Motoring industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has launched a campaign to fight the “demonisation” of diesel cars. The SMMT, alongside BMW, Ford and Jaguar Land Rover, has claimed that fears over the environmental impact of diesel-powered vehicles have been overstated – as are proposed moves to prevent the use of diesel cars in some areas.
This campaign follows the suggestion from London Mayor Boris Johnson that diesel cars should be scrapped and the mayor of Paris’s assertion in December that diesel cars should be banned from the French capital by 2020. Concerns over diesel vehicles’ environmental harm stem from the fact that diesel engines emit higher levels of some harmful pollutants including nitrogen oxides – which can cause respiratory damage if inhaled – than petrol models.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, strongly contests this, however. He said in a statement: “Today's diesel engines are the cleanest ever, and the culmination of billions of pounds of investment by manufacturers to improve air quality" citing European standards, which have forced carmakers to slash the amount of nitrogen oxides emitted by both their petrol and diesel cars.
Bans and parking taxes on diesel vehicles make no sense from an environmental point of view.
Mr Hawes continued: “Bans and parking taxes on diesel vehicles therefore make no sense from an environmental point of view.”
Gavin Thomson, who represents the Healthy Air Campaign, however, told the BBC: “We need action from all levels of government to protect our health and substantially reduce the diesel in our towns and cities.
"This should include government-supported retrofit schemes, a national network of low emission zones and support for other modes of travel."
The popularity of diesel cars increased rapidly after the government introduced car tax bands based on vehicles’ CO2 emissions for cars produced after 2001, with diesel cars typically emitting less CO2 than equivalent petrol models.