England could lower speed limit to reduce pollution; do EV drivers have to comply?
Highways England plans to impose the UK’s first pollution-related speed limits to help reduce smog in Sheffield. But why should electric vehicle drivers also slow down?
The speed limit proposal in England
If approved, a mandatory speed limit of 60 mph would be put in place on the M1, a motorway that runs north to south between London and Leeds, between junctions 32 and 35a in Sheffield, where the M1 is nearby schools and homes. The speed limit would be in place between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days a week.
The speed limit on national highways is 70 mph, and it is already 60 mph for buses, coaches, minibuses, vehicles towing objects and some utility vehicles.
Why a speed limit?
Highways England takes into account a study by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published in December 2016, which concluded:
Too fast acceleration or deceleration results in inefficient driving and fuel consumption, with harmful emissions unnecessarily released into the environment.
Road traffic is the source of more than 64% of air pollution in urban areas. Air pollution and its impact on health also cost the UK up to £ 18.6 billion a year.
AutoExpress pointed out in October 2020 that “a study of Welsh roads found that reducing the limit from 70 mph to 50 mph reduced pollution by up to 47%”.
How will this be received by the public?
Probably not with enthusiasm. Sheffield has been identified by the World Health Organization as having dangerously high pollution levels, but an AA spokesperson said [via the Guardian]:
Motorists are always the most affected in terms of pollution when in reality they are not one of the main contributors. There will be people raising their eyebrows as to whether this is just an example of the authorities trying to make it look like they are doing something.
There will be a portion of motorists, who will see that it is not related to safety, and that they are penalized for emissions that are likely to come from other sources as well. This same section will say that they pay billions of pounds in taxes… and if we are contributing that amount of money, why is it not being spent on the road network to fix the problems?
There is a good chance that traffic is already moving at this speed during rush hour.
The AA spokesperson is correct that traffic is already slow at peak times, but someone needs to at least tell them about the Welsh study. Of course, gasoline-powered cars are a major source of pollution.
What about electric cars?
To point out the obvious, the UK has banned all new petrol cars from 2030 – and that’s only 8.5 years from now. So why isn’t Highways England using this opportunity to incentivize and reward EV drivers?
I hold driver’s licenses in the US and UK. When I drive in the UK it is a pleasure (unless I am sitting in a traffic jam on the M25). Drivers are knowledgeable and respectful because the driving test is much more rigorous than, say, the Florida driving test.
(Florida drivers are devilishly bad, in general, but that’s no surprise, considering the test drive is a bit of a joke. And it’s the most expensive state in the United States for the auto insurance for a reason.)
Motorway drivers in the UK as a whole obey the rules for fast and slow lanes. They use their signals and pull out of the fast lane when another car wants to overtake. So there is no reason, considering how British electric cars now have green number plates and are easily identifiable, why electric car drivers should not be rewarded with the privilege of driving at 70 mph on the track. fast between 7pm and 7am in Sheffield if traffic permits. And that would certainly be an added incentive to drive an electric vehicle, which will be mandatory anyway.
Local businesses in Sheffield can test an electric van for free for two months. If the driver finds that it also comes with the privilege of going faster, it will increase the desire to go electric.
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