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Motorists think government demonisation of diesels is unfair, says report

Drivers think recent demonisation of diesels is unfair, however they are allowing it to influence their next choice of car, according to new research by the RAC.

A majority of motorists (53%) agree with the assertion that the Government is unfairly targeting diesel car drivers as a key source of air pollution, with only 18% disagreeing. The findings suggest that any local or national government plans that appear to demonise all diesel cars – rather than focus on tackling older, more polluting vehicles – are likely to meet with public disapproval. 

The demonisation of diesel probably also explains why only 16% of respondents say they are most likely to buy a vehicle with a diesel engine the next time they make a purchase, a sharp fall on the 28% recorded in 2016. 

More than two-thirds (68%) of drivers support stronger action to reduce pollution from vehicles in areas with the poorest air quality. 

However, motorists would prefer to see any penalties or charges explicitly linked to how much a vehicle is contributing to the problem. 

More than half (57%) of respondents to the RAC Report on Motoring 2017 say they agree with the introduction of charges in certain areas for diesel vehicles that do not comply with the latest emissions standards (no change from 2016), while the same proportion support banning more polluting vehicles from areas where air quality is poorest. 

But only 42% say they agree with the introduction of charges for all diesel vehicles – regardless of emissions levels – that enter such areas. 

The Government’s air quality plan puts the burden on local authorities to tackle the causes of air pollution, which could include restrictions on vehicles, such as charging zones or measures to prevent certain vehicles using particular roads at particular times. 

However, according to the RAC research, only 36% of drivers agree that diesel vehicles are the main source of local air pollution in urban areas, while 24% disagree and 29% are unsure. 

In reality, according to Government estimates, vehicles on average contribute around 65% of the nitrogen dioxide (60% in London) emitted in the areas of poorest air quality. And, while the majority of roadside emissions are generated by diesel vehicles, diesel cars contribute only around a third of this (a quarter in London).

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