Bristol is proposing to impose a diesel ban on privately owned vehicles entering a zone around the inner city.
I dislike the fumes from diesel and petrol vehicles, so in many ways support the initiative, which is likely to be imposed quickly across many UK towns and cities, not just Bristol.
However, I do have a problem with certain aspects of the proposal.
Firstly, I’m very concerned about the date predicted for the ban. The council has been told to submit its final clean air plans to the Government in February 2020 and, if approved, implement them in March 2021. It’s too soon.
I don’t want to prolong the time it takes to get rid of smelly vehicles bellowing poisonous fumes into our lungs, but after years of successive governments persuading the public to buy diesel cars they simply must allow people time to change.
Large numbers of new cars are acquired through finance deals, which usually run for around three years.
There are shorter and longer arrangements, but three years seems average. This means that if you drive a leased diesel vehicle, it is impossible to affect an immediate change in your mode of transport without incurring serious financial loss.
Karen, a good friend of mine, is a nurse in her mid-fifties and last year she leased a new VW Polo diesel on a three-year deal.
Karen lives in the city centre but works in Chepstow and there is no easy way for her to get to work as she works odd hours.
Her leased car is her lifeline, both during her leisure time, but more crucially, her work.
‘It will hit ordinary people the hardest’
She can’t sell her car because the price of diesel vehicles has gone through the roof and she has more than two years left on her finance deal, which she can’t get out of.
She is stuck and the same will apply to thousands of other people in Bristol and across the country. It will hit ordinary people the hardest, as usual.
Banning diesel vehicles is something that will, and should, eventually be achieved.
However, to imposed a ban without allowing enough time for people currently in the early stage of a finance deal to let it expire seems draconian and poorly thought through.
Bristol City Council are under pressure from central government to crack down on nitrogen dioxide emissions so that they fall within legal limits, but nonetheless there must be enough time allowed for people trapped by finance agreements to allow them to lapse.
Three years from now most existing finance agreements will have expired and anyone looking to buy a new diesel car might be considered foolish given the current situation.
There is no doubt in my mind that 10 years from now most cars will be either fully electric or a hybrid of some sort.
Until the distance covered on one charge, and the time it takes to recharge, is adequately dealt with, there will still be detractors.
The internal combustion engine will continue to power many vehicles for some time to come.
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