Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Low Emission Zone forces thousands off roads

From today, Tuesday 3rd January, thousands of older transit vans, lorries and 4x4 vehicles will be banned from driving anywhere in London after phases 3 and 4 of the Low Emission Zone comes into force.

Most diesel vehicles registered before 2002 are affected by the new restrictions unless owners pay for an expensive special particle filter to be fitted. The alternative is to buy or new or second-hand vehicle or face heavy fines of between £200 and £500 per day.

While those who own affected vehicles registered inside the London boroughs have been informed of the changes, those beyond London's borders may be oblivious to the new restrictions.

Black cabs also affected

The latest restrictions imposed on London's motorists apply no only to 4x4s, transits, large vans and minibuses, it also affects many black cabs.  It is estimated that around 2,600 cabs, or 10% of the total fleet, will become unlawful as their licence plates expire.

In the past few months many motorists have received letters which for many is a death sentence to their life on the road. Transport for London [TfL] has sent details of how the LEZ will be expanded to include motorhomes, 4 wheel-drive vehicles and transit vans. Those with older diesel vehicles will be forced to modify their vehicle, buy a newer vehicle or face fines of at least £100 per day.

Punitive costs

Many motorists are understandably irate. The cost of modification would in many cases exceed the value of the vehicle, yet replacement would not be convenient or appropriate. To replace an old Landrover or Daihatsu Fourtrak with newer equivalent may run into thousands of pounds.

Despite their age such vehicles can often run for many years, so to scrap them is far from green. A Daihatsu Foutrak bought second-hand in 2003 for £4,000 is worth very little now, yet even with 120,000 miles on the clock it could easily run another 80,000!

Of course there will have been repairs and replacements. Springs changed, after much off-road wear and tear, and there may have been some body welding. But despite its sturdiness and reliability, new legislation is forcing otherwise reliable vehicles off the road.

No cheap option

Owners of such vehicles could move beyond London's boundaries, and make the choice of never entering the metropolis again. That for many would be a little drastic however. There is the option of finding a friend who is willing to allow it to be parked outside their address, given they live outside the LEZ. But failing that, there is only the choice of selling up and buying a replacement or modifying your old vehicle.

All options are far from cheap. A year's tax, insurance, MoT and sundry motoring costs [excluding fuel] might have been around £700 to £1,000. The introduction of this new policy may add between two and six thousand pounds to this. While there are a few complaints on web forums, particularly from Landrover owners living just within the borders, there has yet to be any major backlash concerning the new rules.

Green tax

There are no other LEZs in the UK, but they are common elsewhere with around 50 in the rest of Europe. This seems to be a scheme which is likely to widen as environmental causes are used to squeeze the motorists' wallet. [TfL / Low Emission Zone map - PDF / Low Emission Zones in Europe]

The Green Party said the mayor should have enforced the the new rules sooner and Liberal Democrats at City Hall have called for the introduction of a "Berlin style" Clean Air Zone which excludes specified vehicles from Inner and Central London.

"A Berlin style Clean Air Zone in central London and a big switch to electric buses, taxis and vans should be key priorities for the Mayor in 2012," says Mike Tuffrey, the party's environment spokesperson.

Yet London is one of the cleanest cities in Europe. The London Air Quality Network regularly tweets the quality of the capital's air, yet rarely does it register anything above LOW pollution levels.


London Mayor Boris Johnson insists the policy is important. "Delivering cleaner air is key to my goal of creating a better quality of life for Londoners," he was recently quoted as saying. Meanwhile a TfL statement issued in the Mayor's name confirms implementing the next phase of the LEZ "is part of a comprehensive set of long-term sustainable measures being introduced by the Mayor to tackle the biggest sources of pollution." However the statement appears to contradict claims made by the Mayor's campaign team last April that the third phase was being "imposed" on London by the European Commission and that drivers faced "EU fees" for not complying.

The result of the ill-thought out regulations is that from today thousands of vehicle owners are now without transport, or with a large bill in their pocket if they took out the option of purchasing another vehicle. This at a time when the country faces further financial crises [BBC / MayorWatch].

DPF problems

There are added concerns that complying with the new rules by buying a filter, or even purchasing a new vehicle with such a filter fitted, may create additional problems for motorists.

A report on BBC Watchdog suggests that owners who only do a few miles in their vehicle may create problems for themselves. A diesel vehicle could save money on fuel consumption. But nearly all new diesel vehicles including cars are fitted with an eco-friendly car component which is leaving some motorists with huge bills to pay.

The Diesel Particulate Filter or DPF is fitted to the exhaust to trap the soot and reduce emissions. Introduced to bring cars in line with new EU green emissions rules it can become an issue if a vehicle is used solely for city driving.

The DPF usually cleans itself when the engine runs at high speeds, a process called regeneration. If this does not happen, a warning light indicates that the filter is getting blocked. It must then be cleared by driving the car at high revs for a sustained period of time. This is easily done on the open road but is much more difficult to do around town.

There are few roads in London where a sustained speed of over 64 km/h can be achieved for the required 15 minutes to clean the filter. The result is that many motorists are finding themselves with large bills to pay for having a blocked filter cleaned or in some cases replaced [BBC].

Fire risk

There are other concerns too. In the US a failing DPF is believed to have started a major forest fire after sparks ignited nearby bracken [DieselNet]. There have also been cases of fires beginning in the filter itself. In 2011, Ford recalled 37,400 F-Series trucks with diesel engines after fuel and oil leaks caused fires in the diesel particulate filters of the trucks. No injuries occurred before the recall, though one grass fire was started. A similar recall was issued for 2005-2007 Jaguar S-Type and XJ diesels, where large amounts of soot became trapped in the DPF. In affected vehicles, smoke and fire emanated from the vehicle underside, accompanied by flames from the rear of the exhaust. The heat from the fire could cause heating through the transmission tunnel to the interior, melting interior components and potentially causing interior fires [Wikipedia].

In Britain the Automobile Association advise motorists not to buy vehicles with a DPF fitted if they are using it mainly for "stop/start driving" in a city or elsewhere. Those having such a filter fitted may also find some reduction in performance and fuel economy.

Vehicles affected for the first time are: larger vans and other specialist vehicles such as horse boxes and light utility vehicles (between 1.205 tonnes unladen and 3.5 tonnes Gross Vehicle Weight); minibuses (5 tonnes or less Gross Vehicle Weight with more than 8 passenger seats); and motor caravans (between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes Gross Vehicle Weight), which will have to meet a Euro 3 standard for PM to drive in the zone without charge.

Vehicles already affected by the LEZ: HGVs and other specialist vehicles including motorised horseboxes and motor caravans over 3.5 tonnes Gross Vehicle Weight; and buses and coaches over 5 tonnes Gross Vehicle Weight with more than 8 passenger seats will have to meet a Euro IV standard for PM to drive in the zone without charge.

The LEZ affects all vehicles of the relevant weight and age even if they are used for private purposes. However cars, motorcycles and vans weighing under 1.205 tonnes unladen weight are not affected by the LEZ.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

1 comment:

Market Research said...

Low emission vehicles are expected to witness good growth as they are being accepted across the globe. Currently, low emission market is dominated by Full Hybrid Electric Vehicles (FHEVs) and expected to remain as market leader during the forecasted period. The market of North America is expected to be the biggest one for FHEVs. However, our research says that market for PHEVs and BEVs will develop at a faster rate due to governments’ initiatives to develop charging infrastructure in battery technology. The governments of Europe and China are promoting BEVs due to presence of competitive advantages over the other countries. China can shift to electric vehicle propulsion technology faster than its counterparts due to its ability to heavily invest in its development. Europe is already well equipped when it comes to charging infrastructure for EVs.

The most widely used batteries for low emission vehicle market are lead-acid batteries, Nickel-Cadmium batteries (NiCad), metal hydride batteries (NimH), and lithium ion batteries. Till date, the mass produced FHEV cars have been powered by nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries. However, there are certain noticeable rapid shifts in consumption pattern of batteries used for HEVs. Due to high energy density of lithium ion battery, loads of FHEV manufacturers such as Honda Motors (Japan) and Ford Motors (Germany) will be switching over to the lithium ion battery for FHEV. As an outcome, lithium ion battery is expected to capture the lion’s share in automotive battery market by 2017.