The new fancy ULEZ has been brought in to try and tackle increasing nitrogen oxides (NOx), 'illegally high' levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and PM (particulate matter). TFL say that every year thousands die prematurely from long-term exposure to pollution. In London alone they claim there are over 450 schools which also have 'exceeding' legal air quality levels. They also claim that every Londoner lives in an area which exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for dangerous toxic particles as a result of excessive pollution.
Something has to be done, right? We can all agree that some older vehicles have horrifically high emissions, petrols and diesels are however both guilty of an equal issue - polluting in some shape or form. Whilst TFL want you to think diesel is the problem, in years to come CO2 will rise drastically in London once again (like in the 90s) and suddenly petrol will be the bad guy, again. A vicious circle?
So if they're doing a good thing, why is the ULEZ a joke?
I own a 2013 Jaguar XF, it's got a 2.2 diesel engine - it also produces 129g/km CO2 and 154mg/km of NOx. This was sold some years ago as a 'super green diesel', it turns off at the lights and costs me little to tax (not much more than my über eco Passat). It sips on diesel (50mpg with ease) and realistically generates very little pollution unless you drive it with a brick on the throttle. This is subject to the ULEZ.
Now, take a brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.2 V8 Hemi Trackhawk - £90,000 of supercharged face melting and petrol drinking performance. It gets around 15mpg (at best) around town, generates 395g/km CO2, 94.5g/km of NOx & PM combined (source: here). However, it's a 'Euro6' engine so as a result isn't subject to the ULEZ.
Now also consider TFL vehicles (bus, train, boat etc), taxis (up to 15 years old), 'exempt' vehicles and the like. Exempt vehicles include: anything over 40 years old, 'agricultural' vehicles (tractors?!), military vehicles (yep those juicy things), non-road going vehicles which are allowed to drive on the highway (ie: an excavator)... oh and certain types of mobile cranes.
Asides from a Euro6 bus, everything else in shot is diesel... because years ago that's what the government told us to buy...
I still don't get it, why is it a joke?
The NOx levels in London aren't a joke, but making everyone jump ship to petrol will end in CO2 levels rising - it's a fact. TFL vehicles contribute a hefty amount to the emissions problems; however, somehow TFL are passing the issue to the consumers - to the small businesses and independent drivers. For reference, a EuroIV double decker produces 866g/km CO2 - a EuroVI produces 938g/km (FOI request: here).. so it doesn't look like TFL are trying very hard. Let's not even get in to the ferries, the planes, the trains etc.
The ULEZ is a joke because whilst the intention is great and necessary - the emissions levels do need to drop. The fact that newer juicier bigger capacity petrols aren't being affected is... ridiculous. The way in which they're judging vehicles is wrong and needs to be reassessed.
Emissions do need to drop, engines do need to be cleaner, but having a city full of petrols will result in other issues - and guess what will happen then? Petrol charges. Currently you pay an extra fee to park a diesel on the street in London, so how long until that's petrol too - with only electric vehicles being exempt.
What's in store for London, the expanding ULEZ (yep, it's going to affect a lot more Londoners soon) and TFL? No doubt with so many companies now shifting to petrol / hybrid, with manufacturers making petrol commercial vehicles and with TFL upgrading their fleet - the NOx epidemic will finish pretty quickly and TFL will see it as a roaring success. However, how long until the CO2 issue starts once again and they have another 'toys out of the pram' moment?
Only time will tell. Until then, to all of you commuting Londoners - continue to enjoy your daily commute in your Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.2 V8 Hemi Trackhawks - sounds like an epic commute.