Council meetings don’t always gain much public attention but there was widespread interest in Bristol on 5 November when the local authority took the latest step towards introducing a ban on all privately-owned diesel cars in the city centre.
The council’s cabinet backed a move to prohibit diesels for eight hours a day – between 7am and 3pm – in a small area of Bristol to help improve air quality.
In 2017, the government directed 24 local authorities, including Bristol City Council, to submit plans for how they will achieve compliance with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits with the implementation having to take place by March 2021.
Alongside the ban on privately-owned diesels there are proposals for a wider clean air zone in the city which will see charges levied on non-compliant commercial vehicles: buses, taxies, lorries and vans.
With these proposals in place the council anticipates it will reach legal limits of NO2 by 2025.
After the council’s endorsement earlier in the week the plans now go to the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit for rubber stamping.
The question raised by events in Bristol is whether this is a nail in the coffin not just of the older, more polluting diesels, but also the latest generation of cleaner models?
Consumers are already wary of committing to the latest generation of diesels. Last month new diesel cars had a market share in the UK of just 24%, compared with 62% for petrol models. Pure battery-electric cars, plug-in hybrids and conventional hybrids had a combined share of the market of 10%.
Whether or not other towns and cities follow Bristol’s example the mere fact that this much-publicised move is happening at all will put yet more doubt in buyers’ minds as to the wisdom of buying diesels, even those which will have been subjected to both the new WLTP laboratory-based test, which replaces the decades-old but now discredited NEDC procedure, and a real-world driving element which ensures that what happens on the road closely matches what is recorded in the lab.