BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 21 June '18

The health damage caused by an average inner-city car costs £7,714

Researchers at the University of Oxford and University of Bath have found that the cost of the damage to our health caused by the average car in inner cities over its lifetime on the road is £7,714 per car. For diesel cars, the figure rises to £16,424.

If every new car in 2019 were electric, the researchers say it would save more than £325 million in health costs in the first year alone.

Costs to the NHS and society

The new research – ‘Health costs of air pollution from cars and vans’ – was published ahead of Clean Air Day 2018, which falls today (21 June).

The researchers found that the health damage effects associated with diesel vehicle emissions are around 20 times greater than electric vehicles and at least five times greater than those associated with petrol vehicles.

The researchers’ in-depth analysis has found for the first time that the health impact costs are significantly higher for diesel cars and vans compared with petrol, hybrid or electric vehicles over their 14-year and nine-year lifetimes.

In inner city areas such as inner London, the average cost to the NHS and society of a car is £7,714; for diesel cars the cost is £16,424 and for diesel vans it’s £24,555.

‘Our research for the first time illustrates the individual cost that each car and van has on the NHS and wider society. Every time these vehicles are driven, they are having a significant impact on our health, equivalent to £7,714 for an average inner London car over its lifetime.’

DR ALISTAIR HUNT
Lecturer in Environmental Economics, University of Bath

Costs of EVs, petrol and diesel

The researchers found battery electric cars and vans generate the lowest cost to society snd the NHS – as little as £827 and £1,443.

Petrol damage costs are £2,327 and £10,101 for cars and vans, respectively, and petrol hybrid cars have a damage cost of £1,824

Nearly 90% of the total £6 billion bill caused by emissions to the NHS and wider society comes from the impact of diesel emissions. Exposure to PM2.5 and NOX is linked to an estimated 40,000 early deaths.

London tops costs league table

Global Action Plan, the charity that coordinates Clean Air Day, has also produced a league table of English regions that contribute the highest and lowest costs of vehicles to the NHS.

London and Birmingham top this league table; London vehicles’ bill to the NHS totals £605 million per annum, and Birmingham’s is £150 million per annum.

Chris Large, senior partner at Global Action Plan, said the report ‘clearly illustrates the true cost of air pollution from each petrol and diesel car and van, particularly in inner cities.’

He added that swapping one in four car journeys in urban areas for walking or cycling could save over £1.1bn in health damage costs per year.

‘Switching 1 million cars from diesel to electric would save more than £360m per year in health costs from local air pollution’, Chris said. .This demonstrates the impact that people’s individual choices can have, so we would look to the government to use Clean Air Day as a springboard for year-round public engagement through its new clean air strategy.’

Taking action to make a difference

While converting from diesel to petrol cars could be seen as a way to reduce air pollution, it still increases carbon emissions and so does not solve the local air pollution problem.

Trying an alternative way to travel on Clean Air Day, from walking, cycling, taking public transport, or test driving an electric vehicle, is a way for everyone to take an action that would make a difference.

‘Cars and vans are responsible for 10,000 early deaths each year, and diesel vehicles are the main problem unfortunately. The valuation of health effects associated with diesel vehicles are at least five times greater than those associated with petrol vehicles, and around 20 times greater than battery electric vehicles. These results raise important questions as to how best to develop effective and fair air quality and transport strategies in urban areas.’

DR CHRISTIAN BRAND
Associate Professor, University of Oxford and UK Energy Research Centre