Clean Air Day 2019: how to reduce your emissions from driving

clean air day 2019

Thursday 20 June was the UK’s Clean Air Day 2019. Organised by charity Global Action Plan, Clean Air Day is the UK’s largest air pollution campaign. It’s been conceived to urge people in Britain to think about how they might reduce their emissions and help improve air quality.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), road transport accounts for up to 30 per cent of particulate emissions in Europe. Much of that comes from the exhaust pipes of internal combustion engine vehicles. Here we reveal how car drivers can reduce their emissions and make every day a Clean Air Day.

Plan your trip

Some organisations claim we spend four days out of every year doing it; some say it’s only two. Whoever is right, British drivers take an awful lot of time hunting out somewhere to park their car every year. Consider this: if you spend 10 minutes driving your 120g/km car (something like a Ford Focus or VW Polo) around a city centre looking for a parking space, you’ll have added an extra 400g of CO2 to the environment.

If you plan your journey and research where you’re going to park (possibly even booking a space) ahead of your journey, you’ll get to your destination more quickly and it’ll save you stress, money and reduce pollution.

Make fewer journeys

The warmer an engine is, the more efficiently it runs and the lower its exhaust emissions are. You’ll reduce your environmental impact by combining errands into one journey rather than doing multiple short trips, each requiring the engine to start from cold.

Check your tyres

Tyres continually lose tiny amounts of air. The lower the air pressure, the more friction they generate with the road surface and the more engine power (and therefore exhaust emissions) will be required to go anywhere. We explain how to check tyres here.

When it’s time to replace them, consider doing so with eco tyres. Most manufacturers now produce what are called ‘low rolling resistance’ tyres. These are designed to reduce the amount of energy it takes for each wheel to turn.

Heavy traffic is associated with air pollution (Picture iStock/yevtony)

Keep your car serviced

Your car’s manufacturer will specify a service schedule for your car. This is usually either in the car’s service book or in its user manual and it’s important to stick to it. Green Flag’s head of automotive technology Nick Reid claims drivers frequently underestimate how important regular servicing is. New oil and filters help the engine to run more efficiently and reduce exhaust emissions. In addition, regular servicing should help your car to be more reliable for longer.

Drive more smoothly

Think of the accelerator as a tap. Pressing on it is like turning it on and the more it’s turned on, the more fuel flows. Accelerate progressively and follow these tips to use less fuel. Anticipating things on the road ahead such as cars pulling out of junctions in front of you and traffic lights changing will help you to drive more smoothly too.

Think about the car you drive

Buying an eco-friendly car isn’t as easy as you might think. Electric cars are still expensive and charging them can be problematic. Diesel cars generally have lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than petrol equivalents, but they’re much worse for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. Petrol cars have lower NOx but are worse than diesel for CO2.

Nitrogen oxides are particles that can get into our bodies and cause lung disease. They are responsible for the dirty air around major roads in cities. However, CO2 is one of the gases that climate change is attributed to.

If most of your miles are spent in a congested urban environment, petrol is better. However, if you do lots of miles, most of which are on the motorway or fast roads, diesel is probably the fuel of choice.

And what you’re carrying…

Two things that have an impact on how much fuel a car uses (and therefore its exhaust emissions) are weight and aerodynamics. Keep your car tidy and cut down on carrying unnecessary weight. You can do this removing any kit you never use from the boot. And when you’re not using roof bars or boxes, remove them. They interfere with the car’s aerodynamic profile: the less wind cheating a car is, the more fuel it uses.

9 comments on “Clean Air Day 2019: how to reduce your emissions from driving

  1. Roy Perrett August 13, 2019 7:33 pm

    I ride a bike for local runs and leave my car on the drive as much as possible. I also have a rail card which stops me being delayed in long queues on the motorways.
    .I do use my car when I know there are people who need lifts. I realise that a motoring organisation may not be wanting to promote these ideas.
    I also think that if everyone using a car for work would use public transport one day a week it would take a large percentage of traffic off the roads.

  2. Prof P. August 14, 2019 11:51 am

    “Nitrogen oxides are particles that can get into our bodies and cause lung disease”. No they are not. You seem to be confusing Nitrogen Oxides (which are gasses) with Particulates. Particulates are the small pieces of soot (unburnt fuel) that get into the lungs and cause lung disease. They can be reduced by the use of a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF), but these only store the particulates until a certain time, when they will be burnt off and produce enormous quantities of Unburnt Hydrocarbons (HCs), CO2, and NOx.

  3. Frank Nebs August 14, 2019 3:15 pm

    Lets be realistic. We ain’t going to get clean air. The government will tax us more and more, all in the name of the environment, and then spend it on anything but the environment. We will complain, but we still need to get from A to B, so we will pay and continue to drive. So the air stays bad, so the government will increase the tax, etc. Its a vicious circle, but unfortunately our government only has one stick, taxation, and they are going to hit us with it, harder and harder.

    • Roy Perrett August 28, 2019 11:47 am

      This is a problem that has to be tackled at every level. The wrongs of others governments etc should not be used as an excuse for doing nothing.

  4. J. Green August 14, 2019 3:33 pm

    Very useful information thank you.

  5. Gerald Robbs August 14, 2019 7:14 pm

    I keep my car serviced and carry out all weekly checks. However, I have noticed that newer drivers do not seem to care that much. Some are even not mechanically inclined and won’t do it. Some don’t even get their cars properly serviced! But, I still have to express my opinion that the biggest source of pollutants is the haulage industry – by far! CV Never mind the Edde Stobarts, look at the 8 wheel ballast truck in the construction industries and other HGVs working in non-distribution industries

  6. Alan August 14, 2019 7:30 pm

    On the ground we have trees etc to munch co2’s up in the sky at 35000 ft there is nothing so stop knocking the motorist & kill the planes perhaps we will get somewhere. Just look at all the vapour trails need I say more!

  7. Colin hall August 14, 2019 7:53 pm

    With regards to emissions, my Renault traffic has zero emissions at each mot. Wouldn’t it be nice if the road tax was charged accordingly! Instead of being increased every year.

    • Adrian Abbott August 15, 2019 2:52 pm

      I completely agree with Colin, my X-Trail also has zero emissions according to the MOT tests yet I still have to pay a fortune in Road Tax. Road Tax should be based on a vehicles current emissions and with todays computerisation it shouldn’t be difficult to do.

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