Air quality Contents

5New road transport technologies

54.New technologies can cut vehicle emissions: alternatively-fuelled vehicles can almost eliminate emissions in some cases. For example vehicles running on hydrogen or electricity have no harmful tail-pipe emissions, although there may be emissions generated in the course of producing the fuel. Fuels such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and compressed natural gas (CNG) produce lower levels of tail-pipe NOx compared to petrol or diesel. Although diesel produces the highest NOx levels of mainstream fuels, manufacturers are installing technologies such as selective catalytic reduction systems using AdBlue and lean NOx systems, to cut emissions from many of their newer vehicles substantially.83

55.Policies have in recent years incentivised diesel over petrol as diesel vehicles’ higher efficiency cuts CO₂ emissions, but diesel vehicles produce higher NOx emissions per mile. The Government now recognises that policies need to take into account both types of pollution. Organisations such as the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership are working to ensure that policies tackle both greenhouse gas and local air pollution in tandem.84

56.Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin MP was very optimistic about the potential of new technologies, including electric vehicles, to reduce emissions.85 However, currently there are few low emission vehicles on the road. Although double the number of electric cars were sold last year compared to the year before, overall they make up only 3% of the UK car market,86 and more than 45% of cars registered last year were diesel.87 In a 2015 Department for Transport survey, only 5% of drivers said that they were thinking of buying an electric car or van, while 56% said they had not really thought about it. These results had not changed significantly over the past year even though 40% of those surveyed considered environmental issues an important factor when buying a new vehicle. The most common deterrents to buying electric were difficulties in recharging, the distance that can be travelled with each charge, and the vehicle cost.88 Against this backdrop, witnesses considered that policy interventions were needed to establish a self-sustaining market with sufficient numbers of alternatively-powered vehicles to support widespread refuelling infrastructure and affordable vehicle production.89

57.Policy responses to develop a market for all cleaner vehicles could include:

58.The Government’s current package of support includes investment in a network of natural gas refuelling stations, grants to incentivise the purchase and development of alternatively fuelled commercial vehicles, and differential fuel duty rates at current levels for road fuel gases such as compressed natural gas, liquid natural gas and biomethane until March 2024. Defra invested £400 million over the last Parliament to support the market for ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) with another £500 million to be spent up to 2020. The Chancellor’s 2015 autumn statement announced £600 million to provide grants of up to 35% off the cost of a low CO₂ emission car and 20% off the cost of a van, up to £8,000.97 The March 2016 Budget included £38 million of funding for UK-wide research and development into low-emission technologies, with another £15 million specifically for such work in the Midlands.98

59.At the current rate of change it will be many years before ultra-low emissions vehicles replace all the types of vehicles currently causing pollution. Faster progress could be made if further measures were introduced to encourage people to buy newer, unfamiliar, and in many cases more costly, technologies.

60.We recommend that the Government launches a diesel scrappage scheme giving grants to cut the cost of a low-emission vehicle for an owner scrapping their diesel car or van. We think it sensible to target vehicles more than 10 years old because of their high pollution levels but HM Treasury should undertake in the next six months a study to establish the details of the scheme. The study must establish in time for measures to be brought forward in the next Budget: first, the emissions levels of vehicles eligible to be bought or scrapped so the scheme achieves sufficient air quality improvements, and secondly, the level of grant necessary to incentivise sufficient take-up at the lowest cost to the public purse.

61.Government policy supports a range of technologies but this can mean that competition from different sectors dilutes the impact of schemes and could confuse the public. Witnesses such as those representing the hydrogen,99 and gas-powered vehicle sector argue that government support must not focus on one technology.100 Developing an affordable range of options allows drivers to select the right technology for the type of journeys they are undertaking; for example those mostly driving short distance in cities might choose an electric car, whereas long-distance drivers might choose a hybrid or LPG vehicle.

62.We endorse the Government’s support for a wide range of technologies, including the provision of fiscal incentives such as lower fuel duty rates for a variety of cleaner fuels. Different technologies, such as gas-powered or hybrid vehicles on the one hand or fully electric vehicles on the other, will offer the optimum solution for different transport needs. However, the Government should not allow the need to maintain technologically neutral approaches to inhibit policy support for the research, development and implementation of low-emission technologies, particularly where there is a strong scientific case for such support.

63.Government policy focuses on developing technology to reduce emissions from exhaust systems but vehicles’ tyre and brake wear also cause pollution; 75% of transport-generated particulates are from this source.101 Academics urge that greater attention be given to these emissions since they contain smaller particles known to be especially harmful because of their ability to penetrate the lungs and bloodstream.102

64.Defra’s policies must support technological developments to reduce particulates generated by the wear of vehicle brakes and tyres; the Government must commission by 21 July 2016 an assessment of any policy or research gaps on the level of emissions from these causes and methods for reducing them. The Department must ensure that EU and UK regulations reflect emerging scientific evidence on pollution from wear and tear of vehicle operation.

Shipping emissions

65.We received evidence highlighting the contribution of shipping emissions to pollution; although legal limits on sulphur levels in marine fuels have had some success, witnesses considered the Government had failed to adopt some effective measures to reduce NOx emissions.103 Ministers noted the small percentage of all NOx emissions which came from shipping.104 Nevertheless in pollution hot-spots such as London, NOx from shipping adds to problems in achieving EU pollution limits. The National Planning Policy Framework and associated guidance sets out broad requirements that planning decisions have regard to air quality impacts but witnesses argued that planning decisions on new ports or their expansion should specifically require provision of infrastructure so that ships at berth limit their emissions by running on electricity rather than their engines.105

66.We questioned Ministers Oliver Letwin MP and Rory Stewart MP and the GLA about these points in the context of port development at Enderby Wharf on the Thames in the London Borough of Greenwich. Ministers told us that planning decisions were a matter for the local planning authority. Defra set overall thresholds for NOx levels in the air which local authorities must meet and had advised Greenwich council on mitigation measures. Defra said that local authorities should ensure that new development was “appropriate for its location and unacceptable risks are prevented”.106 Rory Stewart told us that he wished to encourage the Borough to work to have in place the right electricity generating stations to power ships at berth.107 The GLA told us that £400,000 had been provided to fund mitigation measures.108

67.Shipping is responsible for producing only a small proportion of emissions, but in pollution hot-spots such as London action is needed to tackle emissions from all sources. Local authorities must calculate the additional impact on air quality of all new development; planning permissions for new shipping facilities must require appropriate mitigation measures from developers. This should include, where practicable, a requirement to provide infrastructure to supply electricity to ships at berth.

83 Such technologies aim to enable vehicles to meet Euro 6 diesel vehicle N0x limits.

84 The Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership launched a communique on 1 March 2016 to demonstrate joint working to tackle air quality and climate change together. See LowCVP webpages

85 Q315

86 Q178

87Have diesel cars been unfairly demonised for air pollution?” The Guardian. Diesel cars made up over 34% of all cars on the road in 2013 (10.1 million) compared to just around 7.5% in 1994

88 Department for Transport, Public attitudes towards electric vehicles, June 215

89 Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (AQU56)

90 UK LPG Gas Ltd (AQU41)

91 Greater London Authority (AQU45)

92 As above

93 See AA webpages on Euro emissions standards, accessed 11 April 2016

94 Greater London Authority (AQU45)

95 As above

96 UK Hydrogen Fuel Cell Association (AQU25)

97 HM Treasury, Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015, November 2015

98 HM Treasury, Budget 2016 documents, March 2016

99 UK Hydrogen Fuel Cell Association (AQU25)

100 Calor Gas Ltd (AQU60)

101 Greater London Authority (AQU45)

102 Presentation to the European Commission by the Institute for Energy and Transport, Particle emissions from brake and tyre wear: literature review, 8 January 2014

103 Q44

104 Q301

105 Ralph Hardwick (AQU31) Q44 (Professor Wilkinson)

106 Defra (AQU62)

107 Q297

108 Q211

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25 April 2016