City of London considers local ban on non-electric vehicles – Financial Times



The City of London is considering banning non-electric vehicles from a special “low-emission” street, in a pilot programme that underscores the severity of the air pollution crisis that has plagued the financial heart of the British capital.

The City of London, often known as the “Square Mile,” is home to several of London’s worst hotspots for nitrogen dioxide pollution, due to its narrow roads, high buildings and congested traffic. 

Ruth Calderwood, air quality manager for the City of London, said the City might trial an “ultra low emission vehicle” street that would allow only electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to pass. 

Although local authorities in London have ramped up efforts to fight air pollution, the levels of nitrogen dioxide in the capital have been above legal limits since 2010, and City of London officials say the Square Mile will be one of the last places to come into compliance unless further steps are taken. 

“What we realise is the Ultra Low Emission Zone [introduced by mayor of London Sadiq Khan] won’t be quite enough for us to meet the limit values, so we are going to have to look at additional measures at our busiest roadsides,” said Ms Calderwood. 


The combustion engine could soon start to disappear from some London streets after more than a century © Getty

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has set out plans for “ultra low emission zones” from next year, which will require drivers and motorcyclists to pay a £12.50 daily charge if they do not meet emissions standards.

“We are looking at the feasibility of introducing an ‘ultra low emission vehicle’ street,” she said, adding that the City also planned to adjust parking fees relative to vehicle emissions to encourage cleaner vehicles. 

The pollution is so bad in the Square Mile that it was considered a major accomplishment when pollution levels at Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School, near Aldgate, successfully complied with the legal limit for nitrogen dioxide last year. 

Air pollution monitoring stations at Thames Street and at Beech Street consistently rank among London’s worst spots — last year they were the most polluted and fifth-most polluted, respectively, in terms of number of hours exceeding maximum nitrogen dioxide limits. 

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City of London officials declined to say which street were under consideration for the new electric zone, or how soon it would begin. 

“Because we haven’t done that before, it would be a pilot trial on a small street to see how many vehicles will be able to comply with that,” said Ms Calderwood. “We want to make sure about the availability of vehicles, we don’t want to introduce something that’s going to be a problem.” 

There are currently only about 12,000 electric vehicles in London, although that number is set to increase, particularly because all newly purchased black cabs have been required to be “zero emission capable” — meaning they can drive up to 30 miles on battery only — since the beginning of this year.