Ultra Low Emission Zone could be extended to twice the size
The new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has unveiled proposals to substantially increase the size of the clean air charging zone in a bid to tackle the air pollution problems the capital faces.
Other policy suggestions announced by the new Mayor include extra charges for the most polluting vehicles and giving the go-ahead for Transport for London (TfL) to start looking at the costs and challenges of implementing a diesel scrappage scheme as part of a wider national scheme delivered by the Government.
For fleets that operate significant numbers of vehicles in the London area, the new proposals will need careful consideration to ensure they fully understand them and do not fall foul of the new regulations in the future.
What’s being proposed?
A proposed new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which will now be subject to a public consultation, will stretch from the north to south circular roads rather than just the much smaller congestion charge zone in central London.
This would more than double the size of the existing zone and is intended to act as an incentive to drivers to use cleaner vehicles or alternative transport to reduce the levels of 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 within two years.
Extra charges for the most polluting
The Mayor’s office is considering an extra charge on the most polluting vehicles to be brought in from next year which would be administered in parallel to the congestion charge system.
New restrictions would apply to large vans and minibuses with those registered before September 1, 2016 required to pay a daily charge of £12.50; and HGVs, buses and coaches registered before 2014 facing a daily charge of £100.
If the daily charge is not paid, a penalty charge of £1,000 (reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days) will be issued.
The original proposals for the ULEZ, which was set to come in from September 2020 but could now come into force in 2019, also included cars and car derived vans registered prior to September 2015.
This category was not specifically mentioned by the Mayor and the likelihood is that the extra charge will not apply to them next year but when the new ULEZ rules come in, possibly in 2019.
Blueprint for other cities?
There are suggestions that London’s new clean air proposals could form a blueprint for how vehicles are targeted in other major UK cities.
Similar air quality problems to London affect many other urban area places in the UK and the proposals could serve as a model for other conurbations.
An estimated 10,000 deaths a year in London are caused by poor air quality and the capital’s air is typically in contravention of European clean air standards.
Much of the UK has, in fact, been in breach of EU NOx pollution limits for five years now and last year the Government was forced by the European Supreme Court to publish an action plan on how to tackle the issue.
The resultant plan was published in December, but London, Birmingham, Leeds and other major cities will still be in breach of NOx limits for at least another five years, despite the new measures.
However, there is evidence of a general trend towards central and local government working together to improve air quality, and four conurbations – Nottingham, Bristol, Milton Keynes and London – have recently been announced as winners of a competition to find the likeliest Go Ultra Low cities.
The four winners will now become international pioneers of green vehicle technology, after winning a share of £40 million to boost the number of plug-in cars on their roads.
Led by the Go Ultra Low campaign, a collaboration between a consortium of vehicle manufacturers, Government and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the winners will receive funding that encourages thousands of people to consider switching to an electric car.
In turn, this is intended to further boost the UK’s growing electric vehicle sector, improve air quality in urban hotspots and help the Government meets its emission-cutting targets.
So what are the cities proposing?
In London, £13 million has been earmarked to create ‘neighbourhoods of the future’, prioritising ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs) in several boroughs across the capital.
Proposals include over a dozen streets in Hackney going electric, with charging infrastructures such as car-charging street lighting; while Harrow will develop a low emission zone, offering parking and traffic priority to owners of plug-in vehicles.
Meanwhile, Milton Keynes will receive £9 million to open an ‘EV experience centre’ – a ‘one-stop-shop’ providing consumer advice and short-term vehicle loans. The city also proposes to open up all of its 20,000 parking bays for free to EVs, and will co-brand bus lanes as ‘low emission lanes’, giving plug-in vehicles the same priority as local buses.
Bristol will get £7 million to offer free residential parking for ULEVs, over 80 rapid and fast chargers across the city, and a scheme encouraging people to lease a plug-in car for up to four weeks, thereby helping them to better understand the range of benefits that EVs bring.
And Nottingham will use £6 million of funding to install 230 charge points while offering ULEV owners discount parking, as well as providing access to over 13 miles of bus lanes along key routes.
ULEV sales on the rise
Sales of ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs) reached record proportions last year at 28,188 new units more than the past five years’ totals combined. The swing to electric and hybrid electric power marked a 94% annual increase compared to the previous year.
Fuelling the increased demand for ULEVs 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
How can companies benefit?
For UK businesses that want to deliver cost savings, improve employee motivation and reduce their environmental impact, implementing a green fleet policy which includes a proportion of ULEVs is one route to consider.
A carefully thought through 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, so finding the right choice is less problematic than before.
If you would like more information on putting together a green fleet policy, please get in touch.