By 2040, the UK government have an aim to end the sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles. Additionally, as part of their push towards creating a nation who commutes purely via electric vehicles, they have also proposed to invest significantly in charging points throughout the UK.
This will include a host of plug in points at motorway service stations, car parks, and new-build homes when feasible. They hope that by 2030, 50 per cent of all new cars will be zero emissions. Critics, however, have insinuated that this is somewhat of a pipe dream considering electric and hybrid cars accounted for only 5.3 per cent of new car sales in 2018 – that would mean an almost 22-fold increase in a similar number of years.
The Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)
In April 2019, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, brought forward his initial plans to introduce an ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) in the capital city by a year. Accompanying the congestion charge, ULEZ is a daily £12.50 tariff for petrol cars registered before September 2005 and diesel cars registered before September 2015. Unlike the congestion charge, introduced to reduce the amount of traffic in the city centre and which only operates during certain hours, ULEZ is 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, and drivers are subject to incur the charge each and every day they enter the zone, regardless of the time entering and exiting the city. Transport for London, the official transport body for the city, noted that during 2018, one and a half million diesel cars failed to meet the standards which would avoid ULEZ charges, while the figure was 500,000 for petrol vehicles.
The introduction of the ULEZ
Transport for London has predicted that the scheme implemented by the London Mayor will reduce toxic emissions from road transport by approximately 45 per cent in a two-year period. The legal limit for harmful nitrogen oxide levels has been broken every year in London since 2010 and more concerningly, in January 2017, the annual limit had been exceeded after just 30 days. Khan’s measure may seem extreme to many, but atmospheric toxins are proving to be one of the UK’s largest silent killers. Approximately 64,000 people die in the UK each year because of air pollution, with 9,500 in London alone. Khan has already established a million-pound scheme in improving the general air quality around 50 of the city’s worst affected schools, protecting what he has described as, “the unofficial martyrs in London’s war against air pollution”.
Liquid Petroleum Gas – an alternative?
Much of the emphasis of late has been placed on the transition to electric vehicles, but an alternative that has existed for quite some time and that is beginning to earn some traction, is Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). LPG, otherwise known as propane or Autogas, is a by-product of refining crude oil into various hydrocarbons.
In terms of the environmental benefits of LPG, they can be significant. Unlike its diesel and petrol alternatives, particulate matter emissions, which have been found to cause premature death in people with heart and lung disease, are almost non-existent in LPG. Similarly, LPG produces approximately 33 per cent less CO2 emissions than petrol and 45 per cent less than diesel. Nitrogen oxide levels, meanwhile, have been found to be up to 95 per cent lower from an LPG supplied engine as opposed to a diesel one.
Economically, the positives of moving to LPG could also be significant. Initially, a driver will be required to invest a lump sum in converting their petrol engine. Usually a conversion of this kind will cost in the region of £1,000 to £2,000, depending on the manufacturer of the car and the gas fitter (a receipt from the installer will act as a guarantee to support the insurance document).
With the initial outlay of installation out of the way – at the pump, expect to pay half the price to fill your car compared to what you’d pay if you were filling your vehicle using petrol. The one downside, however, is the decrease in economy, which returns on average three-quarters the miles per gallon a petrol or diesel would. Every time you refuel, however, you can expect to save a quarter of your bill.
A switch to LPG in terms of economic saving is most viable for someone doing larger trips, with drivers doing 20,000 miles a year expected to recuperate installation costs between one and two years. For someone who is carrying out the annual average mileage for a car in the UK, expect to spend between three and four years before savings start to make themselves apparent.
With fuel prices consistently rising here in the UK, 1.74p increase in the annual average price of diesel from 1st May 2019 to 30th May 2019, everyone is looking for a way to reduce their weekly expenditure at the pumps.
Photographs courtesy of DriveElectric