With the UK government increasingly concerned over air pollution levels, resources have been channelled into improving the air quality of major cities. Oxford city council recently announced plans to introduce a clean air zone, which would see blanket vehicle bans during peak traffic times. But what exactly is a clean air zone and how will drivers be affected? We take a look at the issue with the help of Grange vehicles, who specialise in prestige vehicles including Lamborghini:
The purpose of Clean Air Zones
Clean air zones will be introduced with the aim of tacking pollution from a number of sources, such as nitrogen dioxide and particle matter.
A clean air zone is defined as “an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality and resources are prioritised and coordinated in order to shape the urban environment in a way that delivers improved health benefits and supports economic growth”.
Which drivers will be charged under the plans?
The first vehicles to be charged will be busses, HGV’s and taxis as these contribute the most towards air pollution. The charges will not apply to private vehicle owners initially and vehicles which meet the definition of ultra-low emission (such as fully electric vehicles) will not have to pay at all.
It has been stated that private car owners will not be affected to begin with. Vehicles will be separated into different classes and charges will apply depending on which one they fall under. The four classes are: A. B. C and D and have been selected according to vehicle type, emissions and euro standard.
The official report outlining the clean air zone framework is available online – this allows you to check what category your vehicle will fall under. Not all zones will have fixed charges for drivers. Penalties will not be compulsory either, however, councils which do decide to implement charges will have the right to charge penalty fines if drivers do not comply with the zone charges. The city of Bath is currently assessing the impact of a clean air zone charge, with suggested charges for high emission cars ranging from £3 to £13 per day to drive within the zones.
There are several UK cities already selected to be among the first to introduce clean air zones: Several UK cities have been chosen to introduce the zones, including Leeds, Derby, Nottingham and Birmingham. Other cities awaiting approval include Newcastle Upon Tyne, Manchester, Hull and Liverpool. These cities have been selected according to which ones currently have the highest levels of pollution. City centre restrictions will apply and will include time of day restrictions, vehicle bans and entry fees. Charges within the most polluted areas could end up costing as much as £20 per day.
Reducing air pollution
Some parts of Germany and London already have their own clean air zones in place. Studies in Germany found a significant reduction in particulate matter (small air particles that can get into the lungs causing health problems) levels throughout the zones. Further research found that particulate matter levels had fallen by up to 3% over a five-year period within the zones, compared to just 1% outside.
Some studies have suggested that air quality within the zones improves only at the expense of the surrounding areas, however. This could be due to drivers choosing alternative routes or driving further than they usually would to avoid incurring charges.
So far, however, the evidence is mostly positive and suggests that air quality levels will improve once the zones become more widespread. Air pollution specialist Dr Gary Fuller states that air quality will be improved with the introduction of the new Euro 6 standard for diesel vehicles which will be implemented in London in 2019. Additionally, studies show that people have been looking into buying more eco-efficient cars in areas where the zones have already been introduced. The introduction of new automotive technology is a positive step for the environment, as newer cars tend to have lower emissions and better gas mileage.