Drivers using a petrol as an everyday car will suffer if they own a pre-2005 model
Over 1.6m London motorists face having to change their car to comply with the £12/day ULEZ charge to be launched in 2021 — a much bigger figure than officially recognised by the London authorities — according to the car industry’s own estimate obtained by Autocar.
The 1.6m figure comes from the SMMT car-makers trade body, which compiles detailed registration figures for the industry. Its figure includes cars inside the ULEZ zone as well as the outer London Boroughs, many of which would normally be driven inside the zone.
Breaking down the SMMT figures, it says 782,439 Euro 0-5 diesels and 858,018 Euro 0-3 petrols are registered in the Greater London area.
TfL has provided Autocar with 2016 figures for the cars with the same emissions categories - 321k diesels and 255k petrols – a total of 576k.
The approximate 1m difference between the two is likely to represent the number of cars in the Greater London area — inside the M25 — many of which can be expected to venture into the ULEZ area putting pressure on their owners to change to more modern cars.
Breaking down its figures for the 2016 ‘Greater London Motorparc’, the SMMT says that 782,439 diesels and 858,018 petrols will be hit by the new rules which single out Euro 0-5 diesels and Euro 0-3 petrols for a £12/day charge.
Whereas TfL believes that just 321k diesels and 255k petrols will be affected – a total of 576k.
If accurate, the large SMMT figure suggests a staggeringly rapid changeover will wipe out huge numbers of otherwise serviceable older cars and ‘young classics’ on London’s roads over the next three years.
Hardest hit will be owners of relatively new EU5 diesels — models most closely associated with dieselgate — which today might be only 3.5 years old. By 2021 the last of the EU5s will be just seven years old – that’s the average age of the British car fleet.
Drivers using a petrol as an everyday car, will suffer if they own a pre-2005 model, the date EU4 started. Today those models are 12 years old, still relatively new with plenty of mileage left in them.
But worst hit will be enthusiast owners of ‘young classics’. Complete generations of 1980s, 1990s and 2000s enthusiast cars will become prohibitively expensive to run as daily drivers in London.
In defence of its policy, Alex Williams, TfL’s Director of City Planning, linked the policy to air pollution, especially around London’s schools.
“Urgent action is required to tackle London’s air quality crisis and reduce emissions from older more polluting vehicles,” he said.
“We are currently consulting on expanding the ULEZ, which would see a 71 per cent reduction in schools in high pollution areas in 2021 – lowering the exposure of school children to harmful toxins that can reduce their lung development.”
Issuing a plea to motorists to engage with the consultation by February 28th, Williams said: “I would encourage anyone who is affected by the proposals to respond to the consultation to help us shape our plans.”
TfL’s analysis expects many motorists to change to newer cars to avoid the £12/day charge, although it hasn’t commented on the stark choice facing owners of ‘young classics’ – serviceable sports models that will ultimately become the classics of tomorrow.
This group includes multiple generations of the Porsche 911 and Boxster/Cayman, Mazda MX-5, VW Golf GTi, Ford Escort/Sierra Cosworths, BMW M3/Z3/Z4, Merc S-Class/CLK/SLK/SL and many Volvo models. Even the first BMW Mini will be ensnared, sales started in 2001. While the Land Rover Defender, including the final run ‘Heritage’ model, will be forced out of London.
“We are not outlawing or banning any cars,” says a TfL spokesman, “there is still the option to use a car, but only after paying a £12 charge. Owners may just choose to use their vehicle less often.”
In reality an owner who uses a ‘young classic' every day faces an annual bill of £4380, while an overnight trip away — say to Silverstone or Goodwood — will cost £24 because the charge be paid on the journey out and back in over the weekend.
TfL says it expects 100,000 cars, 35,000 vans and 3,000 lorries per day to “be affected when it is introduced in 2021.”
But if the SMMT figure is accurate, the number will surely be much higher.
Experience of the Congestion Charge (CC) also suggests that £12 will be a significant constraint: Why else introduce it? TfL has previously boasted of “pricing off” private cars from central London with the £11.50 CC.
Motorists will also remember that the CC started out at £5 in 2003 and has steadily more than doubled, first to £8 in 2005, £10 in 2008 and £11.50 in 2014.
Although the CC was not intended to reduce pollutants, it is worth noting that TfL’s itself reports no improvement in air quality in central London.
The T-Charge is being extended across London to address NOx and particulates (PPM), said to breach EU standards. The UK government has lost legal cases and now faces significant fines from the EU.
Countrywide, London’s ULEZ is just the start, however, with three other cities earmarked: Birmingham, Manchester and Oxford.
The widespread introduction of ANPR-enforced anti-car zones in UK cities also gives organisations like TfL and local authorites the power to ban any type of car as, and when, they wish.
In London, at least, owners of historic cars will be exempted from the ULEZ, largely thanks to lobbying by the Federation of British Historical Vehicle Clubs. “We have a strong argument that older, collector cars produce a tiny volume of pollutants and TfL has accepted that argument,” says FBHVC spokesman Geoff Lancaster.
Historic cars are defined as 40 years old by the government, so by 2021, cars dating from 1981 will be exempt. And because the cut-off advances yearly, mid-80s cars will assume exemption by 2025, but that may be too late for many owners of ‘young classics’.
Autocar estimates suggest the total UK number of older petrol and diesels could be as high as 6 million. Since London makes up 8.4 per cent of the UK fleet, that’s equivalent to at least 500k cars, a huge number.