posted 5 months ago

Diesel Scrappage Scheme Would Have Modest Environmental Benefit

Any Diesel Car Scrappage Scheme cash would be better spent on other eco-friendly concepts, RAC Foundation argued.

Ancient Euro 1,2 & 3 cars account for 15% of NOx diesel output

A Diesel Car Scrappage Scheme would have to be on a “huge scale to have any significant effect” on air pollution, the RAC Foundation argued. Its research showed that in the United Kingdom 1.9 million diesels fall into the oldest, most polluting, Euro 1, 2 and 3 categories. That equates to about 17% of the nation's diesel fleet.

Euro 1, 2 and 3 cars account for 15% of UK diesel NOx emissions (nitrogen oxides), the RAC said. On this basis, it estimated the impact of a scrappage offer based on the precedent set by a 2009 scheme which helped the motor trade through a slow, economic, time. 

Impact of Diesel Car Scrappage Scheme

The Foundation argued that 400,000 of the oldest diesels would be scrapped. The cost would be £800 million and motorists would receive £2,000 – funded jointly by motor manufacturers and the government – to pay towards new, more environmentally friendly, cars. The £2,000 grant would apply even to vehicles worth far less. 

The problem – the RAC Foundation said – is that replacing these 400,000 cars with zero-emission models would only reduce the UK's NOx diesel emission output by 3.2% per-annum. This would fall to 1.3% if the scrapped cars were replaced with new, Euro 6, diesels.

diesel tax

Furthermore, the 1.3% assumes any new cars cover the same mileage as their scrapped predecessors. In fact, NOx emissions might rise 300 tonnes per-annum if the replacement cars travelled the same distance as current, typical, Euro 6 models, the RAC Foundation suggested. New cars tend to cover more mileage than old, after all. 

Money better spent on electric vehicle infrastructure

RAC Foundation Director, Steve Gooding, said: “Instinctively a Scrappage Scheme to get the oldest, dirtiest, diesels off the road seems like a good idea - but these numbers suggest otherwise.” The RAC is also concerned that such a concept might not target the places where pollution is most prevalent; such as towns and cities. 

Mr Gooding continued: “Before being tempted to go down the scrappage route, ministers need to ask if the sums might be better spent elsewhere. For example, in making sure that the infrastructure is in place to support plug-in electric vehicles.”

diesel tax

Money is also required to support the current, government backed, discounts that make electric vehicles more affordable for motorists, Steve Gooding suggested. He argued: “Subsidies must remain in place to close the price gap that still exists between vehicles powered by alternative fuels, and those driven by fossil fuels.” 

He concluded: “Already some manufacturers have warned that the still fragile electric car market could be killed off if subsidies are withdrawn too hastily.”