Electric vehicles aren’t the answer to cleaner air, according to York’s climate boss.

Just like petrol and diesel cars, electric cars contribute to pollution in the air, despite not omitting nitrogen dioxide, said Cllr Kate Ravilious, who shares the environment executive brief on City of York Council with Cllr Jenny Kent.

Electric cars, like all cars, produce "really damaging" small particles that pollute the air from the wear and tear of the vehicle’s tyres and brakes, claimed Cllr Ravilious.

“Electric vehicles are not the solution to pollution on their own,” she said.

“There are different kinds of pollution.

“There’s nitrogen oxides, which electric vehicles definitely help with, but there’s also particulates, which get deep into your lungs and are really damaging.

“They come from brake wear and tyre wear and electric vehicles are still going to produce those particulates.

“Even if we switched everything to electric, we’d still have problems with particulates that we need to deal with.

“Ultimately the only way we’re really going to get on top of it is reducing the amount of traffic travelling.

“The places where this is happening are often the streets that are quite canyon-like, so they’ve got tall buildings on either side and the pollution gets trapped in those streets.”


Areas where this is most prominent include Gillygate, Bootham, St Leonards Place, Blossom Street and Rougier Street, said Cllr Ravilious.

She added: “It’s clear why it is happening.

“The architecture of the street traps the pollution and those streets also happen to be very busy.

“So in the longer term, the way we’ve got to tackle that is putting in place our movement plan for the city.

“One of the objectives of that movement plan is to reduce the amount of traffic by 20 per cent, which is about the reduction of traffic we see in the school holidays.

“We can’t wave a magic wand and make the pollution better overnight, but there are small things we can look at to try to improve those areas, such as changing the timing of traffic lights so we don’t get a build-up of traffic on those particular canyon-like streets.”

Meanwhile, the economy and transport executive Cllr Pete Kilbane recently set out his desire to get more people on their bikes.

“We don’t want to keep the same number of people walking and cycling,” he said.

“We want to double it and we will be bringing forward a local transport plan for consultation this year for people to look at some of the ways that we could do that.”

Despite 30 per cent of York residents regularly journeying to work by foot or bike, compared to 9.6 per cent nationally, York’s air quality did not improve last year.

But public protection manager Mike Southcombe has said transport isn’t the only contributor.

“Although historically they’ve been affected by traffic pollution, they aren’t the only source of pollution,” he said.

“I’m finding more and more that it’s other sources such as domestic heating and commercial heating that’s impacting it in particular.”