Mayor confirms low emission vehicle discount scheme

An Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED) is to be introduced for the London congestion charge scheme in July, the Mayor Boris Johnson has confirmed.

It will replace the existing discount and mean that only the greenest zero or ultra-low emission vehicles driving into the capital receive a 100% discount on the congestion charge, the Mayor’s office announced yesterday (April 23).

The London Mayor Boris Johnson has confirmed that changes to the congestion charge discount scheme will come into effect this summer

The London Mayor Boris Johnson has confirmed that changes to the congestion charge discount scheme will come into effect this summer

To qualify for the new discount, which will be introduced on July 1 2013, vehicles will have to be either pure electric or be cars and vans that emit 75g/km or less of CO2 and meet the Euro 5 emission standard for air quality.

The ULED replaces the current Greener Vehicle Discount (GVD) and the Electric Vehicle Discount, although anyone registered for the latter will automatically be transferred to the new ULED. However, cars currently registered for GVD will not meet the criteria for the new ULED.

As a result, the changes – which were proposed in January – have been criticised by both motor groups for “moving the green goalposts” and also by air quality campaigners for not being strict enough (see airqualitynews.com story).

One of the aims of making the changes is to help tackle the increasing dieselisation of London’s car fleet, as according to the Mayor’s office diesel car sales have increased from around 10% to 50% in the last 10 years, partly as a result of low carbon vehicle incentives. However a Euro 4 standard diesel car emits about 22 times as much particulate matter as the equivalent petrol car.

Two further changes announced to the charge scheme include the removal of the option to pay the charge in shops, which is now used for only 6% of payments, from July 26 2013. The Mayor’s office said this was to reduce the costs of operating the scheme as fewer people were paying using this method. However, drivers will still be able to pay using a other means, including online, by phone, by text message or by the CC Auto Pay system.

Also, the level of penalty charge will increase from £120 to £130 on May 20 2013, which will bring it in line with other moving traffic, bus lane and parking penalty charges within London.

Sunset period

The discount changes follow a 12-week consultation on the proposals, which sought the views of Londoners, businesses and key stakeholders (see airqualitynews.com story).

According to the Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) a number of comments in the consultation raised concerns that many drivers previously decided to purchase low emissions cars in order to benefit from the current discount, but under the new discount scheme these cars will not be eligible.

As a result, current owners of cars registered for the GVD will continue to receive a full discount for that vehicle for a ‘sunset period’ of three years – an increase from the two years proposed in the consultation.

The sunset period for the owners of vehicles currently registered for the GVD will therefore end on 24 June 2016.

Matthew Pencharz, the Mayor of London’s advisor on the Environment, said: “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.

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.”

While the ULED is technology neutral, no currently available diesel car would meet the criteria for the discount and this is unlikely to change in the immediate future, according to the Mayor’s office.

John Mason, TfL’s director responsible for congestion charging, said: “We were pleased with the level of response from Londoners, businesses and stakeholders which has helped us and the Mayor shape our decisions. We’ve listened to the responses and have decided to extend the sunset period for current GVD registered vehicles by an additional year. We are confident that these changes will make the scheme greener and more efficient.”

Over the past four years, the Mayor claims, the standard of the Low Emission Zone in London has been tightened to further reduce the emissions of around 150,000 vehicles.

The first of Europe’s largest fleet of hybrid buses were also introduced in London this month by the Mayor (see airqualitynews.com story). There are now currently eight prototype new buses in service with a further 600 entering service by 2016.