A recent air quality report was yet another confirmation of the urgent need for global retrofitting of road vehicles. But what does this mean for the transport industry in practice?
The UK’s Environmental Audit Committee sharply criticised the country’s failure to meet EU standards on air pollution, calling for the creation of a network of Low Emission Zones (LEZs). It should come as no surprise that the UK is failing to meet air quality standards. Only a few months ago, one of the country’s most prestigious health publications, the British Medical Journal, published a study revealing that traffic emissions are raising the risk of heart attack. These findings followed numerous others, all confirming the hazardous effects vehicles are having on both society and the environment.
Although new vehicles are improving their eco-credentials, the problem remains about how to deal with the millions of existing vehicles on the road.
With 29,000 premature deaths every year in the UK alone attributable to poor air quality, and research continually confirming the risks associated with traffic pollution, the need for immediate solutions to address the health issues resulting from vehicle emissions is clear. Although new vehicles are improving their eco-credentials, the problem remains about how to deal with the millions of existing vehicles on the road.
This issue is not unique to the UK: governments far and wide are pushing air quality up the agenda as they realise that inaction now will come back to haunt them with a heavy cost-burden on their health systems. In September, the World Health Organisation updated its estimates, attributing as many as 1.3 million deaths a year globally to poor air quality. It is thought that the annual cost to the US healthcare system alone could be as much as US$168bn.
The automotive industry points to improvements made in new vehicles. These developments are impressive, but what about existing trucks and buses? There needs to be a solution for the millions of road users unable to replace their dirty vehicles. Simply scrapping existing fleets and investing in new electric vehicles would be completely unaffordable.
The automotive industry points to improvements made in new vehicles. These developments are impressive, but what about existing trucks and buses?
London’s extension of the LEZ in January 2012 marks the beginning of a likely domino effect around the UK. Cities such as Oxford, Bradford and Glasgow are already making tentative statements in this direction. But the UK trails Europe in this regard: Germany has 47 LEZs, with Sweden and Denmark not far behind. The problem of poor air quality is even more intense in countries such as India, Brazil, Mexico and China, where existing road vehicles numbers in the hundreds of millions. As soon as these countries find a solution to their poor fuel quality, the next step will be world-wide retrofitting.
An industry shift is imminent. Getting on board with changes now doesn’t just sit well with the health agenda, it’s also common sense. Rather than waiting for legislation to force change, fleet owners must prepare now on their own terms.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Nigel Standley is the Chief Executive of GreenUrban Technologies
GreenUrban Technologies delivers heavy vehicle users cost-saving solutions to emissions reductions and vehicle efficiency. With over 40 years of combined industry experience, the UK-based manufacturer’s approach and product range are designed with the fleet owner in mind. GreenUrban’s retrofit technology is approved for London’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ). As clean air legislation intensifies, GreenUrban will play a vital role in helping the transport sector meet the targets.
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