The independent London newspaper

Let’s have a proper debate on fuels and air quality

30 March, 2017

• A FINE meeting on March 22 – the discussion turned to air quality and how greedy overdevelop­ment of the land alongside the Regent’s Canal poses many unwanted effects.

Not least is the “canyon” trapping still air with the lack of circulation we now see on many city streets, where previously building height was limited to the five to six storeys, which could be comfortably used without mass use of lifts, and where access to the canal as a freight network could remove four or five diesel-fuelled trucks and their noise, fumes, dust and road damage, per barge-load, with the conversation turning to diesel or more rightly Doctor Rudolf Diesel, who gave his name to the thermal cycle for the compression-ignition internal combustion engine.

Diesel’s original engines used peanut oil, and a diesel cycle can be powered by an amazing range of fuels.
There are also some straight-swap electric drive packs already in use on HGVs and buses, which provide approximately similar performance.

Here is perhaps the clue to making some quicker and more affordable moves to address air quality without the “cliff-edge” challenge of an immediate total replacement of every taxi, van, HGV, bus, with an entire new vehicle well before the original vehicle has delivered its planned life and, for a commercial user, fully paid off its purchase cost.

London already has many LPG-powered taxis, and a home-fuelled CNG vehicle, filled overnight using a plug-in compressor already used for CNG forklift trucks, would need 1.5 units of electricity and a suitable connection to mains gas or a bio-gas supply.

One UK city region is considering the “fuel-change” option as with London potentially grabbing all electric taxi production, where will other cities turn to get taxis?

What then will be done to convert or eliminate the need for the surging number of sub-HGV sized vans delivering online shopping.

There are answers but the debate needs to start now.

Which brings me back to that meeting on canal issues with most boats, currently using diesel (cetane) fuel and even those at moorings running engines daily to charge batteries.

A few have solar panels (which become rather useless when 8-plus storey developments close in the canal to daylight) and a project to install electricity shore supply pillars, seems to be in a state of stasis.

Air quality may have a main focus on road traffic but we should not leave this as the sole focus.

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