Auto industry urges London ULEZ rethink

Welcoming plans for an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London by 2020, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) today said London should set the benchmark for the world's great cities by implementing a scheme which demands the very best in vehicle technology.

In an open letter to the Mayor of London, SMMT has called for a rethink of the current proposals set out by Transport for London (TfL) to enforce the latest emission standards for both petrol and diesel vehicles. This reflects the step change in clean diesel technology, and helps to ensure similar schemes across the UK and Europe are harmonised.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, "The implementation of the ULEZ will accelerate the take-up of ultra low and low emission vehicles, but a harmonisation of standards - a technology neutral approach - for petrol and diesel vehicles would strengthen the initiative. Currently the proposed requirements differ for cars and vans.

"SMMT is urging London to be more ambitious with a universal Euro-6 standard for both petrol and diesel vans and cars which would remove any confusion, strengthen the uptake of cleaner technology and bring air quality benefits sooner.

The current proposals for an ULEZ for London dictate the 2006-standard Euro-4 for petrol vehicles and the latest Euro-6 for diesel vehicles. Given the introduction date of 2020, it would therefore allow petrol vehicles of up to 14 years of age to enter without penalty.

By this date the European fleet average should be approaching 95g/km of CO2, whereas a typical petrol car of Euro-4 vintage would have CO2 emissions some 72% higher. Euro-6 petrol and diesel vehicles are on sale now and mandatory from next year meaning that under SMMT's proposals, by 2020, qualifying vehicles would be up to six years old and would be reasonably affordable, potentially on their third owner.

According to the SMMT, the automotive industry is already committed to improved emissions and claims average CO2 emissions for new cars in the UK has fallen by 29% since 2000 to 128g/km in 2013. However, as Next Green Car has reported previously, this fails to account for an increasing discrepancy between the official test cycle and real-world driving conditions.

Criticisms that vehicles fail to deliver real world improvements compared to 'controlled test cycle conditions' are being addressed to some extent with the Euro-6 standards including 'real world' driving emission testing for the first time. This may increase confidence to regulators and consumers alike that these new vehicles are delivering real benefits.

Looking to the future, Mike Hawes added, "We need an integrated approach on air quality at local, regional, national and European level. Fleet renewal, or the uptake of new vehicles on the road, is critical in reducing emissions. Proposals such as London's ULEZ can help deliver this goal.

"Air quality is often a local issue so we need a flexibility that allows for focused initiatives like the ULEZ but which sit within an overall framework of harmonised standards across Europe. The automotive sector must have certainty in policy direction so technology investments can be targeted on addressing key issues such as air quality and climate change."


Peter Thomas

Author:Peter Thomas
Date Updated:16th Dec 2014

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