Report on Motoring 2016

Air quality concerns

4.1 Air quality concerns

More than a third of motorists (34%) say they have concerns about the air quality near where they live, the 2016 Report on Motoring has found, with 37% saying they are not worried about this issue.

Meanwhile, specific concerns about the impact of vehicles on air quality appear to be on the rise: four in 10 drivers (41%) say they are more concerned about this issue now than 12 months ago, against 23% who say their concerns have reduced since last year.

Regardless of their views on local air quality, a clear majority of drivers (66%) believe that stronger action needs to be taken to reduce pollution from vehicles in the areas where air quality is at its worst, while a majority of motorists (57%) also support the introduction of charges for diesel vehicles which enter areas with poor air quality, unless they meet the latest emissions standards.

A similar percentage (55%) say they would support banning more polluting vehicles from entering areas with the worst air quality.

People do want to see action to address the poorest emitting vehicles, but the problem is that they tend to be the older cars which are often owned by the least affluent consumers, who have the least opportunity to change either vehicle or transport mode.

- Mikes Hawes, Chief Executive, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders

Drivers' views on polluting vehicles

55% of motorists say they would support banning more poluting vehicles from entering areas with the worst air quality

57% of drivers support the introduction of charges for diesel vehicles entering poor air quality areas

66% of drivers agree stronger action needs to be taken to reduce pollution from vehicles in areas with the poorest air quality


At the end of 2015, the Government announced plans22 to improve air quality in those English cities unable to meet EU air quality minimum standards by introducing a number of Clean Air Zones. This policy is likely to see the most polluting commercial vehicles charged for entering certain parts of Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton by 2020 – but the proposed approach is to target the greatest contributors to nitrogen dioxide emissions such as buses, taxis and commercial vehicles so owners of private cars may not be affected.

Most motorists (55%) support such proposals – only 12% say they are against them – with almost half (42%) saying they were already aware of the Government’s plans for Clean Air Zones.

The environmental proposal which receives the least support in the Report is for the introduction of charges for ‘all diesel vehicles’ entering areas with the poorest air quality: only 42% of drivers think this is a good idea against 30% who do not.

This is worth noting given the schemes introduced over recent years by certain local authorities, such as Islington in north London, which imposes surcharges for parking permits for all private diesel cars, regardless of how much they are used or whether they meet the most recent – and therefore most stringent – emissions standards23.


55% of drivers support the Government's proposal to establish Clean Air Zones where pollutant levels exceed safe standards

27% of drivers are unaware of plans for Clean Air Zones


Finally, there has been a small increase in the percentage of motorists who agree that the current level of motoring taxes is a 'fair price' for the environmental damage that vehicle use can cause: 35% now support this assertion (31% in 2015) against 31% who oppose it (34% last year).


Environmental Concerns

42% of drivers support the introduction of charges for all diesel vehicles entering areas with the poorest air quality

30% of motorists do not think it's a good idea to impose charges on diesel vehicle owners for entering the poorest air quality areas

35% agree that the current level of motoring taxes is a 'fair price' for the environmental damage that vehicles can cause