Paul Barker's blog: 5 May - Politically sensitive
05 May 2015
The new Government, whoever it may be, will have some tricky issues to confront, and the Supreme Court ruling last week, which you can read about here, added another one to the pile.
By the end of the year, the new Government must have submitted plans to address air quality to the European Commission, and it's almost certain these will be pretty drastic because London, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire are currently 20 years away from hitting their targets, while many other towns and cities aren't much better.
There will be various ways of making a rapid improvement. I've been banging on for several years now that investing to turn as many buses and taxis to hydrogen as soon as possible would make a huge difference.
Obviously, there would be technical challenges, but subsidising the shift in a fleet of vehicles that could initially survive on a handful of filling stations would then create the initial demand to encourage private investment in new filling sites, which in turn would begin to encourage the private sector to take on hydrogen technology.
Hyundai has now put a price on its pioneering ix35 fuel-cell model, and Toyota and Honda will also soon be at the party, while most other major manufacturers have hydrogen projects at various stages of development.
But back in the real world, I worry there's not enough understanding of the air quality benefits of Euro6 technology, which is mandatory for cars from this September with light commercials a year behind, and we'll see some draconian congestion charging and low-emission zones introduced when, in fact, incentivising a shift to the latest technology as soon as possible would be a positive rather than punitive way to improve UK air quality.