London should trust Autogas to help clear the air

The re-introduction of the exemption from London’s famed congestion charge for vehicles powered by LPG – or at least a significant rebate – could help improve the health of Londoners. This measure along with incentives to buy Autogas vehicles or have existing ones converted are sure to boost the number of cleaner cars entering the charging zone.

New research by King’s College London has revealed that 9,400 die each year in London as a result of long-term exposure to air pollution, more than twice as many people as previously thought. The premature deaths are caused by two key pollutants, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulates (PM2.5) which are both significantly lower in vehicles powered by Autogas LPG compared with both petrol and diesel. NO2 emissions from Autogas vehicles are up to 80% lower than diesel and particulates are up to 98% lower than diesel.

“These latest figures are incredibly worrying and show that immediate action is required by the Mayor’s office to protect the health and save the lives of those living and travelling into the city,” said Linda Gomersall, general manager, Autogas Ltd.

The latest news about the British Capital’s poor air quality comes only months after the Supreme Court ordered the UK Government to expedite the improvement of air quality across the UK as it continues to miss EU targets. At the same time, Bromley and Sutton were the only two boroughs in London to actually meet average NO2 limits in 2013.

Studies such as the one from King’s College clearly identify diesel cars (even the newest) as the main cause to air pollution in the cities. The situation is worsening, as working incentive programmes have been retired. Until only a few years back, Autogas drivers were rewarded for choosing LPG. Motorists travelling into London on Autogas received a 100% discount from the congestion charge. Ever since the Mayor’s office did away with this measure in addition to the conversion incentives also being withdrawn, a large majority of drivers overlook this clean and convenient alternative, and choose more polluting diesels.

The way eligibility for a congestion charge rebate is currently set up measuring only CO2 focusses on the drivetrain technology while it has been proven, that the quality of exhaust emissions varies not only with the carbon content of the fuel but also with the way the fuel burns. Transport for London is performing a stakeholder consultation on prescriptions for taxis from 2020 on. While they must be zero emission capable (that is either be battery-electric or at least plug-in hybrid vehilces) Everyone – even private individuals – may voice their opinion regarding these future measures. The consultation and the Mayor’s office general approach can be accessed here and here directly.

The Mayor’s office had previously stated that the Greener Vehicle Discount (GDV) had been replaced by the Ultra Low Emission vehicle Discount (ULED) as “the increasing number of cars qualifying for the discount eroded the congestion and emissions benefits of the Congestion Charge scheme.” This explanation can leave the impression that the purpose of the charge is mainly to levy a tax and not really to clear the air.

The introduction of a discount for Auocars and offering conversion incentives once again, many motorists will be encouraged back to the cleaner fuel and we can start making an immediate improvement in London’s air quality. The missing income from cleaner vehicles’ reduced charges can be compensated by increasing the charges for conventional vehicles.

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