The biggest reduction has been in personal travel, which includes cars, motorbikes and buses. Fuel usage in these types of transport is down by 31%. The reduction for freight transport, which includes vans and lorries, is down by 22%. Personal travel accounts for 2½ times the fuel consumed by freight.
As previously reported by Urbs, traffic volumes have gone down by about 7% since 2004 despite a rising population. But the reduction in fuel consumption can also be attributed to better fuel economy for vehicles.
The estimates are based upon data modelling by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and it shows that fuel consumption, like car ownership, is highest in the outer boroughs, particularly those north of the river, such as Enfield, Barnet and Havering. The highest consumption level is in Hillingdon.
The estimates look at where fuel is consumed rather than where it was bought so areas with large arterial roads are likely to have higher consumption levels – the M4 running out through Hillingdon or the M1 in Barnet, for example.
The reduction in consumption is good news environmentally but the data reveals a statistic which is having an impact on the city’s air quality – the shift from petrol to diesel cars. In 2004 consumption of diesel was about 20% of the consumption level for petrol. By 2013 it was 67%.
Diesel engines were promoted by the government as they produce lower levels of emissions that contribute to climate change, but they produce higher levels of N02. Recent research by Kings College found that NO2 is having a far more harmful impact on health than had been previously recognised and responsible for nearly 6,000 deaths a year.