Just a few years ago diesel cars were being marketed as clean and as an important part in the fight against climate change. This advert was for a diesel Audi – a VW Group subsidiary – and we all know happened a few year later.
This week a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), the body which uncovered VW’s cheating in emissions tests, revealed that all diesel cars fail EU NOx emission studies in real world driving. While some Euro 6 vehicles – with supposedly the newest and cleanest engines - only miss by a little, others are out by 16 times their legal emissions limits.
It is no wonder that consumers are confused with sales of new diesel cars continuing to drop. Tantalum is developing Air.Car with Imperial College London to inform drivers in real-time about their NOx emissions. An important part of the R&D project is our 1,000-vehicle trial, where we have installed devices to give us real-time emissions data. Over the course of the next 6 months or so we will harvest millions of miles of driving data, from which we are going to understand – in detail – the emissions of the vehicle parc.
If it is the case, as the ICCT suggests, that no cars whatsoever are meeting the Euro 6 emissions standards in real world driving conditions then it does beg the question whether the UK Government’s plan to clean up our urban air quality based on those standards is actually going to work. These new cars are going to be around for a while – around a decade – but we need to improve air quality faster than on that timescale.
The Mayor of London has proposed an emissions-based road user charging scheme, where drivers would pay on the actual environmental impact of their vehicle rather than simply driving into a zone and on what Euro engine standard it is. This policy would address several problems at the same time: air quality, increasing congestion, road safety and the long-term sustainability of roads funding while being fair on drivers.
Drivers and passengers, increasingly concerned about the health impact of poor air quality, want to be able to choose the cleanest route to both reduce the emissions from that journey and reduce their own health impact.
Happily, the technology is here to deliver these Smart City solutions. Where the UK led on the Clean Air Act and congestion pricing it can lead again on a smart, fair and affordable system to solve the air quality crisis.