Category Archives: Environment

Is this New Charge Toxic?

If you haven’t driven in London for a while and you’re about to, then you might be in for a shock. Following on from the congestion charge and the Low Emission Zone, we now have the T-charge!

Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has started his crusade to make London one of the world’s greenest cities, and is targeting the most polluting vehicles .

The T-Charge is a £10 levy on those who drive older petrol and diesel vehicles in central London and it’s in addition to the £11.50 congestion charge making it £21.50 per day. This means it would cost an eye watering £107.50 to drive into central London 5 days a week.

How does the system work?

The system uses all the same cameras and payment technology that the existing congestion charge does.

Anyone who doesn’t pay the charge will be fined £130, though TfL generously reduce this to £65 if you pay promptly. (Within 2 weeks)

Most privately owned vehicles registered before 2006 will have to pay an extra £10 to drive in London. The new charge is payable between 7am and 6pm Monday – Friday excluding Bank Holidays and the period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

 Arguments on both sides

Some say the new legislation doesn’t go far enough and want all diesel vehicles banned, old, new and even buses and taxis.

On the other side of the argument the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said it will make London very uncompetitive. Whilst London’s Conservative MP’s say the T-charge will hit poorer drivers.

Khan’s says “10,000 Londoners a year die prematurely due to long-term exposure to air pollution” and therefore something has to be done, but others say the benefits of this new charge will make such a small difference that it is nothing more than a PR exercise by the Mayor.

Critics of the T-charge say that it is penalising drivers while having minimal effect on the capital’s air, with nitrogen oxide levels only expected to fall by around 2%.

About the only group totally happy with this are motorcycle riders who are not liable for the T-charge.

Exemptions

Fire, police and ambulance vehicles, TfL registered taxis; mini-cabs as well as breakdown recovery vehicles are exempt from the charge.

If you live within the T-charge zone or are a blue badge holder you are entitled to discount.

How many are affected?

Possibly 30,000 vehicles per month could be paying the new extra charge if they don’t change their motoring habits, according to TfL data.

Many motorists claim that they have not seen any signage for the T-charge and that it had been introduced with very little warning.

It will get worse/better

Depending on your point of view The T-Charge is just the start as the “Ultra Low Emission Zone” with even tighter restrictions is coming into play from 2019.

Some motoring groups are concerned that drivers on low incomes will be hit hardest by the T-charge, but were not totally against the new scheme as most agree something needs to be done.

The sale of new diesel cars in and around London has dropped by 33% in the last 12 months and it will decline still further when people factor in this new charge. The value of pre 2006 second hand cars is also likely to be adversely affected.

Are Trends Electric?

Recent moves to discourage car owners from purchasing diesel vehicles via urban pollution charges et al were highlighted here , but now the move away from the nitrous emissions is gaining further pace. How far away are we from moving fully into the electric/hybrid era? It could be sooner than you think.

UK Government Plans

As it stands the Government is planning to end the production of all petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040. Along with our Gallic chums over the channel they see it as the best way to combat the alarming rise in air pollution that blights so many of metropolitan areas. As we reported previously, charges are being implemented to dissuade the public from using diesel cars but this is now a far more drastic turn of events. The commitment seems clear and for generations that have grown up only ever knowing petrol driven cars it may seem strange. However moves across the industry are afoot to make this plan a reality.

Volvo Takes Action

In July news hit the UK media that Volvo are setting out to only make cars with an electric motor from 2019. This will be a huge step and mean that they will become the first major player to build vehicles that are not solely reliant on the internal combustion engine. Volvo’s Chinese owners Geely have been the chief drivers for electric vehicle production in recent times. They are spearheading the move to electric in their homeland and sold over a quarter of a million electric vehicles there in 2016. That is compared to just over 100k throughout the whole of Europe. They mean business.

For their part, Volvo aim to sell a million electric vehicles by 2025. Whether any other manufacturers follow suit with such a business plan remains to be seen but it is certain that the progress of the strategy will be followed very closely by the competition.

UK Reaction

Private owners will be monitoring the purchase and running costs alongside whatever environmental concerns they might have. However the real training ground for the move to electric will be seen across the UK car fleet sector and the early signs are that they are ready and willing to embrace it. The ability to spread the higher purchase costs over several years is attractive when combined with the electric cars’ reduced running costs. Another key point is that most recharging facilities are situated on major routes which are the main highways used by fleet companies. They make fewer journeys though the back roads than the average private user, where recharging points are few and far between.

Conclusion

It’s dangerous to make too many conclusions in the early stages of a major shift in an industrial strategy; however several pieces of the jigsaw are now in place and with Government policies, manufacturers’ desire to lead the way in the move away from petrol/diesel and the willingness of the fleet sector to embrace the change, it does appear that the days fossil fuelled vehicles could be coming to an end. In a fast changing world nothing is certain but at this stage it would be wise for company fleet buyers and individual motorists to familiarise themselves with what a major shift to electric vehicles would mean for you out on the road.

DIESEL FINISHED?

New global measures are clearly identifying diesel engines as the main culprit regarding urban air pollution. What does this mean for the future of diesel? What penalties await owners of diesel vehicles? What happened to the promises made to buyers of diesel cars?

Less than two decades ago, vehicle owners were encouraged to purchase diesel cars and incentives such as lower road tax lead many to the showrooms to help do their bit for the environment and save a few pennies into the bargain. Yet today things are very different and diesel owners face a myriad of rising costs from purchase to parking. Justifiably many also feel let down and frustrated by the direct shift in attitude but how did it all come about?

What has changed?

Back in the early 2000s the main focus of environmental issues was to reduce carbon emissions. No bad thing of course, whatever your view on the role played by man in climate change, cleaner air is always something to strive for. This led to the diesel engine becoming the green champion of the highways. With its high MPG and low CO2 output they flew the flag for a greener, cleaner world.

However since those days the pollution levels of major cities has increased to such a point that the whole diesel landscape has shifted dramatically. This time it isn’t carbon at the core of the argument but its sinister cousin nitrogen. Diesel emits several forms of nitric gases, labelled under the general term NOx.  They include Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) which are the gases found to be the most active in urban pollution. So its away with the shining armour and a lady’s colours flowing proudly from its lance and into the village green stocks to be pelted with rotten tomatoes and have abuse screamed in its ears. Such is the fickle nature of the diesel’s fate.

Penalties

Governments across the globe are starting to implement measures to combat the rise of pollution by banning diesels from entering their walls. Berlin began by banning diesels when air quality was dangerously low back in 2008. Paris has just introduced a similar scheme and alongside Mexico City, Athens and Madrid have further schemes to ban diesels altogether from the mid-2020s. In April 2017 Westminster is introducing a pilot scheme to charge diesels 50% more than petrol cars to park in the district. Add in talk of scrappage schemes, higher road tax and these proposed increases to parking charges and we have a multi-pronged attack on the engine and its owners.

The Future

It’s hard to predict what future the diesel engine has. You only have to look at the change in attitudes in just 15 years to see that it could happen again in the opposite direction. However at the moment it has to be a very uncertain future. Buyers will be looking to save money and will clearly not be attracted to a new vehicle if it comes with higher road tax, parking charges and limitations regarding access to urban areas.

The motor industry has faced many mixed messages in its life and that has only been exacerbated by recent news that vehicle duty is also set to rise markedly for electric/hybrid vehicles as well. If it isn’t the end for diesel it could well be the beginning of the end, for non-business or industry users at any rate. During the next decade more will become clear but for now the future for diesel is as shrouded in mystery as the clouds of fumes that emanate from its exhaust.