Driving the point home


Should you ditch your car? Kathy Taylor from Wanstead Climate Action assesses your options if you want to stop contributing to air pollution and reducing the lifespan of your neighbours

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 a reason to scrap your diesel (or give it to a country dweller) apart from the upcoming expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone (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 (including those from tyres and brakes).

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 economical – 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 and 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 just folded due to lack of customers).

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

Currently, electricity is still produced mainly from fossil fuels, and until there’s enough green electricity to go around, your pollution will be displaced to power stations.

Carbon Brief – which aims to improve the understanding of climate change – has concluded: “In the UK in 2019, the lifetime emissions per kilometre of driving a Nissan Leaf EV were about a third of the average conventional car (even before accounting for the falling carbon intensity of electricity generation expected during the car’s lifetime).”

Taking all that into account, when it’s time to replace your petrol or hybrid car, and if you really need one, then it’s electric all the way.

For more information on how electric vehicles help to tackle climate change, visit wnstd.com/carbonbrief

For information on the ULEZ boundary extension in 2021, visit wnstd.com/ulez