The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is arguing for fleets to be incentivised to adopt cleaner, Euro 6 diesel vans.
Fumes from diesel vehicles are blamed for up to 30,000 deaths each year in the UK, with Oxford Street in London named the most polluted street in the world.
However, Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said a number of myths are being peddled about the fuel’s usage.
“We need vans and trucks to deliver goods and services in the UK and 99% of these are run on diesel and will remain diesel for some years to come,” said Hawes. “We must also bear in mind that 50% of pollution comes from business and domestic causes.”
The SMMT says its members have invested billions of pounds over the past 20 years into cleaning up their exhaust emissions, and argues that diesel is not the ‘evil monster’ portrayed by some environmentalists.
In an effort to defend diesel’s contribution to the UK economy, the SMMT hosted a summit this month, which included manufacturers, environmentalists and fleet operators, called Improving Air Quality: the Commercial Vehicle Contribution.
Hawes said he believed the immediate answer to improving air quality was a greater take-up of Euro 6-engined vans which are now beginning to appear on the price lists, ahead of legislation which comes into effect in September, 2016. Trucks went to Euro 6 by law at the beginning of 2014. At present, vans only have to comply with Euro 5 emissions standards.
The problem, according to Hawes, is Euro 6 vans cost more than Euro5 ones. He said: “The challenge is how do we get these vans out of the showrooms and on to fleets? Sales have been pretty sluggish so far.”
Hawes also believes policymakers should do more to improve traffic flow and infrastructure, which would cut fuel wastage.
In addition, he said fleets should find more effective ways of using their vehicles, such as increased use of telematics systems.
Penny Randall, the SMMT’s CV group chairman and marketing director of Renault Trucks, explained: “Commercial vehicles should be viewed as part of the solution, not the problem.
“We have no other way of getting our goods delivered other than by CVs and buying Euro 6 vehicles is the most direct way we can improve air quality. If all CVs on the roads today were Euro6, it would cut pollution dramatically, but only a small number meet this standard at present.”
Randall said that, since 1990, the Euro 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 emissions standards had cut nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 98%, hydrocarbons (HC) by 95%, carbon monoxide (CO) by 89% and particulates by 97%.
She added: “Gas, biofuels and electric vehicles are available but they won’t solve air quality problems alone. There is no quick and easy answer but we need more incentives for fleets to buy Euro 6 vans.”
Delegates at the SMMT summit agreed a four-point plan in an effort to help drive adoption of Euro 6 vehicles and alternative powertrains.
They include: the introduction of scrappage grants for older vans when buying Euro 6 vehicles; better incentives for buying electric vans; local authorities insisting that cleaner-engined vans only be used by outside contractors carrying out council projects; and local authorities joining forces to increase buying power, which should bring down the prices of clean-engined vans.
David Petts, Transit brand manager at Ford, said: “Fleet buyers need to make more use of telematics to improve their efficiency. At present we offer a fleet management package but only 15% of buyers take it up. They also need to do more driver training and install devices such as acceleration control. This alone can save up to 15% in fuel.”