A new charge on pre-2005 vehicles to be introduced in London in 2021 could hit up to 1.6m motorists, according to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The motoring organisation's forecast is around three times that of Transport for London, which suggests just 576,000 vehicles will be affected by the new charge.
The new fee will apply to all diesel cars below the current Euro 6 emissions regulations, as well as petrol cars meeting Euro 3 or below. They'll be subject to a £12 per day charge in an area encompassing all of central London between the North and South Circular roads. The standards would also apply to buses, coaches and lorries.
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Despite the ongoing anti-diesel saga, and far wider-ranging prohibition of diesels under the new rules, the SMMT believes more petrol vehicles will be affected by the new charge. It's predicted 858,000 petrol vehicles and 782,000 diesels will be hit – a vast amount more than TfLs predictions of 255,000 petrols and 321,000 diesels.
The move could wipe out a large generation of 'young classics', Autocar reports, noting that enthusiast cars from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s could become prohibitively expensive to run. The charge will affect almost all of these vehicles, though a rolling 40-year exemption protects owners of historic cars. By 2021, any car older than 1981 will be exempt.
"We are not outlawing or banning any cars," a TfL spokesperson said. "There is still the option to use a car, but only after paying a £12 charge. Owners may just choose to use their vehicle less often."
TfL's director of city planning linked the policy to air pollution. "Urgent action is required to tackle London's air quality crisis and reduce emissions from older, more polluting vehicles," he said.
"We are currently consulting on expanding the ULEZ, which would see a 71 per cent reduction in schools in high pollution areas in 2021 – lowering the exposure of school children to harmful toxins that can reduce their lung development."
As well as London, three other cities are earmarked to introduce their own Ultra-Low Emissions Zones: Birmingham, Manchester and Oxford.