not cause air pollution. In fact the drive to create a smaller carbon footprint has actually increased air pollution ten fold. Carbon based petrol creates harmless CO2, the misguided attempt to end CO2 emissions means that approx 50% of cars on Britain’s roads are now powered by Nitrogen based diesel. Diesel emissions are poisonous and urban air pollution is directly attributable to diesel fumes from which thousands of people die in Britain per year and hundreds of thousands globally. So firstly you are confused as to what actually causes air pollution, and secondly the cause you are championing is directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. Happy? I’m not. A negative spin? Hundreds of thousands of deaths is a positive thing?

            Oil and Gas exploration is not subsidised, all the costs are borne by the companies. If you have evidence of otherwise beyond a completely discredited study, feel free to prove me wrong.

          • Michael J Richards

            Firstly I am not confused at all! Did I say CO2 causes air pollution? Secondly at what point have I championed Diesel?
            Telling me about Diesel emissions is Teaching grandmother to suck eggs.

          • info

            Most of the atmosphere is n2. Diesel is not 50% of UK cars more like one third. Diesels last and pollute much the same for 100s of thousands if miles. Sadly Petrols start higher for CO,CO2, NH3 and PM 2.5 and get worse for PM and NOx with useage.

          • Enoch Powell

            It’s the particulate matter I believe which is the killer from diesel engines.

          • info

            Yes PM is a problem but now petrol is 10 times euro 6 diesels for PMs

          • Nitrogen based diesels? You have NO IDEA what you are talking about. No engines are nitrogen based. The nitrogen is 80% of the air we breathe. It is by far the largest part of the planet’s atmosphere. NOX is oxidised nitrogen created in a lean burn engine with unburned oxygen left during combustion at very high (efficient) temperatures in diesel and petrol engines. Because diesel engines take in a full charge of air at every stroke (they don’t have a throttle like a petrol engine) there is surplus oxygen left in the cylinder during combustion and this converts some of nitrogen in the cylinder (80% of hat is sucked in through the engines inlet manifold) into nitrogen oxides. Lean burn petrol engines also produce NOX.

          • If you want a lower carbon footprint, a diesel car is 30% more efficient in its use of fuel than a comparable power petrol one. It is a matter of thermodynamics. Diesels burn their fuel at very much higher pressure and temperature, enabling 30% more work per gram of fuel.

            Look here at page 8 and see where London’s NOX comes from. Further up the document you can see comparable CO2 emissions.


          • MikeJ Rich

            I have worked on cars for over 30 years and in my experience diesel engines always have emission problems after a certain amount of miles. How many diesels have had their DPFs removed because owners couldn’t afford to keep replacing them, now the M.O.T inspector has to do a visual check to see if it has been removed and this removal service is still being offered. Not a day goes by when i see at least one diesel car bellowing out black smoke, even car manufacturers are starting to turn their backs on diesel and the emission tests are getting tougher and there is only so far you can go before it becomes uneconomical to stick with diesel.

          • If diesels are out of spec the MOT should find them or why not have roadside checks for smoking cars. I carry no torch for dirty old or maladapted cars remaining on the road. Same with any vehicle. Old petrol cars are FAR worse emitters as you will know if you are a mechanic. Worn cylinders, rings and valve guides allow filthy emissions as lubricating oil gets burned. Diesels run far longer without that problem as you must (if you are a mechanic) know.

            All cars have to be properly maintained. Nothing less should be tolerated.

            However – it is PROFOUNDLY UNJUST TO START PENALISING PEOPLE WHO DRIVE PAST ANPR CAMERAS IN LONDON OR ELSEWHERE PURELY ON THE NUMBER PLATE RECORDED. People bought these expensive cars on the recommendation of politicians . You can n ot now slam them with penalty charges for having done so.

            I will personally start a class action website for diesel owners if the motoring organisations don’t do it. My eldest son runs a web marketing business and social media company so I am certain I can get followers into the hundreds of thousands in no time at all to support a class action law suit. I am also a very tenacious person – so I WILL do it.

          • You like electric cars? They get their energy supply from predominantly fossil fuel burning. Even if you ride your bicycle you need 30 calories a mile of extra food. I cycle a lot, but I also know that my riding has co2 implications from the production of fertiliser, agriculture and distribution of my food. The co2 emissions of my bike are not much better than a good diesel car with two people in it.

        • In winter at peak times you will need at least 45 GW in teh UK with current consumption patterns. Add a couple of million electric cars and see that demand soar. Add twenty million electric cars and we’d need many times our generating capacity.

          This whole shortening life thing is a joke. It effects a few people at the end of their lives who already have very compromised breathing. many of them are people who spent decades with a cigarette hanging ouit of their mouths as a more or less permanent feature.

      • info

        Worst pollution was over winter when whole of Europe had high pressure no wind, and little sunshine. Temperature inversion created blanket trapping all pollution from heating, electric gen and transport below it.

        • Michael J Richards

          From the others comments you have made, it seems that you will make statements to defend diesel no matter what. I do not want any sort of pollution but studies have shown that diesel exhaust emissions are the worst offenders in built up areas which is causing the worst problems for human health .
          The real facts are diesel cars have more problems than petrol cars.
          DPFs will usually last around 80 thousand miles if driven on long journeys, short journeys will reduce that significantly and that in turn will force a regen which uses more fuel.
          Injectors usually need to be changed at a certain point because of the high pressures needed.
          EGR valves clog up more often due to soot and residue.
          A diesel engine can last a long time but the technology around the engine is the weak point. You will always see older diesels bellowing out black smoke and if you buy a new diesel today then in a few years time your new diesel will be doing the same thing.

          • There are no proper figures for how many people die from air pollution in the UK. The reason for this is the difficulty of working out how they came to be compromised. The issue is a conjecture about end of life. This is not a matter affecting young people, but already sick and usually aged people with serious breathing difficulties. The figures quoted are modelled. Not measured or directly observed or drawn from autopsy and coroner’s findings – just guesswork. How many of the COPD population dying early smoked all of their lives? My partner is a doctor and I can tell you that almost all of them are smokers.

            Read this from Roger Harrabin BBC science editor on 7 march 17…


          • MikeJ Rich

            What about the affects on children’s developing lungs? What about the affects of adult onset asthma? How many people dying would be acceptable to you? If 10 die from pollution is that o.k?
            What about 100?…………………..
            What about quality of life?

          • A LOT less than it had on mine born and brought up in a northern UK city from 1951. I am as fit as a fiddle at 66 and have just come home from my second bike ride today. This time I did 10 miles around an off road route. When I was a kid the air was utterly filthy. DO NOT TELL ME THAT PM2.5 particles are smaller than the 1950s smog. I know more about this than you do and I also know that we had plenty of incredibly crude diesel engines all over my childhood town. It is a pack of lies that our air is dirtier than ever as Roger Harrabin the BBC science correspondent says in the piece I referenced up above. Here it is again. Go and read it.


            Most people affected by current air pollution are already sick with multiple other issues. I ride my bike on roads, in traffic and in the country. I live in a city. I monitor the defra air quality website which very rarely shows any area of the UK as bad air quality. I’m not interested in Greenpeace propaganda which talks about how many schools are near to roads which they say exceed WHO standards. What they don’t tell you is how many days a year they do that. Is it one, two, five, or 10 days a year?

            If we are all being killed by NOX ( we aren’t) why are we having the problem of old people who live far longer than the country can afford to keep them on pensions? Why are we having to constantly raise pension age and why are company pensions collapsing under the pay out debt?

          • MikeJ Rich

            Being fit as a fiddle at 66 is probably down to other factors such as genetics, people who are sick with other illnesses shouldn’t have to made to feel worse. If somebody smokes and lives to the age of 90 then does that mean smoking isn’t bad for you?
            People live longer because of advances in medicine and surgery not because they are healthier if anything people are lot less healthier than years ago.

      • Have you thought about what a large scale adoption of electric vehicles would do to the demand on the power grid? You’d probably need to more or less double the generating capacity. Power stations burning any fuel do it at the highest practical temperature, so they get high efficiency in terms of work out for fuel in. These are the exact conditions for creating very large output of NOX which is a by product of high temperature combustion. There is a continuum between high co2 output and high NOX output. Reduce NOX automatically increases co2 because you burned the fuel at a lower temperature.

        • MikeJ Rich

          You would not have to double it , that is a load of nonsense. Any studies that have been used for EV charging have been nothing more than propaganda. Studies have shown that EV charging can be done at night with no changes to the grid, most people do charge at night. Lets say by 2020 most EVs will be able to do 200 miles plus on one charge and the majority of people do 20 miles a day, that is 9 days of driving with a bit left over.
          So the majority of people charge overnight and the majority only charge around once every week and fast charger use wont be used all at the same time, imagine if everybody turned up at the fuel station at the same time.
          I have yet to see a valid study that shows the scenario I just used.

          • This is packed with unfounded assumptions. It is nonsense to say you wouldn’t have to increase power generating capacity:

            Running flat out at night is exactly that. It requires large amounts of fuel and up time for generators which means more capacity must be provided because teh stations need maintenance.

            Also during winter at night the generation levels never fall below 35 Gw now. Even last night on a warm night, the minimum output was 30 Gw. There is not enough capacity for millions of high power electric chargers.

            Also – (yes another one) your assumption that electric vehicles will have 200 mile range in two and a half years time is not supportable . Most are nowhere near that now and they never reach their predicted ranges in practical usage anyway.

            What is more if we did have bigger battery capacity, it requires more current from teh grid to charge it.

            Your assumption about the average usage is also made up out of your @rse.

            By the way – I’m a fan of electric cars for city use.

          • MikeJ Rich

            I didn’t say you wouldn’t have to increase power generating capacity It’s the double the amount I am questioning. Home charging is usually 3kW or 7kW.
            Tesla model 3 will have over 200 miles, Jaguar i Pace will have over 200 miles, 2018 new Nissan leaf will probably have more than 200 miles, the Chevy bolt is coming to Europe which has over 200 miles of range and will force other European manufactures to up their game. These are cars all before 2020.
            My assumption about average usage was made up out of my @rse but it’s still a valid assumption.

          • :)) I’m glad to see your last line.

            Did you look at the DEFRA website yet? Today is a very bad kind of day for air pollution because we have a large high pressure system. High pressure means the air is sinking and this traps pollution in windless conditions. There are a number of sites today reporting around 20ug per cubic metre of NOX which is the WHO safe limit, but today is not a typical day and DEFRA is still showing good air quality right across the land.

            These are the WHO limits – note teh difference between 24 hour average and annual mean.

            Guideline values
            10 μg/m3 annual mean
            25 μg/m3 24-hour mean

            20 μg/m3 annual mean
            50 μg/m3 24-hour mean

            40 μg/m3 annual mean
            200 μg/m3 1-hour mean


    • info

      EVs on average 26% heavier. Road contact is 2/3rds of roadside pollution problem. See Hatfield a1m study.

      • Michael J Richards

        26% heavier than? Electric BMW i3 is lighter than a BMW 1 series, a Tesla s is the same weight as a BMW 7 series. Most electric car studies are a Propaganda alert.

        • info

          Compare BMW i3 with old Audi A2:

          BMW is not as aerodynamic (Cd 0.3 ish and more frontal area) and it weights 1500kg ish in REX format. A good effort but not good enough.

          • MikeJ Rich

            Why compare it to an old car? Why mention the REX format? you said EVs and aerodynamics wouldn’t come into it in city driving. Lets not forget that a BMW i3 has regen braking so less brake wear and thinner tyres for less rolling resistance.

  • info

    Lot if false into here. I totally agree we need clean air to breathe. However the facts from independent & govt roadside testing indicate 50% of ALL urban NOx is from older Petrol cars built to euro 1-3 standards. Whilst 50% of new car sales are diesels the vast majority of cars in uk are petrol powered. Total diesels around 1/3rd. Petrol is a cutting fluid. The petrol engine requires around twice the rpm to accelerate a given vehicle cf a diesel. It burns less efficiently creating more CO and CO2. After 50,000 miles the wear results in higher NOx than the diesel which remains much the same for 200 to 500 thousand miles. Most Petrols start burning engine oil after 100,000. Last year tests found euro 5 Petrols far worse than expected yet euro 6 diesels from German manufacturer s actually lower NOx than required under EU 80mg law. Modern petrols now emit 10 times more particulates than diesels as they have no traps. Demonizing diesel will increase other pollutants both locally and internationally. The real target should he #vehicleobesity as most roadside emissions are from road contact not exhaust pipes. Congestion is also in part caused by overly large cars and forcing them to drive at 20mph is insane for emissions reasons. DEFRA found acceleration lanes into 40mph dual carriageways were cleaner than 20mph zones. Weather is also a major factor. High atmospheric pressure, temperature inversions and light winds worst in winter. Lots if electrical generation and heating homes and industry. We can also reduce emissions from space heating by installation of solar thermal to decrease combi boiler useage.

    • Michael J Richards

      The EU has pointed out however that NOx emissions from road transport “have not been reduced as much as expected. Since emissions in real-life driving conditions are often higher than those measured during the approval test (in particular for diesel vehicles)”.

      As the UK government pointed out in December 2016, road transport still accounted for 34% of UK NOx emissions in 2015. The rate of reduction in atmospheric NOx has slowed down due to the increased contribution from diesel vehicles.

      • info

        Again this has more to do with vehilceobesity than the what is possible. A supersizeme SUV culture has taken over mainstream so we are demanding far more from our cars – we had 100mpg four seaters back in 1999. But now it’s rare to find a car under 1.5 tonnes. Even a Tesla top of the range Model S carries a 750kg battery pack. More weight more road contact, more particulates from tyre wear and road surface.

        • And for teh Tesla and all electric cars, loads of NOX from the power generators.

      • In London only 11% of teh NOX is from diesel cars.

        Page 8 ->

        Take a look at the combined 16% of London’s NOX from heating boilers (commercial and domestic).

  • info

    There us no such thing as a zero emission vehicle. Worst air pollution in UK 2014 was national. Check the DEFRA reports. Even making solar pv panels causes emissions. Open cast Cobalt mining causes deforestation in Africa and uses 40,000 child labourers for our current battery market. See Amnesty international report 2016. We can clean up diesels very quickly without destructive and energy wasteful behavior. Look at Helsinki air quality. They are introducing Gen 2 HVO for massive reductions in NOx and PM. Its made from city and agriculture waste. It gives even higher mpg than diesel in the same engines!

    • Michael J Richards

      40,000 child labourers for our current battery market was a 2014 study and the majority of batteries used was for phones and laptops. It’s all propaganda against electric vehicles.

      • info

        Nope, 2016 Amnesty International reports. If we go full on EV we will see a rise of 840% for Cobalt vrs peak Chinese demand for electronics. More copper and Nickel needed as well as rare earth metals. All are mined. Not that dis-similar to traditional methods.

  • This article is all well and good, except for the omits to explain that diesel cars emit only a small proportion of the particulates and NOX in our cities. In central London, the official data shows that they emit 5% of the pollution. Much larger amounts are emitted by central heating boilers, construction plant, ships and boats on the river, taxis, vans and heavy vehicles.

    See page 8 ->

    We need a new organisation to defend the interests of diesel car drivers. I’m surprised one hasn’t evolved already because I foresee a lot of people getting shafted financially when they followed government advice and bought much more expensive diesel cars. The one I have cost me about 30% more than the petrol version at the same trim level.