Mayor of London, Boris Johnson is being challenged by Volvo UK to review the basis of charging for the London Congestion Charging zone. The people at Volvo believe the principle of hybrid cars being exempt from the Congestion Charge is now “outdated and unfair”. Drivers of hybrid cars, who have registered with the authority, enter the zone free of charge on a daily basis while drivers of low emission cars powered by conventional engines with the same, or even lower, emissions levels are charged £8.00 per day. This ‘tax’ could add a financial burden of over £2,000 per year to those drivers who have selected a traditionally-powered car with low emissions but which are not classified as “hybrid”.
This apparent disparity was highlighted to the Mayor by Stuart Kerr, Volvo’s Regional President for Europe when he was presented with the What Car? Green Car of the Year award by Boris Johnson recently. This was followed up by a letter to The Mayor’s office on 22 June.
What Car? has also joined Stuart Kerr in the call for a review. What Car? editor, Steve Fowler, said “We’d welcome a review of the regulations that govern which cars are exempt from Congestion Charging. At the moment, there’s confusion among car buyers and the car industry. Some cars that use conventional engine technology yet have very low CO2 figures aren’t exempt, but hybrids with higher CO2 figures are! And with an increasing number of low CO2 vehicles, including diesel hybrids, plug-in hybrids, range extenders and electric vehicles, now is the ideal time to re-open the debate and we’d be delighted to be part of it.”
Hybrid-powered cars have CO2 outputs ranging from 89g/km to 219g/km, yet all are exempt from the London Congestion Charge. Volvo’s What Car? Green Car of the Year-winning S40 1.6D DRIVe with start / stop technology emits just 104g/km yet drivers are charged £8.00 to enter the capital.
Cars with traditional engines manufactured by Ford, Seat, Toyota, VW, Suzuki, Nissan and Mini all produce emissions less that 105g/km and using the Society of Motor Manufacturer and Traders sales figures, this would roughly equate to over 9,500 owners of low-emission cars that should, given a level playing field, be exempt from the London Congestion Charge. As technology improves the number of conventionally-powered low emission cars will increase substantially throughout 2009, as will the number of affected owners.
It looks as if conventional engine technology has caught up with the hybrid variety in terms of emissions and it seems fair to assume that the congestion charge regulations follow suit.