Mayor urged to review ULEZ diesel emission standards

London Assembly motion claims that evidence suggests Euro 6 diesel cars are not ultra-low or zero emission vehicles

The London Assembly today (November 4) called on the Mayor to review the exhaust emission standards set to come into force on central London roads from 2020 as part of the ultra low emission zone (ULEZ).

A map of the ULEZ, which is set to come into force in 2020

A map of the ULEZ, which is set to come into force in 2020 (click to enlarge)

A motion agreed by Assembly Members (AMs) calls on the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, to “come clean” about the proposed ULEZ and to ensure that the emissions standards “are truly ultra-low or zero emission by 2020”.

As it stands, diesel vehicles meeting new Euro 6 emissions standards will be exempt from the charges applying to drivers of older car models in the Central London ULEZ.

But, critics argue that the Euro 6 standards do not give the whole picture of emissions, as studies have shown these vehicles can emit more pollutants on the road than during laboratory tests, meaning Euro 6 vehicles should not count as ultra-low emission vehicles.

And, according to the motion, the results of Transport for London’s (TfL) recent testing of Euro 6 vehicles using London drive cycles found a number of Euro 6 passenger cars emit several times more nitrogen oxides (NOx) than some heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).

Furthemore, it notes the “failure” of previous European exhaust standards to deliver the anticipated emissions reductions.

Backed by 13 AMs with eight voting against, today’s motion also follows the ongoing scandal engulfing global car giant Volkswagen over its installation of ‘defeat devices’ to manipulate laboratory tests of vehicle emissions.

Therefore, the motion states: “This Assembly believes that the Mayor has a duty to review his current policies and proposals in light of the emerging scientific evidence on the performance of Euro 6 vehicles under real-world driving conditions and our increasing knowledge of the adverse effects of air pollution on human health.

“This Assembly therefore calls on the Mayor of London to review the planned exhaust emission standards of his Ultra Low Emission Zone to ensure that all vehicles driving in the centre of the capital in 2020 are truly ultra-low or zero emission.”

Liberal Democrat Stephen Knight AM, who presented the motion, said: “At present the Mayor and TfL know full well that Euro 6 diesels are not actually clean, but are still planning to permit them to enter the ultra low emission zone for free after 2020 — that is simply wrong.

“The Mayor should admit past mistakes and now say that we are no longer going to put a badge of ‘ultra low emission’ on a set of vehicles that are in reality nothing of the sort.”

According to TfL, the ULEZ will “significantly reduce” the number of people living in areas of poor air quality (where levels of NO2 exceed legal limits) by 72% in central London and 54% across London.

ULEZ taxi standards

The agreed motion comes a week after the Mayor and TfL finalised the requirements for the taxi and minicab/private hire trades when the ULEZ comes into force from 2020.

Under the From 1 January 2018, all taxis licensed for the first time must be zero emission capable, while new diesel taxis will not be allowed in Central London at all.

And, for private hire vehicles, there are several milestones which will ensure that all vehicles granted a private hire licence for the first time after 1 January 2023 will be zero emission capable, regardless of age:

  • In advance of the ULEZ requirements, and to clean up the private hire fleet, all private hire vehicles licensed for the first time between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2019 must feature a Euro 6 petrol or diesel engine, or a Euro 4 petrol-hybrid engine.
  • From 1 January 2020 all new private hire vehicles – defined as those under 18 months old – licensed for the first time will have to be zero emission capable.
  • Older private hire vehicles – those over 18 months old – will need to feature a Euro 6 engine when licensed for the first time between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2022. They will also need to be zero emission capable from 2023

TfL and the Mayor have secured £65 million funding to help taxi drivers achieve a target of 9,000 zero emission capable taxis by 2020.

Meanwhile, up to £5,000 will be available to taxi drivers who want to decommission their vehicle once it reaches 10 years of age, with the exact amount depending on the age of the vehicle. Otherwise, the 15-year age limit for taxis will remain in place.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “We understand this will take time and that is why we are giving financial assistance to help clean up these vehicle fleets. The ULEZ is the most ambitious measure of its kind in the world and we need everyone on board for it to be a success.”


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