London’s new smog tax will hit half a million motorists
UP TO HALF A MILLION London motorists face having to change their seven-yearold or older cars because of the extra cost of the £12 daily Toxicity Charge spreading to the suburbs in 2021.
Obtaining exact numbers of cars affected is not easy, but Autocar’s estimates suggest the total UK number of older petrol and diesel cars could be as high as six million. Since London makes up 8.4% of the UK fleet, that’s equivalent to 500,000 cars.
Hard hit will be owners of relatively new EU5 diesels – models most closely associated with Dieselgate – which today might be only three-and-a-half years old. By 2021, the last of the EU5S will be just seven years old, coincidentally also the average age of the British car fleet.
Drivers using a petrol car as their everyday motor will also suffer if they own a pre-2005 model, the date EU4 started. Today, those models are 12 years old, still relatively new with lots of mileage left in them.
But enthusiast owners of ‘young classics’ will also be badly hit. Complete generations of 1980s, 1990s and 2000s enthusiast cars will become prohibitively expensive to run as daily cars in London.
This group includes multiple generations of the Porsche 911 and Boxster/cayman, Mazda MX-5, VW Golf GTI, Ford Escort and Sierra Cosworths, BMW M3, Z3 and Z4, Mercedes S-class, CLK, SLK and SL and many Volvo models. Even the first 2001 BMW Mini will be ensnared, and the Land Rover Defender, including the final run ‘Heritage’ model, will be affected too.
“We are not outlawing or banning any cars,” said Transport for London (TFL). “There is still the option to use a car, but only after paying a £12 charge. Owners may just choose to use their vehicle less often.”
In reality, an owner who uses a ‘young classic’ every day faces an annual bill of £4380, while an overnight weekend trip away – say to Silverstone or Goodwood – will cost £24 because the charge will have to be paid on the journey out and then a second time on the return on a different day.
Experience of the Congestion Charge (CC) suggests that £12 will be a significant constraint. TFL has previously boasted of “pricing off” private cars from central London with the £11.50 CC. Motorists will also remember that the CC started out at £5 in 2003 and has steadily more than doubled, first to £8 in 2005, £10 in 2008 and then £11.50 in 2014.
Although the CC was not intended to reduce pollutants, it is worth noting that TFL reports no improvement in air quality in central London.
The Toxicity Charge is being extended across London to address NOX and particulates, said to breach EU standards. The UK government has lost legal cases and now faces significant fines from the EU.
London’s ULEZ (Ultra Low Emissions Zone) is just the start for the UK, with three more cities earmarked: Birmingham, Manchester and Oxford.
The widespread introduction of Anpr-enforced (automatic numberplate recognition) anti-car zones in UK cities also gives organisations like TFL and local authorities the power to ban any type of car as and when they wish.
In London, at least, owners of historic cars (currently pre1978) will be exempted from the ULEZ, largely thanks to lobbying by the Federation of British Historical Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC). “We have a strong argument that older, collector cars produce a tiny volume of pollutants and TFL has accepted that argument,” said FBHVC spokesman Geoff Lancaster.
Historic cars are defined by the government as 40 years old – so, by 2021, cars dating from 1981 will be exempt. Because the cut-off advances yearly, mid-1980s cars will assume exemption by 2025, but that may be too late for many owners of ‘young classics’.
Toxicity Charge will be in addition to the C-charge
These cars will all be liable for the £12 daily-use charge in 2021