No wonder sales of diesel vehicles are declining, with studies now linking them to increased rates of air pollution and death. Growing numbers of restrictions or extra charges are also in place – or planned – for driving them into many UK cities.


It’s a far cry from the more CO2 friendly message promoted by then Chancellor Gordon Brown back in 2001, which offered tax breaks for switching to diesel vehicles.


Half UK cars are diesel

As a result, diesel car ownership surged from just under 14% to around 50% today, giving the UK one of the biggest diesel fleets in Europe.


And while the estimated 20% lower CO2 emissions seemed beneficial, no-one was really focussing on the increased levels of hazardous particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emitted by diesel vehicles.


It’s this pollution that contributes to the UK’s poor record on clean air, with 44 of our 51 largest towns and cities breaching World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended guidelines for air quality.


Banning diesel and petrol cars from 2040

The government’s Air Quality Plan, which comes into force this year, sets out a number of measures to help tackle pollution including:

  • A ban on all new conventional diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040.
  • £1bn towards the development of ultra-low-emission vehicles.
  • £100m to support the UK’s electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure.
  • £255m for local councils to clean up the most polluted areas, with plans likely to include retrofitting buses, changing road layouts and reprogramming traffic lights.


Higher road taxes for most diesel cars will also come into play from April. And there’s talk of a possible scrappage scheme to encourage diesel drivers to switch to cleaner vehicles.


New ‘toxicity’ charge for London

London, which is almost constantly in breach of WHO air pollution levels, introduced a new ‘T-charge’ last October, which adds £10 on top of the £11.50 congestion charge for older polluting diesel cars.


It appears to be contributing to an improvement in air quality, with London starting the year below legal limits for the first time in 10 years, and not breaching them for the first three weeks in January – a first since modern records began.


The next step is introducing the world’s first Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) for central London in April 2019 (and Greater London by 2020). This will increase charges for polluting vehicles and is expected to result in an almost 50% reduction in road transport NOx emissions by 2020.


Low emission zones extend to other cities

Outside of the capital, Brighton, Norwich, Nottingham and Oxford are the only other cities in England operating Low Emission Zones (LEZ)  – although these all currently focus on buses rather than cars.


There are also plans to develop LEZ schemes in Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds, Newcastle, Reading, Sheffield, Southampton and York, as well as in Glasgow and Edinburgh.


Oxford is considering the most radical developments to its current LEZ, consulting on plans to ban all non-zero emissions light vehicles from a small area of the city centre by 2020, and extending this ban to the whole city by 2035.


Businesses confused by diesel decline

While many businesses welcome these developments – with one in five believing reducing transport emissions will have a positive impact on their work – a large number are still confused.


Nearly half of business decision makers questioned by The Car People for its recent report ‘Diesel Impact’ report, say they don’t fully understand the forthcoming 2040 ban on conventional diesel/petrol cars. (It’s worth noting that this ban doesn’t cover hybrid plug-in vehicles, ie those combining diesel/petrol with electric.)


Some 39% are also worried about the financial impact to their business of the transition from diesel to low-emission cars.


Worries over EV transition – and loss of fun

Other concerns include:

  • Finding charging points for an electric car/running out of charge (38%)
  • Unknown expense of charging the car (35%)
  • Potential increase in tax/charges for owning a diesel/petrol car (31%)
  • Having to charge my car more often than I would fill up with diesel (29%)
  • Not enough trained mechanics/garages to cater for increase in electric vehicles (25%)
  • Losing money on my current vehicle (24%)


Interesting, 11% also registered a concern that electric/hybrid cars would take the fun out of driving!


If you’re concerned about the any aspect of reducing emissions in your business, we have teams of experts ready to help. Please contact your Client Lead (for existing customers) or email us via