Traffic jams once meant that residents of the British capital had to endure some of the worst air quality in the Western world. Air quality in London has improved in recent years thanks to policies to reduce emissions, mainly from road transport – the city has introduced some of the toughest restrictions on heavily polluting cars.
As a result, electric vehicles (EVs) seem very attractive to Londoners.
Air pollution refers to substances in the air that affect health and well-being, plant or animal life. Most pollution in London is caused by road transport and domestic and commercial heating systems. Particulate pollution can damage the human heart and lungs.
London is the 9th largest emitter of CO2 in the world and pollution affects everyone who lives and works in London. The current concentration of PM2.5 in London is currently 1.4 times the WHO annual guideline value for air quality. This is an average level of focus, but it’s about 19% lower than 2016. With the bad comes a slight good.
Electric vehicle sales are on the rise in and around London, largely due to policies that discourage internal combustion engines (ICEs) and favor transport that mitigates air pollution.
What is London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone?
London’s congestion charge was introduced in 2003 with the aim of reducing traffic and pollution in the capital. Zero-emission vehicles are eligible for a 100% rebate – all one has to do is claim a cleaner vehicle rebate directly on the Transport for London website.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan unveiled an additional £12.50 daily charge on older, higher-emission vehicles in 2019. The London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) was introduced with the aim of improving the quality of the air people breathe in central London by reducing the number of older, more polluting cars passing through the capital. Among other things, the ULEZ aims to limit harmful pollution such as fine particles, NO2 and CO2 gases.
The control district was expanded in October 2021 to cover an area 18 times the size of the central London congestion charge zone.
The app is based on a vehicle’s reported emissions, rather than its age. Any vehicle that is not ULEZ compliant must pay a fee to enter the zone. This charge is £12.50 for cars, motorbikes and vans, and £100 for heavier vehicles including lorries over 3.5 tonnes and buses and coaches over 5 tons.
To support the 2020 goals, more changes are coming. Motorists across London could be charged for every journey by 2024 under plans being developed to cut carbon emissions and improve air quality. London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone is set to be extended again in 2023, with Mayor Khan planning to further reduce pollution in the capital.
A report found that car journeys needed to be reduced by more than a quarter to achieve net zero emissions targets by 2030. It is estimated that meeting these targets could reduce the amount of CO2 emitted in the outskirts of London each year more than 135,000 tonnes. Khan said air pollution and the climate emergency were “a social justice issue across the world – and in London too, it is the poorest Londoners, least likely to own a car, who suffer the consequences”.
Everywhere you look on London’s roads it’s electric vehicles, electric vehicles
Electric vehicles are exempt from paying charges in congested or low-emission zones. In fact, a rule change in October 2021 tightened the congestion charge so that only fully electrified vehicles are exempt.
Since the restrictions were put in place 3 years ago, the number of licensed battery electric vehicles has more than quadrupled, and the corresponding drop in diesel cars has been 25%. From 2030, as the UK begins to phase out sales of new combustion vehicles, zero-emission driving will start to become the only option.
The ripple effects of ULEZ continue to accumulate.
- Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, now makes a greater share of electric vehicle journeys in London than in any other major city. More than 7,000 people perform 15% of city driving on its service.
- More than 260 charging stations are added on average each month.
- The number of Londoners living in areas exceeding the World Health Organization’s legal NO2 limits rose from 2 million in 2016 to 119,000 in 2019.
How London is promoting electric vehicles to reduce air pollution
By opting for a zero-emission capable vehicle, people driving in London can save money on fuel costs, reduce harmful vehicle emissions and help clean London’s air. These attributes are highlighted by Transport for London. The same goes for the associated financial benefits.
- Zero-emission vehicles that meet the criteria are eligible for a 100% discount on the Congestion Charge.
- The government is offering grants for new plug-in vehicles, currently up to £2,500 for cars, £1,500 for motorbikes, £6,000 for vans, £7,500 for taxis and £16,000 for trucks. Find out about subsidies for plug-in cars.
- Zero-emission capable vehicles pay either no vehicle tax (VED) or a reduced rate depending on their CO2 emissions, the vehicle’s list price and year of registration. Learn about tax benefits.
- There are a range of tax incentives for business users.
- Some London boroughs offer free or discounted parking for electric vehicles.
Zap-Map’s charging point maps show where privately funded and TfL-funded fast charging points, and other charger speeds, are set up across London. The maps allow the driver to check which charging stations are available, find the nearest fast-charging station and plan a route to a fast-charging station. Zap-Map can also be downloaded as an application on a mobile.
The Mayor’s Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure Task Force, made up of experts representing business, energy, infrastructure, government and London’s boroughs, is working to remove barriers to the expanding charging infrastructure and accelerating the switch to electric vehicles in London. London’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Delivery Plan released in 2019 shows London’s fleets, businesses and residents that there is a clear path to the right type and amount of charging infrastructure to meet the London needs.
Its forecast is continually updated as part of London’s EV infrastructure strategy.
The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship heads to London, host city of rounds 13 and 14 of the London E-Prix at ExCeL London on July 30 and 31, Clean Air Day, meeting Mayor Sadiq Khan at Town Hall and school children and locals from the borough of Newham, where the E-Prix was held.
The Mayor has supported Formula E in bringing zero-carbon sport to London, working with the city to showcase the benefits of electric vehicles and raise awareness of the impacts of air pollution and how electric mobility can help to curb it and fight against climate change.
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