Ultra Low Emission Zone launched in London to combat air pollution

08 April 2019

8 April 2019

London has introduced its new tough emissions standard to help reduce air pollution and protect public health.

The Central London Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will operate in the same area as the city’s current congestion charge zone. It is active 24-hours a day, seven days a week, replacing the T-Charge and running alongside the current congestion charge.

Drivers who enter the zone in a vehicle that does not meet Euro 4 standards (petrol) or Euro 6 standards (diesel) will have to pay a daily charge, which equates to £12.50 (€14.50) for cars, vans and motorbikes, and £100 (€116) a day for lorries, buses and coaches. This is on top of the £11.50 (€13.35) congestion charge.

Toxic vehicles

Polluting vehicles account for around 50% of London’s harmful NOx emissions. Air pollution has an annual economic cost to the capital of up to £3.7 billion (€4.3 billion) and costs the country £20 billion (€23.2 billion) every year. The ULEZ will help address London’s toxic air health crisis that currently leads to thousands of premature deaths annually, and increases the risk of asthma, cancer and dementia, the Mayor of London’s office said in a statement.

Since February 2017, when the Mayor announced the introduction of the T-charge as a stepping-stone for the ULEZ, there has been a reduction of around 11,000 in the total number of vehicles seen in the Central London ULEZ zone. Meanwhile, there has also been a 38% rise in the total number of compliant vehicles in the zone between February 2017 and March 2019.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: ′This is a landmark day for our city. Our toxic air is an invisible killer responsible for one of the biggest national health emergencies of our generation. I simply refuse to be yet another politician who ignores it. The ULEZ is the centrepiece of our plans to clean up London’s air – the boldest plans of any city on the planet, and the eyes of the world are on us. 

′This is also about social justice – people in the most deprived parts of London, who are least likely to own a car, suffer the worst effects of harmful air pollution. I will not stand by and watch children grow up with under-developed lungs in our city. The ULEZ is a vital step towards helping combat London’s illegal air.’ 

Unfair penalty

However, the ULEZ could be seen as having unintended short-term penalising effects on drivers. Analysts from Sophus3 have seen growing interest in electric cars over the past 12 months in the UK. Online research into hybrid and pure EVs has doubled, and the four most popular pure EV models saw their online interest increase by 109%. However, this interest, which would drive significant improvement in emissions reduction if converted into sales, is not yet matched on car forecourts.

The combined challenges of an immature infrastructure, lack of incentives and perks, and limited supply of EV cars to buy today, combined with continued consumer confusion over EV ownership, is stifling demand just as the ULEZ legislation is introduced. 

Scott Gairns, managing director of Sophus3, comments: ‘Based on the online car buyer research behaviour we see in the UK, Sophus3 believes that the ULEZ puts the cart before the horse. There is a demand now for EVs, and we would advise that serious consideration is given to promoting the Norway model of a range of perks and incentives combined with aggressive EV targets.’