It was in our September issue that we predicted the move and the beginning of the end for the combustion engine. It will be interesting to see the affect it has on local air quality. Will it make a difference? I predict not, either to the volume of traffic or to emission levels. The fact is, 2017 vehicles are not that much cleaner.
London is also hugely affluent and the proportion of regular visitors to the centre of the capital in a 2006 car or older is likely to be minuscule. And if you do own a pre-2006 car, selling the old one and swapping to a 2007 model is likely to pay for itself in a relatively short period.
So, what is this? I believe it is political manoeuvring for something far more bold. Politicians and engineers are increasingly at odds over CO2 emissions, regulations, targets and penalties. Politicians hold engineers in high regard, no doubt. But there is a general feeling that perhaps they pushed the engineering community a little too hard and put in place penalties that were too stiff for industry to cope with. The result, was that engineers felt forced to meet the letter of the regulations, rather than the spirit of them; hence Dieselgate.
Back to London, however, this announcement is a prelim towards a much bigger policy announcement, which will be the complete ban of diesel engines in the capital. The trouble is, electric powertrains are not yet mature enough to take all the trade and commercial diesel vans off the road. If this does happen though, it will make a huge difference to air quality. I feel it is only a matter of time and my prediction is from 2020 London will be diesel free. Before then, it’s vital engineers convey the practicalities and realities to ensure any move is achievable and no loopholes exist that could potentially be exploited.