London’s congestion charge causes pollution levels to climb

London’s congestion charge causes pollution levels to climb

London’s congestion charge – designed to reduce levels of traffic and thus harmful emissions – appears to be having the opposite of the desired effect, a study shows.

Professor Colin Green and his colleagues at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have studied pollution levels over London since the introduction of the charge in 2003. They have found that the levels of some pollutants, such as the harmful nitrogen dioxide, have risen by up to 20%.

Professor Green suggests that this is due to the increased usage of buses and taxis, both of which are exempt from the charge:

‘To get people onto public transport, the buses and black cabs were exempt from the charge,

‘Bus departures and routes were expanded after introducing the charge in the city centre. Bus and taxi traffic increased by more than 20 per cent.

‘The problem was that all the buses and London taxis ran on diesel.

Unfortunately, despite a reduction in some pollutants, the increased levels of nitrogen dioxide are a real cause for concern.

Nitrogen dioxide occurs with the burning of fossil fuels and can be dangerous or even fatal if concentration and exposure levels are high. It is a particular concern for high-risk groups such as people with asthma, children and older adults.

Nitrogen dioxide also works to trap heat, having a detrimental impact on the environment and the planet overall.

Professor Green highlights the issues with nitrogen dioxide in the study by stating:

‘Fifty thousand people are estimated to die prematurely in the UK every year due to air pollution,’ states Professor Green.

‘Before the coronavirus, exhaust was the fastest-growing cause of death globally.

‘In fact, researchers in Germany have found that exposure to exhaust leads to a sharp increase in coronavirus mortality.’

With this in mind, motorists and experts alike have begun to question whether the congestion charge – which currently stands at £15 per day – can be justified if it is not having the desired effect. Professor Green goes as far as to suggest the congestion charge scheme was flawed from the start:

‘In London, there are hardly any electric cars or buses that run on environmentally friendly fuel,

‘A tax in the most congested areas without any measure to reduce the number of diesel vehicles hasn’t had the desired effect on air quality,

‘Reducing traffic isn’t the same as reducing air pollution.’

‘We argue the NO2 increase likely reflects the incentives that the charging scheme provided to shift towards diesel-based transportation.’

The study suggests that while the government is putting into place newer schemes to drive down emissions and improve air quality across the country, older schemes should be reviewed to ensure they are in keeping with the overall mission.

London’s congestion charge causes pollution levels to climb

[Image Source: Shutterstock, April 2021]

The congestion charge may not be working, but what is?

While London’s congestion charge may not be driving down pollution as much as was once predicted, the government are frequently putting other schemes into place to help cut emissions and improve environmental health.

The first of these began with the Paris Agreement back in 2015 – an international agreement to ensure the increase in global temperature does not exceed 2 degrees Celsius.

This served to kick start other schemes: the government’s announcement to become carbon neutral by 2050, for example. This includes planting more trees and installing ‘carbon capture’ technology to reduce emissions.

Following this, the government announced that the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles would be banned by 2040, before bringing this date forward by a decade to 2030. Within this are multiple schemes to encourage motorists to switch to electric vehicles, including electric vehicle grants and investment into public charge point technology.

While it is clear that the government is going above and beyond to ‘build back greener’, some environmental experts believe it is not enough. The congestion charge study has only served to support this belief further.

Tanya Steele, Chief Executive at WWF, claims that the government is: ‘out of touch with the scale of the climate challenges and that not enough is being done ‘for people and for our planet.

‘To avoid catastrophe, we need a low-carbon, nature-powered recovery – and we don’t have many chances left.’

Do you think the congestion charge is justified, or is it a flawed scheme that needs reworking? Is the government doing enough to reduce emissions and decrease levels of pollution?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Electric vehicles given huge boost by government’s £30million investment

Electric vehicles given huge boost by government’s £30million investment

Electric vehicles are set to benefit from a huge £30 million cash injection over the coming months, the government has recently announced. The plan will involve investing more funding into electric and hydrogen vehicle production in another attempt to meet the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles.

The budget will be split amongst varying projects focused on producing large quantities of high-quality electric and hydrogen vehicles that meet the government’s ‘go-green’ criteria.

A large proportion of the investment (£22.6 million) will be set aside for Faraday Institution Projects with the aim of funding early-stage commercial development across several areas. These areas will include extending battery life, battery modelling, solid-state batteries, battery safety and the recycling and reuse of batteries, to name but a few.

This will allow for further understanding of battery safety and enable manufacturers to develop electric vehicle batteries that are both sustainable and reusable.

The remaining £9.4 million will be used to bolster plans for building a plant designed specifically to extract lithium for use in electric vehicle batteries, as well as a plant dedicated to building magnets for electric vehicle motors and another for lightweight hydrogen storage for cars and vans.

The government believes that this taxpayer-backed funding will be ‘crucial’ to the success of the 2030 petrol diesel ban and the ongoing efforts to cut carbon emissions.

Gerry Grimstone, Investment Minister, commented on this latest announcement, saying:

‘We have set an ambitious target to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. To support that, it is crucial we invest research so we can power ahead with the shift to electric vehicles as we build back greener from the pandemic.’

A statement given by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Services also welcomed the announcement, highlighting specifically the positive impact it will have on the UK:

‘Research into alternative ways to power vehicles is a fundamental part of this transition, ensuring the UK remains a world leader in automotive technology and boosting jobs and skills in regions leading the way.

Chief executive at Faraday Institution, Professor Pam Thomas, also praised the investment decision and gave insight into how the institution intends to use the funding:

‘With our projects maturing and now delivering scientific discoveries we have bolstered our commercialisation team and capability and strengthened our commercialisation strategy.

‘In doing so, we are directing even more effort towards those areas of battery research that offer the maximum potential of delivering commercial, societal and environment impact for the UK.’

The investment and the doors it will open in terms of research, the government claims, will result in improved electric and hydrogen vehicle performance and allow the UK to continue leading the way to a cleaner, more sustainable transport future.

Electric vehicles given huge boost by government’s £30million investment

[Image Source: Shutterstock, April 2021]

How else is the government preparing for the switch to electric vehicles?

As well as this newly announced funding, the government is tackling their growing desire to boost electric vehicle uptake from various angles.

Motorists can currently make use of an electric vehicle grant, cutting the cost of an electric vehicle by up to £2,500. The grant aims to encourage ‘as many people as possible to make the switch to the electric vehicles as we look to reduce carbon emissions’, says Transport Minister Rachel Maclean.

There has also been a recent focus on improving charge point reliability after studies showed that motorists were deterred from making the electric vehicle switch due to charging concerns.

The new legislation will mean that every motorway service area in England will need to have at least six open-access charge points by 2023. This will increase to 2500 charge points across the road network by 2030. It will more than double again to 6000 by 2035.

RAC Spokesman, Rod Dennis, suggests that this will ensure electric vehicle charging at motorway service stations will be ‘fast, reliable and easy to pay for so drivers can make longer journeys with the minimum amount of fuss’, serving to reduce concerns about switching to an electric vehicle.

It is clear that the government’s plan to ‘build back greener’ is continuing to move forwards in the hope of hitting their 2030 milestone, and every effort is being made to encourage as many drivers as possible to make the electric vehicle switch.

Will you be making the electric vehicle switch? Are you encouraged by the government’s efforts to ‘build back greener’? Or are you satisfied with your petrol or diesel vehicle?

Let us know in the comments.

Petrol sales suffered 20% drop in 2020

Petrol sales suffered 20% drop in 2020

How often did you drive your car in 2020? With months of lockdown and year-long travel restrictions in place, you likely used your vehicle considerably less in 2020 than usual. Official statistics this week reveal that this caused petrol sales to drop by an average of 20 per cent.

Compared to 2019, the sale of unleaded dropped by 20.9 per cent in 2020, and diesel by 15.9 per cent.

Interestingly, the drop was particularly noticeable for supermarket retailers, despite them being one of the few retailers permitted to remain open across all through national lockdowns.

Statistics show that supermarkets suffered a 22.3 per cent drop in fuel sales last year, making them the worst-hit fuel retailer. It is thought that restricted travel, increased supermarket delivery options and unwillingness to travel to larger stores could be blamed for the fall.

In contrast, localised fuel retailers – often smaller and more easily accessible for drivers unwilling to travel to larger supermarkets – will have seen higher fuel sales than larger supermarket retailers. However, it is likely that a reduction in traffic will still have impacted their sales.

AA fuel spokesman, Luke Bodset, commented on the supermarket decline in petrol sales, saying: ‘The greater impact of lockdown-restricted travel on supermarket petrol sales compared to trade in general is a little surprising given that superstores have remained open throughout the pandemic.’

However, he also acknowledged that a decline was inevitable: ‘Fuel sales were always going to take a huge hit from car travel falling as low as 22 per cent (recorded in April 2020, when the toughest travel restrictions were in place) of pre-pandemic levels.’

He concluded positively, suggesting that petrol sales had not been impacted as much as had been expected:

‘However, supermarkets continuing to trade suggested better fuel sales resilience, although the boom in grocery deliveries will also have meant fewer visits to the stores’ forecourts.’

Now that restrictions are gradually lifting, an increase in travel and therefore fuel sales is being anticipated.

Chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), Brian Madderson, confirmed this expectation, stating that although ‘the drop in petrol and diesel volumes can be directly attributed to the unprecedented Covid-19 travel restrictions placed upon motorists’, he is expecting a ‘strong bounce-back’ as the country beings to open up once more.

He also suggested that despite growing numbers of electric vehicles being registered across the country, there are still over 40 million drivers who will still rely on petrol and diesel to get them from A to B:

‘While there has been growing demand for electric vehicles, their market share remains very modest.

‘With over 40 million combustion engines (ICE) vehicles still driving in the UK economy, we expect fuel volumes to experience a strong bounce-back once restrictions have been lifted for good.’

Petrol sales suffered 20% drop in 2020

[Image Source: Shutterstock, March 2021]

What will the fall in petrol sales mean for petrol prices?

During the first part of the pandemic, the price of petrol nosedived to below £1-a-litre – a low that was last recorded in 2016.

Again, much like the fall in sales, the fall in price was caused by a lack of demand, leading to oversupply and a lack of storage.

Since then, however, petrol prices have been steadily rising. It is anticipated that they will continue to do so as more and more restrictions are lifted, allowing motorists to travel further and more often again.

The RAC has suggested that by the time the current lockdown ends entirely in June of this year, we could see petrol prices hiked up to record highs, potentially reaching 143p-a-litre for petrol and 148p-a-litre for diesel.

The price of oil may also nudge prices upwards, with some analysts predicting a barrel of oil could be priced at $80, potentially even reaching $100 by 2022.

Currently, fuel prices stand at around 126p-a litre, meaning that drivers are now forking out an extra £6.33 to fill a tank than they were in the autumn of 2020.

Luke Bodset has suggested that while lifted restrictions will be a positive step forward for the economy and fuel retailers alike, it is motorists who will feel the effects of increased fuel prices:

‘As they struggle to get their working lives and family finances back on an even keel after Covid, there is going to be a real sense of being under assault for needing to drive a car.’

Did you feel the benefit of needing less fuel for travel in 2020? Are you worried that petrol prices will rise further as restrictions are lifted?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Pothole repair budget cut despite rising vehicle damage

Pothole repair budget cut despite rising vehicle damage

In February 2021, it was announced that councils will miss out on £375million of their annual road maintenance budget, meaning funding for pothole repairs has been significantly reduced.

The government’s initial promise was to afford councils £1.5billon for the upkeep of roads in Britain, but the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic means that they will now only receive £1.125billion.

The Department for Transport justified the decision by saying that the government had: ‘rightly prioritised the response to Covid-19, support jobs and supporting families at this incredibly difficult time.’

However, a study conducted by Citroen has now found that a third of drivers (32%) reported their vehicle had been damaged when hitting a pothole and had required garage repair.

The research also found that the average cost of these repairs was around £140, while some drivers reported having to fork out up to £250 to fix more extensive pothole damage.

Not only is pothole damage costing drivers money, but it also accounts for a considerable chunk of the road-related compensation paid out by local authorities in England and Wales. As reported by the latest Asphalt Industry Alliance ALARM review, local authorities paid out £8.1million in road-related compensation during 2019/2020. A colossal £5.9million of that total was for damages to vehicles caused by potholes.

It was hoped that an increase in the road maintenance budget this year would reduce the number of potholes, and therefore lower the cost of repairs for drivers and local councils alike. However, the budget cut will mean that the issue persists for longer and will continue to cause problems.

In response to the worrying amount of pothole damage, the managing director of Citroen UK, Eurig Druce, commented:

‘It is concerning to find that potholes have caused damage to nearly a third of drivers’ cars across England and Wales’ and suggested that local authorities ‘have a lot of issues to solve.’ He also recognised that there is no quick fix for pothole repairs, especially with a smaller road maintenance budget and that it would ‘take time’ to rid the nation of hazardous potholes.

Pothole repair budget cut despite rising vehicle damage

[Image Source: Shutterstock, March 2021]

March is the worst month for pothole damage

As if a budget cut and an increase in damage to vehicles caused by potholes isn’t enough to cause concern for drivers, Admiral has also found that March sees the most amount of pothole damage reports.

In a February press release, Admiral stated: ‘13% of pothole-related claims take place in March, which is more than any other month’ and that ‘pothole-related claims have increased by 30% since 2016.’

It was also noted that ‘despite restrictions in place throughout the UK for much of 2020, the number of pothole-related claims increased by 20% last year compared to 2019, showing the ongoing and increasing problems that potholes cause across major roads in Britain.’

As well as highlighting the increase in damage caused by potholes, the report also commented on the danger potholes can pose to drivers and other road users:

‘When the steering is severely damaged, it can also make it difficult for the driver to control the vehicle, which could increase the risk of accidents.’

Lorna Connelly, Head of Claims at Admiral, offered advice for drivers to help them avoid hitting potholes in such a way that could cause damage to their vehicles:

‘When you see a pothole in the road ahead, slow down to reduce the amount of damage caused to your vehicle.’

Drivers will know, however, that this is not always possible and hitting potholes is, more often than not, unavoidable.

Despite the cuts to road the road maintenance budget, however, there are a few plans in the pipeline for reducing the number of potholes on our roads.

JCB recently announced the development of a new, high-tech machine with the ability to repair potholes rapidly. The Pothole Pro will fill in a pothole in under eight minutes, accelerating repair time by 700% and thus reducing pothole-related damage.

As well as this, the Government in England has developed a ‘dedicated Pothole Action Fund’. A formula will be used to allocate funding to be shared by local authorities to either fix potholes or prevent them from forming in the first place.

In the meantime, however, it seems that it will remain the responsibility of drivers to be vigilant in their avoidance of potholes where possible.

Have you suffered pothole-related damage to your vehicle? Are you disappointed in the reduced funding for pothole repair?

Let us know in the comments.

Electric vehicle grants slashed by £500

Electric vehicle grants slashed by £500

In an effort to encourage drivers to make the electric vehicle switch to reduce emissions, the government has been subsidising 35% of the price of specific models of electric vehicles. This grant previously stood at £3,000.

As demand has increased rapidly, however, this has now been reduced to £2,500 and will exclude any models with a price of over £35,000.

The reduction has been met with contempt, particularly by car manufactures whose electric vehicle ranges will now be excluded from the grant scheme. Ford is one of those impacted manufactures and chairman, Graham Hoare, has expressed his disappointment in the reduction:

‘Today’s news from the UK Government that plug-in grants for passenger and commercial vehicle customers are being reduced is disappointing and is not conducive to supporting the zero-emissions future we all desire.’

He went on to express that without solid incentives that consumers can rely on, there may be a lack of uptake in the future:

‘Robust incentives – both purchase and usage incentives – that are consistent over time are essential if we are to encourage consumers to adopt new technologies, not just for all-electrics but other technologies too like plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that pace the way to a zero-emissions future.’

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, also shares in these concerns, revealing that he believes ministers ‘talk-the-talk when it comes to encouraging people into cleaner vehicles, but cutting the Plug-In Car Grant certainly isn’t walking the walk.’

Mr Lyes also stated that upfront costs remain a deterrent to drivers considering switching to electric vehicles, and thus the reduction in the grant is even more cause for concern:

‘Even though more models are coming on to the market, our research suggests upfront cost remains a concern to drivers when comparing the cost of an electric vehicle with a similarly sized conventional vehicle.

‘By cutting the grant, the Government may risk people holding onto their older, more polluting vehicles for longer.’

This would, of course, have a negative impact on the government’s plan to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 and could hold the country back in its go-green scheme.

Chief executive at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, Mike Hawes, commented that the news of the grant slash has is the ‘wrong move at the wrong time’ and is concerned about the message it sends to drivers:

‘This sends the wrong message to the consumer, especially private consumers, and to an industry challenged to meet the Government’s ambition to be a world leader in the transition to zero-emission mobility.’

Electric vehicle grants slashed by £500

[Image Source: Shutterstock, March 2021]

Support for reduced electric vehicle grant

Despite the disappointment and concern the reduction in the electric grant vehicle has caused for motoring experts and drivers alike, others have spoken out to support the move.

In a comment referring to the ineligibility of more expensive vehicles for the grant, Whitehall sources told the Times that a reduction was the right decision, stating that taxpayers should not be subsidising people to buy cars for £50,000.’

In an attempt to quell concern, Transport Minister Rachel Maclean explained the reasoning behind the reduced grant:

‘We want as many people as possible to be able to make the switch to electric vehicles as we look to reduce our carbon emissions, strive towards our net-zero ambitions and level up right across the UK.

‘The increasing choice of new vehicles, growing demand from customers and rapidly rising numbers of charge-points mean that, while the level of funding remains as high as ever, given soaring demand, we are refocusing our vehicle grant on the more affordable zero-emissions vehicles – where most consumers will be looking and where taxpayers’ money will make more of a difference.’

She concluded by reassuring drivers and manufactures alike: ‘We will continue to review the grant as the market grows.’

However, many experts remain unconvinced. Jim Holder, What Car? editorial director summed up the shared concern by saying:

‘While it was inevitable the carrot of the grant would whittle down over time and eventually be replaced by punitive measures, this feels too soon to take another step on that journey. The 2030 combustion only ban was announced with much fanfare- the thinking behind how to make the transition to that goal appears to be worryingly muddled, with this decision being further evidence of that.’

Are you looking to make the switch to an electric vehicle? Will the reduced grant impact your decision? Or do you think the government were right to make the cut?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Car insurance cost of cover remains at four year low

Car insurance cost of cover remains at four year low

The average cost of car insurance cover has remained at a four-year low as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, This is Money suggests.

Reduced traffic on the roads and decreased settled car insurance claims over the last year have kept the average cost of private comprehensive motor insurance at around £465, a welcome result for motorists.

ABI’s manager of general insurance, Laura Hughes, reiterated the impact of the pandemic on car insurance prices:

‘The pandemic has forced many motorists to change their driving habits.

‘Predictably, lockdowns have led to far fewer vehicles on the roads, reflected in the fall in the number of motor claims.’

She also went on to praise insurance companies for offering additional insurance options to support their customers as the pandemic took its toll on finances:

‘During the pandemic, insurers have given additional support to their customers, including options for reduced mileage and help for those struggling to pay their premiums by instalments.

‘It is good to see that throughout an uncertain year, motorists continued to get the best deals from a competitive motor insurance market.’

These comments come after it was announced that the current pledge not to increase insurance costs for drivers who are having to use their vehicles to drive to and from their workplace because of Covid-19 has been extended until 30 April.

This is also the case for drivers using their vehicles for voluntary services to deliver medicine or groceries to others impacted by the pandemic – their cover will not be affected. This has also been extended to 30 April.

Some insurance companies in particular, like Admiral, have gone above and beyond to cater to their customers changing needs during the pandemic, adapting their insurance costs to match reduced car and van use during the lockdowns.

While low insurance cover costs have been a lifeline for many over the last year, Laura Hughes has also admitted that, as we emerge from the pandemic, there may be other costs that motorists have to contend with:

‘As we edge back to some form of normality, cost pressures remain, such as increasing vehicle repair costs, reflecting ever more complex vehicle technology.’

Car insurance cost of cover remains at four year low

[Image Source: Shutterstock, March 2021]

Decreased settled car insurance claims to thank for low cover costs 

In 2020, the number of settled insurance claims was reduced by 19% compared to 2019, only reaching around 2.1 million. The total number of payouts was also significantly reduced by 6%, averaging at approximately £8.3 billion.

These numbers are directly linked to decreased traffic volume, supported by numbers extracted by the AA and reported by Money Supermarket:

‘The volume of traffic on the roads at the start of lockdown (23 March) was just 35% of pre-coronavirus levels.’

This number still only rose to around 75% in June, despite many restrictions being lifted, allowing motorists to travel again in a way that more resembled normality.

Money Supermarket also suggested that: ‘The sudden dearth of cars on the nation’s roads resulted in fewer accidents and fewer claims, putting downward pressure on the cost of car insurance premiums. This far outweighed the impact of any other potential factor on the cost of car premiums.’

However, the low costs could soon be set to change as motoring groups raise concerns about increased prices after the pandemic comes to an end. Compare the Market reports that 17% of UK motorists are expecting to use their cars more after the pandemic than they did prior to the pandemic, which will lead to increased levels of traffic and thus a rise in premiums.

Head of motor insurance at Compare the Market said: ‘Motor premiums, which have fallen recently could be about to jump once more. More drivers will need to adapt their policies to include cover for commuting, and insurers may increase their prices in anticipation of more cars and more crashes on the road.’

He concluded by urging drivers to shop around for the best insurance cover costs as the pandemic draws to a close:

‘At a time when money is already tight, it’s important that motorists look to save money where they can and shopping around for the most competitive policy remains the best way to do so.’

Have you been positively impacted by the low car insurance cover costs over the last year? Are you anticipating a rise in cover costs once the pandemic comes to an end?

Let us know in the comments.