New plans for Ultra Low Emission Zone start 12 months earlier

The recently appointed Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has unveiled new clean air proposals which start 12 months earlier than expected and which include a £10 a day ‘toxicity charge’ for the most polluting vehicles on top of the congestion charge.

Accelerating London’s clear air proposals

When he first took office, the new Mayor proposed a set of new clean air standards to improve London’s air.

However, two months on, and he has confirmed more details of his proposals and moved his agenda forward 12 months with a series of measures described as ‘the toughest emissions standards of any major city in the world.”

His Clear Air Action Plan includes a £10 emissions surcharge on the most polluting vehicles entering central London from just next year. The charge would apply to all vehicles with pre-Euro 4 emission standards, which broadly speaking covers all those registered before 2005.

What else is proposed?

A new Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) would stretch from the north to south circular roads rather than the much smaller congestion charge zone in central London from 2020.

This would more than double the size of the existing zone and is intended to force drivers to use cleaner vehicles or alternative transport to reduce the levels of harmful pollution, such as nitrogen dioxide (NOx), that the capital currently faces,

The Mayor’s office also wants to look at switching procurement of its own bus fleet to hybrid/zero-emission vehicles by 2019, instead of 2020.

And the plans also include developing a detailed proposal for a national diesel scrappage scheme for Government to implement

What has changed?

The Mayor said that, with nearly 10,000 people dying early every year in London due to exposure to air pollution, cleaning up the capital’s toxic air was now an issue of life and death.

He said that on the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act of 1956, Londoners faced another pollution public health emergency that required immediate action.
Tough challenges called for tough measures, hence the need for a new £10 charge for the most polluting vehicles in central London from next year, followed by an even stronger crackdown within three years.

He also called on the Government to work with him and to take more action to tackle air pollution, including passing new legislation fit for the 21st century. This included the provision of new powers and legal protections to ensure that the existing legal limits for air pollutants were retained following Brexit.

Further pressure on diesels

The Mayor’s proposals come at a time when pressure is mounting on diesel-engined vehicles, long the workhorse of the UK fleet market.

A new report from consultants AlixPartners says that diesel engines will account for just 9% of new-car sales in Europe by 2030 – down from about 50% today – as vehicle manufacturers are forced to rely on electrified powertrains to meet tougher emissions rules.

Electrification of the powertrain has to come to Europe to meet tougher emission standards and diesel is going to pay the highest toll, says the report.

AlixPartners expects that by 2022 the number of European plants manufacturing diesel and petrol models will decrease to 55 from the 62 currently in operation. At the same time, plants that build electric motors and electrified models will grow to 40 by 2022 from 26 now.

The consulting firm expects stricter European emission standards to progressively increase the cost of diesels engines, which require expensive after-treatment systems to meet new rules.

This will increase the retail price of diesel models and also will make the total cost of ownership of diesels less competitive.

Diesels exceed emissions targets

Diesel has experienced a series of emissions scares across the globe, says the report. Multiple recent studies have revealed that most of today’s cars, when tested to real driving conditions, exceed the regulatory emission limits in both carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

Future emissions tests, as early as next year, are being changed to reflect real world driving conditions – which are likely to have an enormous impact on the industry.

Although cars can meet near-future emission standards with diesel and petrol engines, the cost of emissions reduction technologies is expected to increase significantly. At the same time, the cost of battery-powered electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids is reducing while range and performance is increasing.

By 2030, if the same purchasing incentives exist, consumers should not see any noticeable differences between the price of a traditionally-powered vehicle and a fully electric vehicle, says the report.

Today, diesels account for about half of European new car sales, with alternative powertrains accounting for just a fraction.

That is expected to change dramatically by 2030 when AlixPartners expects the European new car market to comprise 25% petrol cars, 28% petrol hybrids, 20% electric vehicles, 18% plug in hybrids and just 9% diesels.

AFV sales on the rise

Some 1,420,636 new cars have been registered in the UK so far in 2016 – the best half-year performance ever recorded in this country.

Growth from January to June was reported across all fuel types, with diesel and petrol registrations growing 2.3% and 3.0% respectively in the year-to-date. Alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) meanwhile, continued the significant gains seen over previous months, up 21.3% compared with the first six months of 2015. AFVs now account for 3.2% of the overall new car market.

Sales of AFVs reached record proportions last year at 28,188 new units – more than the past five years’ totals combined. And if the first half of this year is anything to go by, they will reach another new record by the end of 2016.

Fuelling the increased demand is a much greater choice of models, with at least 30 pure electric or plug-in hybrid cars now available in the UK – and growing. These range from high-performance sports cars to capable sports utility vehicles, with more new models on the way this year.

What should companies do?

For UK firms, a carefully thought through and implemented green fleet management policy can deliver significant cost savings and cut the corporate carbon footprint into the bargain.

And a carefully structured approach to green fleet management and vehicle selection can lay the foundations for a fleet which not only delivers lower costs all-round, but also provides significant motivation for employees.

More and more vehicle manufacturers are producing low emission variants with reduced levels of carbon dioxide and other emissions, while the number of EVs and hybrids continue to increase dramatically.

Vehicle choice has never been wider, and this is where the expertise of a fleet management provider can play a significant role, helping steer through the myriad of choices available to arrive at the best solution.

If you would like more information on putting together a green fleet policy, please get in touch.