Should I ditch my car?

With the Low Emission Neighbourhood proposals taking place in Wanstead, Kathy Taylor from Wanstead Climate Action assesses your options if you want to stop contributing to air pollution and reducing the lifespan of your community

Did you know that a mile of congested urban diesel driving takes about 12 minutes off the life of the rest of the population? This stark fact is one of the many interesting ones to be found in the book ‘There is no Planet B’ by Mike Berners-Lee. If you needed another reason to ditch your diesel apart from the upcoming expanded ULEZ area* the fact that an estimated 40,000 people a year in the UK die prematurely from air pollution should persuade you.  It’s the nitrogen dioxide and the small particles (PM 2.5s ) that are the killers..

So what should you do?  Of course, the most environmentally friendly alternative is to ditch the car. Living in London is perhaps the easiest place to live without one. If there were more club cars like Zip Car this would be convenient and make economic, as well as environmental, sense: most cars sit doing nothing for the majority of their lives, wasting resources (per mile use of resources in manufacture & maintenance) compared to a car that is used frequently.  Just think what could be done with all those car parking spaces if we all shared cars! But there are currently only two Zip Cars for rent in Wanstead (Drive Now has recently folded due to lack of customers).

Peddle or Electric bikes as an alternative may suit some people who do very few car miles but its electric cars (EVs) that are getting all the media coverage right now with Redbridge Council and the UK government committing to create more charging points. Should you invest in an electric car? Certainly the running costs will be lower but unless you do a lot of urban driving or have a diesel and, especially if you already have a hybrid for example, it makes eco-sense to keep the car you have for as long as possible. As with all consumer goods: make them last.

Currently electricity is still produced mainly from fossil fuels, and as there’s not enough green electricity to go around, your pollution is merely being displaced to a power station. However, taking all that into account, when it’s time to replace your (petrol or hybrid car) and you really do need one, then it’s electric (EV) all the way. In summary Carbon Brief has concluded: In the UK in 2019, the lifetime emissions per kilometre of driving a Nissan Leaf EV were about three times lower than for the average conventional car (taking most variables into account).

For more info see https://www.carbonbrief.org/factcheck-how-electric-vehicles-help-to-tackle-climate-change

 (*from 25 October 2021 the ULEZ boundary will be extended to create a single larger zone bounded by the North and South Circular Roads. If you are driving any petrol or diesel vehicle within the expansion you will also need to meet the tighter emissions standards or pay a daily charge. See https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/ultra-low-emission-zone/ulez-where-and-when?intcmp=52227#on-this-page-0)

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