The Liberal Democrats on the London Assembly said diesels should be banned or face stringent tests to stop the city’s air becoming more polluted.But a spokesman for the mayor said it would have a “serious economic impact”.
In September, VW admitted installing software to cheat emissions tests in 11 million of its diesel cars worldwide.
Previously the London Assembly environment committee said diesel vehicles accounted for 40% of the capital’s air pollution with Public Health England suggesting 3,000 people die annually as a result of it.
In 2020 an Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) will be introduced restricting vehicle access to London’s congestion zone
The cleanest vehicles will be allowed to travel for free, while cars, vans and motorbikes will be charged £12.50 and HGVs and lorry will have to pay £100.
But the Liberal Democrats fear the unreliability of emissions tests mean even those vehicles classed as “clean” could actually be polluters.
Lib Dem Stephen Knight said: “The Volkswagen scandal highlighted this more than anything else, so we need to make measures now to ensure that the only vehicles entering the ULEZ in 2020 are absolutely either zero emission or ultra low emission vehicles.
“The simple answer to that is to say we won’t allow diesel vehicles into the zone. ”
But the city’s deputy mayor for environment, Matthew Pencharz, said: “To say to every van owner and to every HGV driver ‘I’m sorry you can no longer drive into central London’ may have a serious economic impact.”
The experts, also, say the problem goes beyond the VW scandal.
Dr Gary Fuller from King’s College London said: “The problem’s to do with what comes out of the back of the car when they’re driven. In the real world it isn’t just confined to VW.
“We know all the most modern vehicles are emitting somewhere between six and seven times the amount of nitrogen dioxide pollution…so we hope that cars get better as the fleet is renewed, but we have to wait and see.”