As the Mayor prepares to dazzle voters with his plans to clean up London's air by controls on lorry emissions, it is a good time to lift the lid on his box of tricks. The Freight Transport Association says that far from the proposed Low Emission Zone being the answer to London's air quality problems, it is an opportunity for the Mayor to take credit for the enormous progress made by others, particularly vehicle manufacturers and lorry operators, over recent years.
Innovation by freight operators and vehicle manufacturers has reduced noxious emissions dramatically. Initiatives such as cleaner diesel coming in 2009; new incentives for improved Euro 5 trucks and a phenomenal uptake of new electric and hybrid vehicles by London operators mean that emissions from road transport will plunge further still.
The Mayor's preferred scheme will add little benefit to the progress that is already under way. The architects of the scheme were so poorly informed about the industry, and the scheme is so poorly thought through, that many of the older Euro 1 category buses and trucks that the scheme was supposed to deter will be able to come into London without further modifications. Similarly, for all the rhetoric about fairness, no effective mechanism exists, or will exist by 2008, to control foreign registered buses and coaches that do not comply.
The Mayor is well aware that over the next couple of years there will be changes in the quality of petrol and diesel, with the introduction of sulphur free fuel and a mandatory biofuel component. He also knows that the Treasury has brought in incentives to purchase state-of-the-art Euro 5 vehicles that far exceed the derisory targets which he proposes. Most importantly, perhaps, he knows that London operators are socially responsible and are actively looking at investments to reduce their carbon footprints.
Gordon Telling, FTA's Head of Policy for London, the South East & East of England said, 'All of these initiatives by operators, manufacturers and government mean that the Mayor can make his announcement, safe in the knowledge that he cannot fail to achieve his goal because it is already being delivered by others. If he insists on spending large sums to improve air quality then let it be on some of the many infrastructure schemes, such as the missing link between the London Gateway services and the A1 that would remove thousands of inappropriate journeys from the A41 through Hendon and Mill Hill every day. Such projects would be a real investment in the capital's infrastructure and would provide genuinely new benefits for north Londoners. As for the LEZ, there is no need for it as industry has already made sure that the job's done.'
The Low Emission Zone (LEZ) is a scheme proposed by the Mayor to reduce lorry emissions in the entire area within the M25.
'Sulphur-free' fuel, defined as less than 10 parts per million (ppm), is already available in some premium brands. Sulphur levels have been reduced from 2000ppm in the last 15 years – equivalent to going from a bath full of water to just an eggcup. Sulphur-free fuel emits less Oxides of Sulphur and Particulates and helps catalytic converters to work better, removing more NOx – think of carbon monoxide in smokers' lungs preventing the carbon dioxide being expelled from the body.
The Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation will require 5 per cent biofuel to be included in standard petrol or diesel by 2010.
The Treasury is reintroducing a VED discount for new Euro 5 trucks bought after October 2007 – discussions are ongoing about whether operators who bought early should qualify.
Transport for London's plans for the Low Emission Zone do not make direct reference to the EU engine standards known as Euro 0 through to Euro 5. However, the particulate matter standards demanded are identical.
Progress in reducing emissions has been made over the last 15 years. Euro 1, best described as having a dark haze on full load, represented the end of black smoke from diesel exhausts and the progress since then has continued such that 30 Euro 4 vehicles today will only emit the same particulates as one Euro 1 vehicle in 1993. Particulate level, which is the visible part of the exhaust emissions, was reduced by over 80 per cent from dark haze to achieve the Euro 3 level. They reduced by a further 80 per cent to achieve Euro 4 emission levels. Euro 5, from October 2009, will not require any further reduction in carbon monoxide or particulates but will require a 43 per cent reduction in NOx.
EU engine standards were introduced for new vehicles registered as follows:
Euro 0 – October 1991 – no limits specified
Euro 1 – October 1993 – PM limit 0.621 g/kWh, NOx 8 g/kWh
Euro 2 – October 1997 – PM 0.25, NOx 7
Euro 3 – October 2001 – PM 0.1, NOx 5
Euro 4 – October 2006 – PM 0.02, NOx 3.5
Euro 5 – October 2009 – PM 0.02, NOx 2