A flurry of announcements aimed at improving air quality and promoting ultra-low emission vehicles have been made by the Government and the mayor of London.
Plug-in grants have been extended and expanded, funding has been earmarked for more environmentally-friendly fuels and an ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) for London has been confirmed.
The Government hopes the series of measures will help bolster its air quality plans, which are due to be submitted to the European Commission by the end of 2015 as part of EU legal obligations over nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits.
Under current Government plans, the UK is not expected to meet these legal limits for NO2 in greater London, the west Midlands and west Yorkshire until after 2030. This is 20 years later than the original EU legal deadline.
The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, gave the go-ahead for the ULEZ in an effort to cut harmful emissions in the capital.
Petrol and diesel vehicles will need to meet the Euro 4 petrol, or Euro 6 diesel, standards respectively to be exempt from the ULEZ charge, which will be introduced from September 7, 2020.
Transport for London (TfL) said the daily charge for non-compliant vehicles will be £12.50 for cars and vans, and £100 for HGVs.
The full ULEZ package is expected to halve emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM10) from vehicle exhausts in central London.
More than 80% of central London would be expected to meet the NO2 annual EU legal limits in 2020. The number of people living in areas of poor air quality – where levels of NO2 exceed legal limits – would reduce by 74% in central London, 51% in inner London and 43% in outer London.
In an effort to help drive the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) by fleets, the Government has also extended the plug-in van grant.
The grant provides purchasers with a 20% discount off the upfront cost worth up to £8,000 and, since its launch in 2012, it has supported more than 1,250 vans.
Gnewt Cargo is among those that have already benefitted from the cash incentive.
It now has the largest 100% commercial electric fleet in the UK, operating 100 plug-in vans.
Co-founder and CEO Sam Clarke said: “The plug-in van grant is a great way to encourage other fleets to take this same step. We are therefore delighted to hear that support for electric commercial fleets is set to continue.”
A £45 million fund will also be made available to local authorities to support the rollout of ultra-low emission taxis across the UK.
The money will be available to reduce the upfront cost of purpose-built taxis and to install charging infrastructure for taxi and private hire use, with £25m earmarked for the greater London area to help taxi drivers upgrade to a greener vehicle, as all London taxis will be required to be zero-emission capable from January, 2018.
Taxis will now also qualify for the plug-in car grant, which currently offers up to £5,000 off the cost of an eligible low emission vehicle.
Meanwhile, motorcycles and scooters will join cars, vans, trucks and buses in the Government’s drive for greener vehicles
Up to £7.5m will be set aside to boost the uptake for electric two-wheelers, with bikers potentially offered a grant of up to £1,500 off the purchase price.
The funding is being made available from the £500m Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) programme for the period 2015-2020, with details expected to be confirmed in the summer.
In addition to its support for plug-in vehicles, the Government has announced an initial network of 12 hydrogen refuelling stations as part of a £6.6m package.
Two new stations will be built in Brentford and Croydon and a new mobile station that will be used across the South of England, while there will be upgrades to existing stations in Sheffield, Swindon, Wales and London.