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London ULEV zone. Credit: Transport for London

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London Drivers Ditch Diesel As New ULEV Rules Kick In

London’s expanded ULEV zone goes into effect this week.

Beginning October 25, drivers in London will be charged £12.50 to enter the city’s new Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle zone if they are behind the wheel of a gasoline-powered car manufactured before 2005 or a diesel-powered car made before 2015. Buses and large trucks will be charged £100 a day.

Not surprisingly, Londoners — especially taxi companies — are ditching their ICE powered vehicles 6 times faster than in the rest of the UK, according to The Guardian. Research released last week shows there are about 128,000 fewer diesel cars on the city’s roads than in 2017, when the city first announced plans to create the ULEV zone — one of the biggest clean air zones in Europe.

Oliver Lord, the head of Clean Cities Campaign UK, which carried out the research, tells The Guardian, “The expansion of the ultra low emission zone is monumental and has turbocharged the end of diesel cars in London.” Nevertheless, he urged the mayor to move faster. “There is only one way to go: petrol and diesel cars out. Active, shared and electric mobility in.”

Worldwide, air pollution is cutting the lives of billions of people short by up to six years, making it a far greater killer than smoking, car crashes, or HIV/Aids. A battery of recent scientific reports reveal it could be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body, and is responsible for 8.8 million early deaths each year. Last year, a study found health costs of air pollution from roads are higher in London than any other city in Europe, with children and older people often hit worst.

Clean air campaigners have welcomed the expansion of the zone. Jemima Hartshorn, the founder of the campaign group Mums for Lungs, said the expanded zone will shield millions of Londoners from toxic air. “This is a significant moment in our fight for kids to breathe clean air. The mayor must continue pushing to get toxic diesel off our streets and protect our children’s health.”

Good News, Bad News

Although clean air campaigners and those concerned about the climate crisis have welcomed the ULEV expansion, many are angry that the mayor is still pushing ahead with plans for a new 4-lane road tunnel under the Thames. Critics of the £2 billion Silvertown tunnel scheme, including climate scientists, senior Labour politicians, and doctors, say it will worsen air pollution and lock in high carbon transport for generations.

Victoria Rance, from the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel campaign, says, “While we welcome the expansion of ULEV, the mayor can not be taken seriously on climate or air pollution as long as he insists on pushing ahead with this project. The mayor’s office insists the tunnel is necessary, will improve public transport across the Thames and will not hinder efforts to improve air pollution or tackle carbon emissions.”

That may be so, but as many CleanTechnica readers like to point out, there are just too damn many vehicles in many of the world’s most congested cities. They take up space that could be better used for walking and bicycle paths, green spaces, and parks that would improve the quality of city life far more than acres and acres of parking lots.

A city crammed full of electric vehicles is just as congested as a city full of diesel-powered cars and trucks. The same economic policies that make a ULEV effective could be also help cut congestion as well. All it takes is the political will to encourage people to re-imagine their addiction to personal transportation devices.

 
 
 
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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?

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