With air quality in London at dangerous levels, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) is fast becoming a reality. Not only will older petrol and diesel cars be banned from parts of the centre of London by 2020, but from the January 1, 2018, all newly registered taxis must be zero emissions capable, either all-electric or hybrid.
Millions in funding has been secured by TfL to help taxi drivers achieve a target of 9,000 zero-emissions capable taxis by 2020. This includes incentives of up to £5,000 (on top of existing government incentives) for taxi drivers to decommission their cabs when their vehicles reach 10 years of age.
In January 2017, London’s air pollution levels surpassed even Beijing, with nearly a fifth of nitrogen oxide emissions, according to TfL’s own figures, coming from black cabs. Despite this, London Mayor Sadiq Khan recently announced that cabs will be exempt from the ULEZ.
“As part of our bold plans to tackle air pollution TfL are using the licensing powers they have to clean up London’s black cabs,” said a City Hall spokesperson. “From 2018, all new black cabs will have to be zero emission capable – plug in or hybrid vehicles. TfL are also providing £40 million in funding to help retire older black cabs more quickly.”
But it is not just taxis. As we’ve seen from Volkswagen’s dieselgate, diesel engines in general are far more polluting than previously thought. As a result, a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, according to a draft clean air plan, is being considered. This would see people given as much as £8,000 to trade in certain cars for a new electric car.
However, this would only affect around 15,000 Euro 1-5 diesel cars and Euro 1-3 petrol cars. These make up a tiny percentage of cars on the road. Despite this, the proposed scheme could still cost £120 million. The same plan also looks at retrofitting buses, trucks, and taxis with devices that would reduce their NO2 emissions.
Hammersmith & Fulham has unveiled one alternative. It is the first council in London to offer residents Bluecity, an electric car club similar to the Santander cycle. Members can pick the car up from one of the 85 charging points. They can also reserve a car 30-minutes in advance and leave it in one of many compatible charging bays in London, with an app helping them to find it. A year of membership which usually costs £5 per month and 17p per minute of driving with a minimum of £3.40, is being offered to Hammersmith & Fulham residents for free.
In the summer of 2017, the number of charging points in the capital is expected to grow to 150, all of which will be accessible to Bluecity club members. At the current rate of growth, by 2020, it is expected that electric car charging stations will outnumber petrol stations in the UK. Over 75 percent of petrol stations have closed since 1970, while the number of charging stations has risen from a few hundred in 2011 to over 4,100 in 2016.