Alternative fuels could save over 1,250 lives a year

2nd November 2020

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Joanne Sharman

Adopting low-emission fuels for vehicles and machinery now could save more than 1,250 lives in the UK every year, analysis by Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) suggests.

In a report, the EIC explains that alternative fuels such as liquid petroleum gas and hydrotreated vegetable oil could have a large and immediate impact on air pollution levels.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that as many as 64,000 people die prematurely in the UK every year due to poor air quality, which can cause coronary heart disease, strokes, lung cancer and severe asthma. The EIC said that around 10% of all air pollution comes from sectors where alternative fuels can be readily deployed, and with evidence suggesting that they can cut pollution by up to 30%, this could mean more than 1,250 lives saved a year.

“While the government rightly looks to electric vehicles and construction plant as the long-term solution, we should also recognise that alternative fuels could have an immediate impact on air pollution, especially in built-up urban areas,“ said EIC policy director Matthew Farrow. “As we slowly emerge from lockdown, economic recovery gathers pace and traffic and air pollution levels subsequently return to pre-COVID levels, we should remember that we have the solutions to improve air quality now, not just in a decade's time. This move would save lives.“

The report stresses that alternative fuels should be used as an interim measure on the road to full electrification, and would be particularly useful for construction equipment, back-up generators and specialist vehicles such as those used in refuse collection. It also points to a series of successful initiatives, such as grants for retrofitting vehicles and low-emission zones, as examples of measures that could be adopted across other high-polluting sectors.

This comes after separate research by Venson Automotive Solutions found that 38% of UK adults believe the government should introduce more clean-air zones and encourage the take-up of electric vehicles; this figure rises to 55% among 18 to 24-year-olds.

Jim Mills, chair of the EIC's air quality working group, said that the report's recommendations would reduce CO2 emissions by 90% with no capital expenditure on new equipment or refuelling infrastructure. “It's the common sense solution with an immediate impact,“ he added.

Read the full report at

Picture credit: iStock

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