Toyota has called on the Irish Government to introduce a tax on emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) in the next budget. The call comes on foot of a report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that says NOx levels in Dublin city centre constitute a risk to health.
Gas behind the diesel scandal
NOx is the colourless, odourless gas that is at the root of the diesel emissions scandal which has been rumbling on since 2015. A byproduct of combustion, NOx has been linked to respiratory disease, and is said to cause tens of thousands of deaths across Europe every year. In general, a diesel engine will emit more NOx than and equivalent petrol engine. Theoretically, diesel-engined cars have to stick to a limit of 80mg of NOx per km, but as the Volkswagen scandal showed, many makes and models vastly exceed this figure in real world conditions. According to the EPA, levels of the gas in Dublin city centre are now a serious risk to public health.
Hybrids emit less NOx
Toyota, which has both invested heavily in hybrid powertrains, and which has dropped diesel engines from all but its commercial models now, says that the EPA's report means that there should be a tax on NOx. The Irish importer for Toyota has called on the Government to introduce a NOx element to vehicle registration tax (VRT) in the next budget.
Steve Tormey, CEO of Toyota Ireland, commented: "Toyota stopped selling diesel cars in Europe at the beginning of this year with much evidence being available across the continent and in the UK that fumes from diesel cars have been seriously damaging to human health. Now we have the first clear evidence that the same is true in Dublin. We expect that the expansion of monitoring will, in the future, confirm that similar is also occurring in other Irish cities and towns."
According to Toyota, its hybrid models emit as little as 3-4mg/km of NOx, compared to the 80mg limit for diesel cars. That's 25 times less the legal limit, and on top of that, Toyota points to a recent UCD study that showed that hybrid models were running on electric power as much as 60 per cent of the time when in town.
Ireland still importing older diesels
The NOx problem is exacerbated by the fact that we're still importing large numbers of diesel-engined cars from the UK, many of which are older cars which have higher pollution levels. Toyota has pointed out that the Irish Government is also still effectively subsidising diesel sales: "With cheaper excise rates for diesel fuel than for petrol and a VAT reclaim on diesel fuel used in business, while not allowing the same for petrol fuel used in business. These diesel fuel incentives mean that company cars, which by definition do much more mileage than privately owned cars, are almost exclusively diesel."
Mr Tormey further commented: "While we recognise that in Budget 2019 the Government introduced a one per cent levy on VRT for diesel cars, we believe that Government should now make nitrous oxide emissions part of the VRT calculation in order to improve air quality in our cities."