Recent announced plans about the ban petrol and diesel vehicles in the UK will surely have an impact on the Irish transport industry.

One of the biggest factors in health is the quality of our air. It’s very easy for us to overlook, because there’s no visual measure of air quality: if you walk through thick black smog, you might notice, but on an average day there’s nothing to indicate whether you’re breathing in pollutants or not. A number of studies have been done into the impact of air pollution on our health, and a general estimate by the Royal College of Physicians has placed the figure of early deaths due to air pollution at around 40000 a year in the UK.

Reduce Air Pollution

With this in mind, it’s obvious why the UK government has begun looking at ways to reduce air pollution. Given the number of cars on the roads in the UK, the automotive industry doesn’t seem an unreasonable place to start, especially considering that there are already electric cars available, and it’s more a question of cost than technology.

The UK government recently announced that they plan to ban petrol and diesel cars and vans from the UK by the year 2040. They aren’t alone in this announcement; the French Prime Minister has also made this promise, and car companies themselves are looking at moving towards producing more electric models at cheaper prices, trying to reduce the cost gap between electric cars and traditionally fueled ones.

Estimating the level of impact of air pollution on people’s health is a tricky process; while it might not be a direct cause of death, it is said to worsen many existing conditions, and is particularly linked (unsurprisingly) to lung problems. Whether getting rid of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 will make a meaningful difference is still being debated; other major pollutants, for example the construction industry, are not yet being targeted, and 2040 is still a long way away.

Budgets to tackle hotspots

The government has promised budgets of £200m to local councils to help them find ways to tackle pollution hotspots, but so far their announcement lacks much information about what they will be doing. Penalising drivers of high-emission vehicles is unfair, as the government have noted, because diesel cars have been hailed as greener for some time, and yet are now unveiled to be more polluting. Many people who drive high-emission cars cannot afford to pay fines or higher taxes, so the government will have to find other ways to incentivise the move towards electric and encourage people to look for greener alternatives.

They will also need to put plans in place for the non-electric cars which will be banned. Although the automotive industry claims the market will swiftly move in the direction of electric once prices become comparable, it’s unrealistic to think that all diesel and petrol cars will have vanished by 2040, so once the ban comes into place, there must be a scheme to deal with them.

While a step in the right direction, the UK government’s proposals are so far rather abstract and do not offer a detailed address for many of the problems. Something they will need to consider is how they will support the transport industry, both consumers and companies, in this switch over to electric vehicles.

Ireland and other countries are sure to follow the concepts introduced by the UK in some shape.  We wait to see what will happen in the coming years.