New traffic pollution charge hits London

A new charge which will see owners of the most polluting vehicles pay a daily fee of £21.50 to drive in London, has come into effect.

Under the new scheme, brought in by Mayor Sadiq Khan in order to improve air quality in the UK capital, drivers of older, more polluting petrol and diesel vehicles will be liable for the £10 T-charge. This is on top of the congestion charge of £11.50, which has been in place for anyone driving in central London since 2003.

Legal pollution limits are regularly exceeded in London, and have been linked to a range of health problems.

“As mayor, I am determined to take urgent action to help clean up London’s lethal air. The shameful scale of the public health crisis London faces, with thousands of premature deaths caused by air pollution, must be addressed,” Khan said, according to the Guardian.

“Today marks a major milestone in this journey with the introduction of the T-charge to encourage motorists to ditch polluting, harmful vehicles.

“London now has the world’s toughest emissions standard with older, more polluting vehicles paying up to £21.50 a day to drive in the centre of the city. This is the time to stand up and join the battle to clear the toxic air we are forced to breathe.”

The T-Charge is applicable to pre-Euro 4 vehicles driving in the area of central London between Hyde Park, King’s Cross Station, the Tower of London, and Elephant and Castle. Pre-Euro 4 vehicles are generally those registered before 2006, although Transport for London recommends owners of any vehicle registered before 2008 should check to see if they’re liable for the charge.

Critics have argued that the new charge will actually have little real-effect on air quality in London, as so few vehicles are old enough to full under its remit.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers, told the Guardian: “This new T-charge will affect a very small number of older vehicles so the impact on air quality will be marginal whereas bigger improvements could be achieved by policies which incentivise the uptake of the latest, lowest emission vehicles.”

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates told the BBC. “It's only one small step towards clean air though - we urgently need a programme of meaningful financial assistance to help drivers of the dirtiest vehicles switch to something cleaner, and bold policies to cut traffic overall."


Biofuels potential

The new legislation is aimed at reducing the pollution produced by fossil fuel powered vehicles in London by pushing people to buy the least polluting petrol and diesel fuelled cars available.

Biodiesel can offer significant emissions reductions in comparison to conventional petrol and diesel. The US National Biodiesel Board (NBB) notes on its website: “The use of biodiesel in a conventional diesel engine results in a substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter compared to emissions from diesel fuel. In addition, the exhaust emissions of sulphur oxides and sulphates (major components of acid rain) from biodiesel are essentially eliminated compared to diesel.”

However, NBB also notes that the nitrogen oxides performance of biodiesel compared to conventional diesel is less clear cut.

“Emissions of nitrogen oxides are either slightly reduced or slightly increased depending on the duty cycle of the engine and testing methods used.,” the NBB website notes.

The US Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center claims that greenhouse gas emissions for 100% biodiesel are 74% lower than those from petroleum diesel, citing a study carried out by Argonne National Laboratory. The Center’s website states: “When used as a vehicle fuel, biodiesel offers some tailpipe and considerable greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions benefits over conventional gasoline and diesel.

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