Beyond The Diesel Ban: How Can We Make Driving Sustainable?

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Last year, after decades of gas-guzzling vehicles clogging our roads, the government announced a ban on petrol and diesel car sales, to be implemented by 2040. Several other countries have made similar plans, with Norway aiming for the even more impressive cut-off of 2025.

The UK is still a long way away from reaching this target, though. Even when diesel and petrol cars are no longer being sold, drivers will still own vehicles they bought before the ban, and under current plans they will still be able to buy any kind of car second-hand.

Restricting the sale of diesel and petrol vehicles alone will not reduce carbon emissions, or turn driving into a sustainable activity. So what else can we do, driving-wise, to keep our nation’s carbon footprint down.

1. Drive more efficiently

Sometimes the fastest route is not the most eco-friendly. Anyone who opts to drive at 70mph on a motorway to save time will also be burning through fuel much faster than someone who opts for a slower, more sustainable route.

This becomes a particular problem when businesses, particularly those which use heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), send their fleets on long, inefficient drives. In 2013, the European Environmental Agency revealed that pollution from HGVs costs Europe almost £40 billion per year — nearly half of the air pollution cost of all vehicles.

Thankfully, there has been a movement towards so-called “eco-driving” within the business world, and software companies have sprung up to help. Movolytics’ green fleet management software helps businesses reduce vehicle emissions by tracking drivers in transit, and finding and mapping efficient routes. There is a business incentive for more companies to adopt eco-driving, as well as an environmental one: sustainable driving saves fuel, which in turn will save money. With any luck, this will mean even business leaders who don’t care about creating a sustainable business will still consider this strategy.

2. Improve public transport

Another way to make driving more sustainable is simply to reduce the number of separate vehicles on the roads. The public knows that sharing a car or taking public transport is by far the more eco-friendly way to get around, but driving your own car is almost always a more convenient and pleasurable experience than cramming into a busy train carriage with a group of sweaty strangers.

London’s air pollution is the worst in the country, yet its public transport infrastructure is overcrowded and late at peak times. The same goes for many other cities around the country. If these public transport systems were more reliable, and more pleasurable to use, a growing number of people would ditch their cars and take buses and trains, or take up carpooling with colleagues.

3. Switch to electric vehicles

It’s all very well banning new cars that use fossil fuels, but this move will have very little impact unless drivers adopt electric vehicles en masse. Hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius have proven extremely popular, but fully electric vehicles are struggling to break through.

At the moment, it seems price is the main barrier to mass adoption of electric cars. Tesla has tried to combat this with its Model 3, which is priced in the US at a relatively affordable $35,000. But it’ll take more than one manufacturer to bring electric vehicles to the masses. 

4. Push for renewable energy

Though they may be better for the environment in terms of pollution, electric vehicles are not inherently more sustainable than petrol cars. They don’t use fossil fuels directly, but only one third of the energy they do use is likely to have been generated from renewable sources. Once the majority of the public has switched to electric cars, making sure they can charge them with clean, renewable energy is the essential next step in improving driving’s sustainability.

Once diesel and petrol cars are banned, renewable electric cars, driven more efficiently and only when necessary, will finally be able to turn driving into a sustainable mode of transport.

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