Ban on new diesel vans revealed in Government’s air quality plan

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The Government’s new air quality plan says it will ban the sale of all new "conventional” fossil fuel vans by 2040.

The sale of new diesel and petrol cars will also be banned, but hybrid vehicles, which combine a petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor, will still be permitted.

It will also provide a £255 million package to help councils tackle emissions from diesel vehicles.

Measures to improve air quality, says the Government, will be funded through changes to the tax treatment for new diesel vehicles, or through reprioritisation within existing departmental budgets. Further details on changes to the tax regime will be announced later in the year in the budget.

Van drivers are also set to be given the right to use heavier vehicles if they are electric or gas-powered.

Furthermore, manufacturers found to be using devices on their vehicles to cheat emissions tests could face criminal and civil charges, with fines of up to £50,000 for every device installed, under proposed new laws.

The air quality plan puts the burden on local authorities to tackle the causes of air pollution, with the Government saying they should consider a wide range of "innovative options", exploring new technologies so that they can deliver reduced emissions in a way that best meets the needs of their communities and local businesses.

It continues: "Their plans could include a wide range of measures such as: changing road layouts at congestion and air pollution pinch points; encouraging public and private uptake of ULEVs; using innovative retrofitting technologies and new fuels; and, encouraging the use of public transport."

However, if these measures are not sufficient, local plans could include access restrictions on vehicles, such as charging zones or measures to prevent certain vehicles using particular roads at particular times, it says. 

The plan says that local authorities should bear in mind such access restrictions would only be necessary for a "limited period" and should be lifted once legal compliance is achieved and there is no risk of legal limits being breached again.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says clarity is urgently needed to identify which vehicles will be affected in each of the Clean Air Zones (CAZs)

Elizabeth de Jong, FTA’s director of UK Policy, told Commercial Fleet: “Uncertainty will hurt industry – FTA understands we won’t know where lorries and vans will be restricted until next year, giving only a year for businesses to plan their fleets, leaving many with potentially large bills on top of rising operating costs in a difficult trading environment.”

In addition to the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London, there are five other cities – Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton – which will have to introduce CAZs by 2019.  There may be other locations which, as part of their air quality plans, also decide to introduce CAZs. 

The FTA says that with such short lead times for businesses to ensure their fleets are compliant, many will need additional support, in particular small businesses, those based within zone boundaries, specialist fleets, and van operators if included. 

If vans are affected by CAZs, there will be little more than two and a half years’ worth of compliant vehicles in the fleet and no established second hand market. Many businesses will now be locked into lease agreements which extend beyond the 2019 deadline and will be costly to get out of.

De Jong said: “For those whose businesses operate inside a zone, a period of grace, giving them extra time to comply, would provide much-needed breathing space. 

“Our worst fear is that some may be forced out of business altogether if the plans are not properly thought through.

“FTA is offering its experience and expertise to work with the local authorities affected, to help them develop their plans so that they achieve their aims of reducing NO2 whilst supporting businesses and the economy.“

Local authorities will need to set out their initial plans eight months from now, by the end of March 2018. These will be followed by final plans by the end of December 2018. 

The Government says it will work with local authorities and others to consider how to help minimise the impact of such measures on local businesses, residents and those travelling into towns and cities to work where such action is necessary; and will issue a further consultation in autumn to aid development and assessment of options.

The measures considered in that consultation will include options to support motorists: in particular private car drivers on lower incomes, or those who may have to switch to a cleaner vehicle. Options considered could include retrofitting, exemptions and discounts from any restrictions or permit schemes for vans.

A targeted scrappage scheme will also be considered in this consultation focussing on certain groups of drivers who most need support (such as those on lower incomes or those living in the immediate vicinity of a CAZ) and providing an incentive to switch to a cleaner vehicle. It is not clear whether any scrappage scheme would be available to van ooperators. 

It said: "A number of issues remain with such mitigation options and in particular with scrappage schemes – analysis of previous schemes has shown poor value for the taxpayer and that they are open to a degree of fraud."

The courts had ordered the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) to produce a new air quality plan after judges agreed with environmental campaigners that previous plans were insufficient to meet EU pollution limits.

The Government had to publish its draft clean air strategy plans in May, with the final measures due by Monday (July 31).

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  • Peter - 27/07/2017 14:44

    The practicalities of charging your vehicle at home where you might not be able to park within 50 yards of your property or where you live in a high-rise block of flats is a major challenge. The infrastructure needed is beyond the capacity of most local authorities.

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  • Iain - 27/07/2017 18:07

    Is it just me or are our politicians away off on a tangent again? Air quality is a serious issue which has to be tackled and quicker than we are currently doing, however, dropping a bomb on already struggling businesses is surely not the way to proceed with such haste. Start by getting traffic moving smoothly, provide adequate parking where it is needed and abolish all but the most necessary bus lanes as they merely halve the available road infrastructure and lead to thousands of static and stop / start journeys compounded by speed bumps etc. which we already know at least doubles emissions The proposed tinkering to infrastructure and handing more taxation powers to councils outlined above is useless, whereas simple measures could be introduced tomorrow, at the stroke of a pen, which would get this situation under control rapidly and then, work in conjunction with all stakeholders to put a structured alternative in place. 100% electric vehicles simply will not work, partly because the battery technology is not there yet and the range of such vehicles is still far too low. Charging points also take too long, even rapid charge points take ten times longer than simply filling up at a petrol station and where oh where will we put all these charging points which will be needed to recharge thousands of vehicles perhaps twice or three times a day? Lets get real for once and have some joined up thinking as not everyone works for the civil service and can avail of flexi time and poor public transport. Can we please stop adding hurdles to our already under competitive workforce and get this country working again! Lastly, stop worrying abut the EU, we are leaving and with good reason, what emission controls do the EU impose on the big polluters like China, India, the Middle East, Russia etc. with whom we compete for business?

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    • Sid - 01/06/2018 00:15

      Why not ban all flights does nobody care about pollution caused by planes and thats mainly for pleasure can anyone answer that

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  • ALASDAIR - 23/01/2020 23:09

    The issue of how we source the vast quantities of chemicals for these batteries has not been a topic of discussion, land and sea mines causing environmental issues releasing toxins into the environment, then the process to create a batteries these, lifespan and efficiency reduces dramatically, down to 75% after 3years which rapidly reduces as it ages,..then if they can recycle a toxic cell and where will the defunct cell go more than likely in to landfill maybe some massive storage area to give them time to come up with a plan or give it to a lesser human to reprocess thus exposes to a non healthy environment....this business model has not been properly thought through.

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