Chris Ames 03 December 2019

Bristol backpedals on diesel vehicle acquisition

Bristol City Council has suspended its roll-out of a new vehicle fleet after purchasing dozens of diesel vehicles despite a planned city centre diesel ban.

The council said it was upgrading its fleet to replace older vehicles in the light of its own target of being a carbon neutral council by 2025, reducing its carbon footprint across all departments.

However it has drawn criticism for purchasing diesel vehicles despite proposing a ‘small area diesel ban’, albeit one that would not apply to commercial vehicles, as part of its plan to tackle toxic air pollution.

Of the 135 new vehicles already introduced for use across all services, 64 are diesel, ‘which were purchased due to suitable petrol equivalents being unavailable’, with just 19 electric.

In addition, 18 diesel vehicles but no electric vehicles have been purchased and are due to be delivered in January.

A council spokesperson said: ‘The further roll-out of 178 vehicles had previously been put on hold whilst the team seeks clarification from manufacturers on new vehicle models being released in 2020, including those not currently available as electric powered, and will not continue until this information has been received.

‘During this time the team will also be undertaking some upgrades of EV infrastructure at council depots and monitor the ongoing development of the proposed Clean Air Zone. No decisions have been made on the fuel makeup of future vehicle purchases.’

The spokesperson added: ‘How the council’s fleet is used in future will be influenced by the final [air quality] scheme put in place but both initiatives aim to achieve the same goal of reducing air pollution and establishing Bristol as a carbon neutral city.’

The controversy reflects a dilemma for both policymakers and vehicle owners, that diesel vehicles are more fuel efficient than petrol vehicles, with lower carbon emissions, but produce higher levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide.

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