Diesel, lies, and VWgate

Diesel, lies, and VWgate

For Brake's director of communications and campaigns, Gary Rae, this highly personal blog resembles something akin to a confessional. He's one of 1.2 million people in the UK, affected by the growing VW emissions scandal.

Ok. The game's up. I drive a car. I drive a diesel car. I drive a diesel car made by Audi, part of the VW Group. In my defence, the car's a throwback to an old job, where I was travelling and commuting across the UK. Excuses, I hear you shout. I'm not alone. About half the cars on the road in the UK and Europe are diesel.

Increasingly, the diesel engine is looking like a throwback to a previous era; an era where people like me were sold – mis-sold, some lawyers say – vehicles based on their ability to use less fuel, and therefore reduce CO2 emissions. Would I buy a diesel car now, knowing that a leading manufacturer has cheated in emissions tests, and that these vehicles are pumping out 40 times more poison than was previously thought? Of course not. People like me have been duped. The marketing people, not the scientists, were in the driving seat at VW Group.

The figures are stark: far more harmful emissions, including nitrogen dioxide, have been pumped into the air than was thought – on one analysis, between 250,000 to 1m extra tonnes every year. The hidden damage from these VW vehicles could equate to all of the UK's NOx emissions from all power stations, vehicles, industry and agriculture.

These emissions, referred to as NOx, can also react with other compounds to cause more serious respiratory conditions and aggravate heart problems. Long-term exposure to the pollution hastens death: according to Kings College, London, research this year linked high levels of NOx to 9,500 premature deaths annually in London alone.

It's diesel, in its current form, that needs to die, not people. If ever there was a time for vehicles manufacturers to increase the affordability and availability of alternatively fuelled vehicles, then this is it. The government grants available to buy electric vehicles are welcome, but they're poorly marketed and overly complicated. Here's my personal four point action plan:

1. The government should introduce a scrappage scheme for diesel vehicles.
2. Local authorities to introduce more vehicle exclusion zones in city centres and create 20mph limits.
3. Any fines on car makers caught cheating, should be directed into investment in public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure.
4. Government to end tax breaks for diesel vehicles.

The emissions scandal broke at a time when Brake had already launched its theme for this year's Road Safety Week. Drive less, live more. We're acutely aware that road safety isn't a stand-alone issue: it is inextricably linked with sustainability and health. If we make roads safer, we can help and enable people to be active and greener in their everyday lives. The converse is true: if people drive a bit less and use healthy, sustainable modes of travel, we make our streets and communities safer. Making these links of course can help those of us working in road safety persuade people of this oft-overlooked subject's importance, by relating people's day to day actions on roads to the wellbeing of their community and the planet.

Much has been written about how we need to learn to fall out of love with our cars. I'd put it this way, we can't 'de-invent' the car, but we can radically redesign it, in terms of the fuel it uses and the advanced technology it deploys. We do need to learn to love ourselves and our planet a lot more, and hold corporate greed and malice to account.

For sale: Audi, one careful, if perhaps, clueless, owner.

Mum was right all along
Speeding should never be socially acceptable

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Comments 2

Guest - eric roberts on Tuesday, 27 October 2015 09:51

Wow This is all a bit drastic? i hope that you are not a garage owner, I certainly am and this talk scares me and probably millions of others who work in the Auto industry. We could have the diesel engines converted to Hydrogen, watch for my coming blog on http://www.pellonautocentre.com/our-blog/

Wow This is all a bit drastic? i hope that you are not a garage owner, I certainly am and this talk scares me and probably millions of others who work in the Auto industry. We could have the diesel engines converted to Hydrogen, watch for my coming blog on www.pellonautocentre.com/our-blog/
Guest - Marek Uschanov on Wednesday, 28 October 2015 05:58

There is also car manufacturers who have not cheated. Maybe we should support them. Emission laboratory test is what it is and that we can blame EU. Also when talking about electric cars we but remember how we produce our electricity. Emissions generated during production of electric car are much more higher than production of traditional car. Considering overall CO2 emissions, maybe biofuels are the answer. What comes to NOx emissions, look PSA's blueHDi.

There is also car manufacturers who have not cheated. Maybe we should support them. Emission laboratory test is what it is and that we can blame EU. Also when talking about electric cars we but remember how we produce our electricity. Emissions generated during production of electric car are much more higher than production of traditional car. Considering overall CO2 emissions, maybe biofuels are the answer. What comes to NOx emissions, look PSA's blueHDi.
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