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London tightens up congestion charge in attempt to drive out diesel

Central Zone in London

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “London tightens up congestion charge in attempt to drive out diesel” was written by By Jessica Shankleman for BusinessGreen, part of the Guardian Environment Network, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 24th April 2013 10.05 UTC

The business case for buying electric vehicles in London became even stronger yesterday, after the Mayor of London announced plans to make all diesel vehicles pay the Congestion Charge.

Transport for London (TfL) confirmed it will replace the existing Greener Vehicle and Electric Vehicle Discounts with a stricter Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED) from July 1.

Cars currently qualify for the Greener Vehicle Discount if they emit 100g/km of CO2 or less and meet the Euro 5 standard for air quality, meaning some low emission diesel cars are exempt from the charge.

But to qualify for the ULED, vehicles will have to either be pure electric or emit 75g/km or less of CO2 and meet the Euro 5 emission standard for air quality.

TfL expects that no diesel car on the market would meet the new criteria for the discount now or in the immediate future.

Matthew Pencharz, the Mayor of London’s adviser on the environment, said the move was specifically designed to curb the growing number of diesel vehicles on London’s roads.

A Euro 4 diesel car emits about 22 times as much particulate matter as the equivalent petrol car, but sales of diesel vehicles in the capital have climbed up from a 10 per cent to a 50 per cent market share over the past decade, partly as a result of low carbon incentives.

“These changes are in line with the Mayor’s aim to improve air quality in London by reducing emissions from private vehicles and promoting the further development of low emission vehicles,” said Pencharz in a statement. “We want to encourage the continued development of these technologies, while also protecting the benefits to traffic flow in the centre of London that the charge provides.”

However, TfL also confirmed diesel drivers already receiving the Greener Vehicle Discount will continue to be eligible until June 2016.

TfL had previously proposed a two-year sunset clause, but has extended it to three years following complaints from some drivers that they had recently purchased new vehicles specifically to receive the discount.

In related news, a new government report has cast doubt over TfL’s planned £10m investment in catalysts for buses, after finding little evidence the technology cuts nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.

TfL recently announced plans to fit Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) to 900 buses, after research found they can remove up to 88 per cent of NOx emissions.

However, a new draft report by researchers at King’s College London and Newcastle University, commissioned by Defra, found little evidence that SCR reduces NOx emissions compared to other technologies.

A spokesman for TfL was formulating a comment on the new report at the time of going to press.

The report is likely to cause fresh concerns among environmental campaigners that the Mayor is failing to adequately tackle air pollution levels.

London is currently breaching legal limits for NO2, and under current plans, it is unlikely to sufficiently reduce NO2 pollution until 2025. As a result, the European Commission is planning to launch infraction proceedings against the UK early next year, which could potentially lead to hundreds of millions of pounds in fines.

As revealed by BusinessGreen last month, the Commission is also considering fresh legal action over allegations London officials “massaged” air quality data last year by applying dust suppressant technology near to official monitoring stations.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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