The Guardian: Letters)
Thursday 27 July 2017 18.35 BST
So, the government is committed to banning all diesel and petrol cars by 2040 (Report, 26 July). Has it considered the wider impacts?
Power stations will face huge peak-time demand when drivers charge vehicles overnight. Can they cope? Will we face increased electricity charges?
The rare metals in lithium batteries are produced only in inconvenient places. More than 85% of the world’s supply comes from China. How dependent will that make us upon them?
Mining these materials is far from environmentally friendly. Each tonne processed produces 2,000 tonnes of toxic waste, laced with ammonia and hydrochloric acid. Much is dumped into landfill, decimating agriculture and poisoning drinking water. The very manufacture of an electric vehicle can create a large carbon footprint, offsetting global warming benefits. Then there is the issue of safe disposal of obsolete batteries.
We could create more problems than we solve.
William Harry Plant
Crook, County Durham
• If petrol and diesel cars are replaced by electric cars then this will reduce tailpipe emissions, but not non-tailpipe emissions, which can still contribute significantly to air pollution, particularly for particulate matter. It will also reduce noise from engines, but not from tyres. Car infrastructure (roads and parking) takes up space that can be used in much better ways that are healthier for the population, for example by making it car-free public space or green space. This will also reduce heat-island effects.
Finally, many people do not get enough physical activity, partly due to the use of cars, which cause disease and premature mortality. A shift away from the car to public and active transport (walking and cycling) can facilitate an increase in physical activity and save thousands of lives. We urgently need a rethink of what we want our cities to be: detrimental to health or promoting health. A shift away from car-centric cities to more active and green cities is urgently needed to achieve the latter, and a ban on diesel and patrol cars is only a small step.
Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen
Research professor in environmental epidemiology, Barcelona Institute for Global Health
• The traffic jam on the M25 shown in your picture (Carmakers fear ban on petrol and diesel cars may lead to bumpy road, 27 July) would still be undesirable even if they were all non-polluting vehicles. Commuting on today’s scale is largely unproductive, whatever the transport mode, in both economic and personal terms. The first postwar new towns, such as Harlow, were designed to be “self-contained and balanced communities for living and working”. For the first few years that was largely achieved, until it was destroyed by globalisation. Today thousands commute out and a similar number commute in. In planning the new developments needed to solve the housing crisis, a return to that principle as far as possible would be highly desirable.
• City councils are rightly concerned that ministers’ pollution plans don’t stack up (Clean air plan condemned as weak and inadequate, 27 July). The government’s own evidence shows that charging for urban driving is the quickest way to meet legally binding pollution thresholds. Yet ministers would rather councils removed speed humps instead. Far from cutting the 40,000 deaths annually due to pollution, this would merely increase the numbers killed by speeding.
Meanwhile the vast sums being spent on England’s motorways and trunk roads mean yet more traffic on our city streets. And now councils are being deprived of the means either to restrain urban traffic or to invest in healthy alternatives such as cycling and walking.
If funded adequately, the government’s cycling and walking investment strategy could be a fantastic way to reduce not only pollution but also congestion, road danger and ill-health due to physical inactivity. These four urban transport problems impose similar annual costs on society: about £10bn each, according to government estimates. Electric cars can address only the first of them, whereas cycling and walking could tackle all four.
Will it take another court case before Mr Gove heeds the evidence?
Policy director, Cycling UK
• The latest clean air plan looks likely to put Sheffield back in the fog again. Not only are we choked by “Chelsea tractors” doing the school run and idling queues of traffic, but the decision not to electrify our main railway line to London means that diesel locomotives will continue to add to our respiratory misery.