How Will the Diesel Scrappage Scheme Affect Car Owners?

Concerns about air quality have triggered a consultation into how to reduce the UK’s pollution to meet EU regulations. One recommended option was to offer incentives to scrap older diesel cars. How will this happen?


Why have diesel cars have been targeted?

Since 1992/3, allowable emissions from vehicles has been steadily reduced under EU legislation, but the UK still isn’t meeting the regulations on air pollution, and we received a final warning for it in February 2017 from Brussels. It’s not surprising that the highest pollution levels centre in London, although other cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds also feature on the list of those with pollution levels above the 9.4g per square kilometre of Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) emissions.

It was already widely known that diesel fumes can cause a wide range of health problems, and the vehicles that produce them have been targeted in the draft findings of the consultation, as causing the greatest concern and requiring fast action.

According to the initial report, “The introduction of increasingly strict vehicle emissions regulations […] has not delivered the expected reduction in emissions of NOx [Nitrogen Oxide] from diesel vehicles in real world use”. So, the recommendation is that action is required to counteract these emissions.


Cash to scrap

There’s been talk for a while of the government introducing a scheme for diesel car drivers to scrap their vehicles to meet EU regulations on air quality. Figures are flying about just how much the incentive would be – they range from £1,000 to £8,500, but the truth is that nothing has been decided yet, and the final report isn’t even published until July.

Documents which support the plan estimate that 15,000 diesel cars will be taken off the road and replaced by electric cars under this potential scheme.

It’s not the first time that the UK government has offered cash to scrap vehicles. In 2009, it introduced a £300 million vehicle scrappage scheme. In return for scrapping an old car or van, owners were given £2,000 towards a new vehicle (half from the government, half from the car manufacturer). Over 39,000 vehicles were scrapped under this scheme.

In order to encourage cleaner cars onto Britain’s roads, there’s already a grant available for those wishing to purchase an electric vehicle, for up to £4,500.


Retrofitting vs scrapping

There are a few options to encourage drivers to give up their diesel cars. The draft plan from the consultation mentions upping tax for diesel vehicles, where other reports discuss charging diesel and older petrol vehicle owners to enter Clean Air Zone cities, much like London’s £10 T-Charge, which comes in this October.

Most of the talk we’ve seen is around scrapping older cars entirely for a government incentive, or alternatively retrofitting their vehicles’ exhausts to reduce the levels of nitrogen dioxide that they emit. This is more likely to target van owners.


What does this mean for diesel car drivers?

At the moment, it’s a question of wait and see. The final plan from the consultation is due to be published by the end of July, but given the amount of times diesel vehicles, for both public and private transport, were mentioned in the draft, it’s clear that action will be taken once the final report is issued.

We know any scheme will be likely to target cars over 10 years old, and they could eventually be forced off the road altogether. It’s expected to target cities first, including Manchester.

However, diesel cars are still being manufactured and sold, which means that any scheme will need to be part of a longer-term plan if they will be removed from our roads altogether.

As always, if you have any questions about scrapping your car or van, get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to help.



Diesel Engine Exhaust Fumes: The Facts, IOSH (link to PDF download)

Improving air quality: national plan for tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities, DEFRA

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