Clean Air Zones: How will they improve our air quality and who will be affected?

In 2017, Oxford Council proposed a city-wide ban on all diesel and petrol vehicles by the end of 2020. The plans would introduce special ‘clean air zone’ areas, making the city the first zero-emissions zone in the world, improving public health and reducing damage to the environment.

But what exactly is a clean air zone, how will this affect drivers and will the zones be effective in reducing air pollution? Motorparks Grange, retailers of used cars and prestige vehicles look into the matter further:

Clean Air Zones Explained:

According to government specifications, a clean air zone is “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”.

As well as helping to reduce pollution, the plans state that the zones will improve public health. The aim is to tackle air pollution from a variety of sources, including particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, reducing public exposure using a range of different measures, which will be specifically tailored to each location.

Which drivers will be affected?

Due to their high pollution output, the charges will initially target taxis, busses and HGV’s.  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.

Although higher emissions vehicles such as Land Rovers, SUV’s and trucks are eventually likely to incur higher penalty fees than a Prius, for example, the government has stated that private vehicle owners will not be affected to begin with. Vehicles will instead 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 government has released a report outlining the Clean Air Zone framework, so you can check which 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.

Cleaner Cities:

The first locations to introduce clean air zones have been chosen according to which cities have the highest toxin levels:

  • Leeds
  • Birmingham
  • Nottingham
  • Derby

Other UK cities awaiting approval include:

  • Manchester
  • Newcastle Upon Tyne
  • Hull
  • Liverpool

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.

Will Clean Air Zones improve air quality?

Both London and Germany have already introduced clean air zones in some areas. 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.

Research on the subject is still being carried out, however. Some studies have suggested that air quality within the zones improves only at the expense of the surrounding areas. This could be due to drivers choosing alternative routes or driving further than they usually would to avoid incurring charges.

Dr Gary Fuller, an air pollution scientist at King’s College London, has remained positive about the impact of clean air zones. He 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.

So far, the evidence is mostly positive and suggests that air quality levels will improve once the zones become more widespread. Additionally, studies show that people have been swapping out their older model vehicles for new 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.

 

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