Until this week diesel automobiles were considered green vehicles that were exempt from (actually, received a 100% rebate of) central London’s Congestion Charge scheme. This was based on their status as low greenhouse gas emitting vehicles. However, sales of diesel cars in the London area have increased from around 10% to around 50% over the last decade and the city government is now removing diesel cars from the list of exempt vehicles, based on the fact that even most current diesel cars emit about 22 times as much particulate matter as the equivalent petrol car.
In effect, only full electric cars and some, but not all, plug-in hybrids will now qualify for the London Congestion Charge discount. Theoretically, diesel cars with very low carbon emissions and very clean air emissions would still qualify for the discount but, as far as GallonDaily has been able to determine, there are no diesel cars on the market or in the pipeline that meet the requirements. Owners of diesel cars already registered as green vehicles will be given a “sunset period” of three years before they have to pay the congestion charge.
Although diesel cars have never been considered green vehicles in most Canadian situations, this change in London’s rules may have some long-term implications for North American car buyers:
- expansion of production and marketing of diesel cars may slow down on a global scale, at least in developed countries
- other European incentives for diesel cars may begin to disappear, further reducing production of diesel cars
- development of much cleaner diesel cars may accelerate, though some observers expect that increased use of catalytic converters on diesel automobiles is likely to be expensive and will reduce fuel efficiency
- London has dramatically demonstrated the ability of financial incentives to influence the market, in this case by creating a huge market for diesel cars in the London Congestion Zone.
- just because governments label something as green does not mean that it is or that the government-provided benefit is here to stay. These rules in London, which saved owners of diesel cars who drive in Central London a daily charge of about $13.50, were changed after a 12 week consultation period and will affect the car owners after June 2016, at which time most recently purchased diesel cars will still be on the road and performing well.
For more information about the end of the green benefit for diesel cars in London visit http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/media/newscentre/27798.aspx