Businesses in London are investing millions of pounds in low emission technology ahead of the introduction of the capitalâ€™s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in just over six months.
But, despite the approaching deadline which will see tougher emissions standards enforced across the city from April 2019, a major logistics business has warned that many firms remain unprepared for the changes.
The ULEZ is to be introduced in the centre of the city from early 2019, before expanding out to the North and South Circulars in 2021.
Replacing the T-Charge, drivers of diesel cars and vans below the Euro 6 emissions standard, and petrol cars and vans below the Euro 4 standard, will be required to pay a daily charge of Â£12.50 to enter the zone. For heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) below the Euro VI emissions threshold this charge will total Â£100 per day.
With the prospect of an additional Â£100 in costs likely to be prohibitive for businesses in the capital, many are investing in compliant vehicles, retrofitting existing fleets to meet the tighter standards, or in some cases introducing electric vehicles which will not incur a charge.
Firms operating coaches and buses, and those in logistics, waste and construction industries in the capital are likely to be among those most widely impacted by the introduction of the ULEZ.
This includes the waste and recycling giant Veolia, which is updating its refuse collection vehicle fleet operating on behalf of Westminster city council, to meet the new tougher standards.
Using technology developed by engineering and exhaust specialists Eminox and Amminex, the fleet of Euro V vehicles will use a retrofit system combining Diesel Particulate Filters, Selective Catalytic Reduction and ASDS technology.
Testing has suggested that the retrofitted vehicles fall below the Euro VI standard for NOx (<0.08g/km) â€“ as well as meeting the requirements to operate within the ULEZ without incurring the cost.
Pascal Hauret, the companyâ€™s regional director for London, said: â€œAs one of the UKâ€™s largest fleet operators, we play a crucial role delivering cleaner air for London and across the UK.
â€œVeolia has been trialling low emission vehicle technologies with industry leaders like Eminox since 2012, and weâ€™re now ideally placed to support the shift to low emissions, improving air quality in Westminster and beyond.â€
Veoliaâ€™s London competitor Bywaters is taking similar steps to prepare for the ULEZâ€™s April start date â€“ investing a total of Â£7.5 million in new Euro VI vehicles to operate within the capital.
The investment includes 25 RCVs which will be used to transport up to 650,000 tonnes of waste per year from across the capital to the companyâ€™s recycling facility in Bow.
â€œOur new Mercedes Econic vehicles, which we will be taking delivery of from now until just after Christmas, are the latest in innovation and meet very high standards of quality with the transport sector,â€ Luke Taylor, the companyâ€™s senior transport manager, said.
â€œOur vehicles are the backbone of our services, which is why we have invested Â£7.5 million to purchase a more efficient Euro 6 fleet, which meet NEDC and RDE assessment requirements,â€ he added.
Additional investment is being made in electric vehicles, particularly in the logistics sector with DPD (see airqualitynews.com story) and UPS (see airqualitynews.com story) among those to have pushed ahead with major fleet electrification projects in recent months.
The Original Tour â€“ operator of one of the biggest hop-on hop-off tourist bus services in the capital has also announced plans to introduce electric vehicles across its fleet, the first of which came into service this month, with another three expected to come into operation in 2019.
The move has been welcomed by the Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues, who said that the city needed â€˜bold actionâ€™ to reduce emissions from its bus fleet. She commented: â€œWith six months to go until the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London, electric vehicles are growing in popularity, and people are more aware than ever of the harmful pollution older buses and vehicles can emit. I want to congratulate The Original Tour on the first of many brilliant green sightseeing buses.â€
However, despite the investment from a number of large businesses, delivery firm CitySprint has claimed that many small companies are still yet to prepare for the introduction of the ULEZ.
The companyâ€™s â€˜Collaborate UK 2018â€™ survey canvassed around 1,000 small and medium-sized businesses in July this year â€“ with 50% suggesting that they are unprepared for the introduction of the tougher ULEZ requirements.
The Freight Transport Association has similarly warned that the measure could hit small business owners, and claimed that plans to expand the zone could particularly put businesses at risk.
Speaking in the summer, FTAâ€™s head of UK policy Christopher Snelling, said: â€œWhile some large logistics operators will have mostly compliant fleets, the real losers here will be small companies reliant on their lorries or vans.Â Small firms tend to buy second- hand so will have older vehicles that do not reach the latest emissions standards and will really struggle to raise the loans they will need to buy compliant vehicles a few years early then they would have.â€