London ULEZ exemption expires BEFORE expansion. Who has to pay?

ULEZ expansion 2021

It’s nearly a year since the London ULEZ came into effect. Now the countdown begins to the zone’s expansion, from central London out to the North and South Circular road perimeters. What will this mean for those living within the larger zone?

On April 8 2019, the area formerly (and still) the Congestion Charge zone, took on a second 24-hour and year-round (excluding Christmas Day) ULEZ charge for vehicles that do not meet certain emissions standards.

ULEZ: Do London residents have to pay?

Can diesel engines CLEAN urban air?

There are some exemptions from having to pay the ULEZ charge, which is £12.50 per day, elapsing at midnight every night. At the moment, included in those exemptions are residents of the ULEZ zone. This is, apparently, in order to give them a chance to buy a compliant vehicle. 

Those registered for the residents’ Congestion Charge discount are granted a time-limited grace period where they are discounted 100 percent of the ULEZ charge. However, this period of exemption expires on 24 October 2021. 

October expansion: Residents could be caught out

ULEZ expansion 2021

That just so happens to be the day before the zone expands. As the residents’ exemption elapses, the ULEZ will expand outward from the central Congestion Charge zone, to the North and South Circular road. So what about people living within that perimeter?

If they drive a non-compliant vehicle on October 25, they will be liable to pay the charge. Yes, even if they’re driving to leave the zone. This is, at least, what we were told when we called Transport for London’s ULEZ information line.

We expect more information about the expansion, and indeed more data on what effect the central zone has had, to come out around the one-year anniversary of the ULEZ in April. More so even, come October, when the one-year countdown begins until the expansion in October 2021.

There are 20 months still left to go and we can’t help but wonder if some details still need to be worked out…

Watch as a motorway bridge is removed from the M5

No plans for smart M5 motorway

It’s amazing what you can achieve in one Saturday night. While many of us were sleeping, Highways England was preparing to remove a motorway bridge from the M5 in Gloucestershire.

The 40-year-old footbridge spanning the southbound and northbound areas of the Michaelwood Services had reached the end of its life. It had been closed to pedestrians since 2018.

A team of 70 people were involved in the cutting, dismantling and lifting of the motorway bridge, aided by a 750-tonne crane. A further two 130-foot cranes were used to manoeuvre the 69-tonne structure for cutting and removal.

In a real-life Saturday takeaway, the metal and concrete were transported away for recycling. Come the morning, the road was reopened for traffic, with many drivers oblivious to the removal job that had taken place overnight.

‘Massive operation‘

Highways England took the opportunity to carry out other essential maintenance work during the overnight closure. Project manager Adrian Simon said: “It was a massive operation for our principal contractor Carnell, we understood the closure would have an effect on journey times and we appreciate people’s co-operation and patience during the work.

“We carried out additional work between junctions 13 and 14 to minimise disruption, the removal operation was carried out safely and discussions are ongoing regarding building a replacement footbridge.

“As is the case with a lot of our replacement and renewal schemes, another positive will see the materials recycled and put to good use elsewhere.

Not everything went according to plan. The team experienced computer issues with one of the 130-tonne cranes, unseen issues detaching the main span from the piers and additional cutting of the bridge deck.

Adrian Simon added: “Due to the complex nature of the operation, we did reopen the M5 a little later than scheduled, and again, we’d like to thank drivers using the diversion routes for their patience.“

Now watch the time-lapse footage of the bridge removal. They make it look so easy…

Can diesel engines CLEAN urban air?

Can diesel engines CLEAN urban air?

A new report into the particulate emissions of non-exhaust sources such as tyres has reached a rather shocking conclusion. One of the findings is that a modern diesel engine can actually CLEAN the air it’s driving through. 

This is highly contradictory to some of the negative talk around diesel cars. The Emissions Analytics report opens the diesel discussion, saying “the truth is that they have emitted very few particles, at least in relative terms, since the broad introduction of diesel particulate filters a decade ago”.

“Filters are in fact so good, that in certain circumstances, when the ambient air is already polluted, a diesel car will tend to extract more particles from the air than it emits”.

Cleaning the air with diesel engines: nonsense?'make or break' for diesel in 2020

To test the theory, it worked with Auto Motor und Sport using four recent diesel models. Going to the extreme, they opened canisters of high intensity particles in front of the air intake on the cars as they idled for an hour. Particle concentration at the front soared from the 11,000 cm3 or-so ambient, to over 100,000 cm3. 

In contrast, the particle concentration measured at the rear, near the exhaust, remained flat, even dropping to around 10,000 cm3 towards the end.

Diesel use down for the first time in a decade

Then they moved to more realistic on-road testing for the four vehicles. Exhaust particles were measured from cold, neutral warm idle, under heavy load, and during DPF regeneration.

As best as possible, the typical operating conditions of a car day-to-day were simulated. Long distance, middle distance and short drives, with a mixture of cold and warm engine states, idling, heavy loads, regeneration conditions, etc.

The results were as follows:

  • Idle: 10,246 cm3
  • Warm engine: 15,803 cm3
  • Cold start: 9,114 cm3
  • Heavy load: 16,894 cm3
  • Filter regeneration: 155,555 cm3

Denmark wants 2030 ban on petrol and diesel cars

The standout result that Emissions Analytics cites, which it says it didn’t expect, is that the net addition of the car’s pollution is mostly dependent on the ambient air pollution. This reflects the way the car breathes air in, as well as the way it exhausts waste.

The overall results are staggering, with just two out of the six conditions showing emissions from the car being dirtier than the air the car is driving through. These were long distance and middle distance, in ‘clean air’ with an ambient of 10,000 cm3.

The ‘dirty air’ baseline was around 50,000 cm3. Over long distances, the cars removed around 27,984 cm3 from the dirty air. Over middle distances, they removed around 8,025 cm3 from the dirty air. On short drives, they removed around 40,886 cm3 from the dirty air.

Diesel car fuel filler

Even in clean air, as above at 10,000 cm3, a short drive removed 886 cm3 from the ambient air. Long distance and middle distance did, however, add 2,000 cm3 and 21,000 cm3 respectively.

Emissions Analytics clarifies, that it would be a broad stroke to say that diesel engines clean the air. This is purely a measurement of particulates, and ignores nitrogen oxides and other gaseous emissions. 

It’s also worth considering that many diesels still on the road are pre-DPF models. The results, nonetheless, remain food for thought.

New Porsche app guides you to the best driving roads

Porsche Roads app guides you to the best driving routes

Porsche has released a free app to help keen drivers find beautiful landscapes and good driving roads anywhere in the world. And you don’t need to own a Porsche to use it.

You do need an Apple device, though. The Porsche Roads app is only available on the Apple app store at present, but should be in the Google Play Store before long – so Android-using enthusiasts won’t have long to wait.

Given the Apple version works with CarPlay, we can assume it’ll be Android Auto compatible as well. 

Porsche Roads app guides you to the best driving routes

The Roads app will be regularly updated with new functions. It currently has more than 2,000 routes, submitted by users, from all over the world. All users can add driving routes to the collection, so that list is growing by the day.

The app also allows access by community members to a magazine dedicated to the important scenes and sights along the best routes. The goal for the app is to be the largest user-generated collection of scenic and high-quality driving roads.

Putting Roads to the testPorsche Roads app guides you to the best driving routes

Travel blogger Sebastian Canaves put the app to the test by driving a Porsche 718 Cayman GTS along the Wild Atlantic Way, through the north-western part of Ireland. Canaves used the Roads recording function, to share the route he took with the community in the app.

Roads users are able to drive that route, following turn-by-turn navigation, and rate it. You can also follow other users and be up-to-date when they post new routes.

“Doing a journey like this by car gives you a very special feeling: the absolute freedom to drive wherever the road takes you,” he said. “With Roads, I can share this passion with other people who love driving and make my contribution to the world’s largest collection of epic routes.”

2020 Kia Sportage long-term test

Kia Sportage 2020 long-term review

2020 Kia Sportage long-term test

The Kia Sportage is a UK top-10 best-seller: we’re spending six months with one to find out why it’s so popular…

Living with a Kia Sportage: month 1

Winter is tough on cars. When the Sportage arrived, it was a little grubby, so I cleaned it that very weekend. Within two weekday sessions of commuting, it was filthy again. The licence plate in particular seems to get dirty quickly, perhaps due to some mysterious effect of aerodynamics. 

Kia Sportage long-term test

Because the reverse camera is mounted above the licence plate, this too quickly gets grimey, so you can’t seem much when you’re reversing. Luckily it has bleepers as well as the video feed. Even so, maybe Kia should investigate Nissan’s clever tech, which uses a high-pressure jet of air to keep rear-view cameras clean and dry. 

I haven’t been doing much in the Sportage other than commuting. That at least has given me chance to see how fuel-efficient modern diesels can be. In this case, it’s commendable. My best is 58 mpg, and over 55 mpg is easily achieved.

Kia Sportage long-term test

I committed the cardinal sin of dashing to the supermarket the other day, which is barely a mile away (my excuse: I was picking up loads of heavy items I’d have no chance of carrying on my own). Even this, despite running on cold, showed a short-term average of 40 mpg. 

The glorious byproduct of this, as any long-distance commuter knows, is fewer visits to the filling station, because the range on each tankful is so healthy. I see well over 500 miles each time I fill up: as I hate filling up (roll on electric cars), this is a huge win in my book. 

Kia Sportage long-term test

I now look forward to the winter weather easing, so I can see exactly how fuel-efficient the updated Sportage diesel is. Reckon a 60 mpg commute is possible? If it means being able to escape the filling station for another day, I’m certainly eager to give it a go…

Kia Sportage: introduction

The Kia Sportage is an extremely popular new car in the UK. A regular top 10 best-seller, it is our third-favourite SUV of all – outselling models such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, Honda CR-V and Peugeot 3008. 

Last year, over 34,000 of them found homes, continuing its track record of success. So we’ve decided to run one as a daily driver, to see why so many tens of thousands of people buy a new one each year. 

Now is an interesting time to do so, because of the spec we’ve chosen. We’ve gone for… diesel, which until just a few years ago, was the default choice for vehicles such as this. But then dieselgate happened and, well, you know the rest. 

2020 Kia Sportage long-term test

But diesel still makes sense for vehicles like this chunky-looking family SUV. Sure, we could have gone for the 1.6-litre turbo petrol; we’d have 174hp to enjoy, and an £800 saving on the list price to boot. 

Instead, we picked the 1.6 CRDi, with a less thrilling-sounding 134hp, and a price tag in ‘4’ trim of £28,510. Why? Average quoted fuel economy of 55.4 mpg instead of 36.7 mpg, along with CO2 emissions of 114 g/km instead of 168 g/km. 

That latter point is particularly relevant given how the UK new car fleet’s average CO2 emissions have been going the wrong way for three years now. Which coincides with, yes, the drive away from diesel. 

With the latest Euro 6 diesels clean enough to be exempt from any current or planned clean air zone restrictions (they’re clean enough for the London ULEZ, for example), there’s no sound reason not to choose diesel, and plenty going for it. So diesel it is.

Do you think we’ve made a mistake? Discuss in the comments below…

48v mild hybrid tech

2020 Kia Sportage long-term test

Kia hasn’t stood still. This latest Sportage (it was facelifted in 2018) uses a new 1.6-litre CRDi U3 diesel engine, rather than the clattery old 1.7-litre. It has NOx-reducing SCR tech, plus the surprise added extra of 48v mild hybrid technology (depicted by the ‘EcoDynamics+’ badge on the tailgate). 

This comprises a 0.44 kWh lithium ion battery and a clever starter-generator. The idea is to extend the stop-start engine-off period – shutting the engine down when, say, you’re rolling to a halt, instead of waiting until you’ve stopped. 

Kia reckons it will reduce emissions by 4 percent, a small but useful real-world saving. It also means there’s no annoying starter motor whirr when the engine restarts: it simply ‘comes alive’. 

For an added bonus, electricity from the lithium ion battery can also be used to ‘boost’ the engine under acceleration, reducing the load and further cutting emissions. Such mild hybrid tech will be coming to growing numbers of cars during 2020 and I’m looking forward to seeing how it fares in everyday use. 

2020 Kia Sportage long-term test

Other niceties of picking the ‘4’ grade (the poshest non-sport trim you can get) is a marvellous amount of standard equipment. Standouts include the ultra-bright LED headlights, heated soft leather seats, and an excellent JBL premium audio system which has its own subwoofer and external amp. 

We recently commented it felt like ages since we’d spent quality time in a diesel. Such is the way of the new car market at the moment. But I do believe it still has its place, particularly for the sort of long-distance, high-mileage driving I do. 

Come back in a few weeks to find out if I’ve fallen back in love with diesel after a few thousand miles in Kia’s best-seller…

Bonhams BMW Glas 3000 V8 Fastback

This unique BMW-badged prototype is heading to auction in Paris

Bonhams BMW Glas 3000 V8 Fastback

A shock announcement has stunned the automotive world that the Frankfurt Motor Show, responsible for some of the world’s biggest car launches, will be no more. 

Now is the chance to buy one of the cars that featured at Frankfurt more than five decades ago, with this rare BMW-Glas 3000 V8 Prototype. 

Set to be sold at the Bonhams Les Grandes Marques du Monde sale next week, this could be a serious momento of the German motor show

Heart of Glas

Bonhams BMW Glas 3000 V8 Fastback

The car in question is based on a model made by Germany’s smallest car manufacturer, Glas. Best known for producing its tiny Goggomobil range, Glas had attempted to move upmarket with a V8-engined coupe model.

However, Glas encountered financial difficulties as it began producing the new 2600 V8. The firm had tried to save money by making its own V8 engine, and also asked stylists Carrozzeria Frua to use components from existing cars where possible. 

By 1966 Glas company was seriously struggling. This meant its nearest neighbour, BMW, swooped in to pick up the pieces of the existing model range. 

Bonhams BMW Glas 3000 V8 Fastback

The 2600 V8 was now badged as a BMW-Glas, and remained on sale for a year. Then a new model, powered by a larger 160 hp 3.0-litre V8 engine, was released as the 3000 V8.

Also in 1967, BMW commissioned Carrozzeria Frua to create a concept of how a reborn 3000 V8 could look with a fastback coupe body shell. 

Unlike the slightly awkward regular Glas models, the Fastback Coupe was sleek and streamlined. 1967 saw it appear at both the Frankfurt and Paris motor shows, impressing the crowds. 

Kidney (grille) donor wanted

Bonhams BMW Glas 3000 V8 Fastback

Finished in the silver-blue paintwork seen on the car today, one of the most notable additions to the Fastback Coupe was the distinctive BMW kidney grille. BMW had previously resisted the urge to use its visual trademark on the V8 Coupe range, despite adding it to the smaller Glas GT.

The Fastback Coupe prototype would also appear at the Geneva Motor Show in 1968, followed by an appearance in Barcelona the following year. By that point the car had been painted red, but was otherwise unchanged. 

Despite the popular response to the concept, BMW dropped plans to build the Glas Fastback. Instead, the company opted to develop its own grand touring range, including the 3.0 CS coupe. 

Bonhams BMW Glas 3000 V8 Fastback

No longer needed by BMW, the Glas Fastback Prototype was sold to an owner in Spain. Records show that buyer kept the car for more than 20 years, before it passed into the hands of an employee. 

The second owner subjected the car to a thorough restoration, with the work for this being completed in 2015. Changes included restoring the paintwork to the original silver-blue metallic, and having the plush leather interior reupholstered. 

Acquired by the current vendor in 2016, the car has also benefited from recent mechanical maintenance and restoration work. 

On your marques…

Bonhams BMW Glas 3000 V8 Fastback

Ahead of the Les Grandes Marques du Monde sale, Bonhams has estimated that the 1967 BMW-Glas V8 Fastback Prototype could sell for between £210,000 to £290,000 ($275,000 to $380,000).

Being a one-off creation does values hard to compare. The car did appear at an RM Sotheby’s auction in 2015, but failed to find a buyer at a higher estimated sale price. 

The rare BMW-Glas V8 will head across the auction block in Paris next week on Thursday 6th February. Other cars set to feature include a prototype Ferrari Dino racer, and a 1938 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante Coupe.

Smart motorway rollout is put on hold, pending safety review

smart motorway rollout halted

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has put the expansion of the smart motorway network on hold, following high numbers of road deaths and reports of ‘near misses’.

The rollout will be halted until the government has concluded a review, first announced in October 2019. This followed concerns about drivers who break down in live lanes with no hard shoulder.

“For me, we must make them at least as safe, if not safer, otherwise they cannot continue,” said Shapps. smart motorway speed cameras one minute grace period

“Any death on our roads is one too many, and our deepest sympathies remain with the family and friends of those who lost their lives,” a Highways England spokesperson said in a statement.

“The Transport Secretary has asked the Department for Transport to carry out, at pace, an evidence stock-take to gather the facts about smart motorway safety. We are committed to safety and are supporting the department in its work on this.”

Smart motorways 2020

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for smart motorways. Damning figures related to motorway deaths and near-misses, related to ‘all-lanes-running’ sections have drummed up a media furore. In total, 38 people have been killed on smart motorways in the past five years. An increase in near-misses of 2,000 percent was also reported on a section of the M25.

A group of MPs, led by the ex-minister who signed off smart motorway expansion, then published a damning report on the programme. Sir Mike Penning revealed that he wasn’t privy to the plan to extend the 600-metre distance between refuge areas – used for the trial-run on the M42 – to 2,500 metres.

“I feel I was totally misled,” said Penning. “They are endangering people’s lives. People are being killed and seriously injured on these roads, and it should never have happened.”

Smart motorway rollout halted: the RAC reactssmart motorway speed cameras one minute grace period

“The fundamental issues of SOS area spacing and stopped vehicle detection, raised four years ago, remain,” said RAC head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes. 

“We very much hope the current review results in some meaningful changes that give drivers confidence in all aspects of safety on smart motorways. The type of smart motorways that have been built in recent years differ enormously from those from those that were first introduced in England. On today’s ‘all-lanes-running’ smart motorways, hard shoulders have been permanently removed and SOS areas are spaced much further apart.”

Smart Motorway stopped vehicle detection doesn't always work

“Short of reintroducing the hard shoulder, the introduction of the latest radar technology to detect stationary vehicles automatically, together with many more SOS areas and a large-scale public information campaign, should help make drivers feel more confident in the safety of the UK’s motorway network.

“A rethink in the design of smart motorways is clearly needed to bring consistency, reduce risks in breakdowns, and turn around plummeting public confidence. As it stands, we are not convinced that the current ‘all-lanes-running’ design is working and have reservations as to whether it should be the de facto standard going forward.”

New £82,900 Lotus Evora GT410 is ‘exceptional value’

Lotus Evora GT410

The new Lotus Evora GT410 costs £3,000 less than the GT410 Sport. And at £82,900, it represents ‘exceptional value for money‘. Not our words, but the words of a Lotus press release.

Everything is relative, right? Lotus says it has designed the entry-level Evora GT410 ‘to be a more usable everyday car’.

To this end, the Evora GT410 comes with Sparco seats and air conditioning, plus a reversing camera to help with parking.

Apple CarPlay is standard, as is DAB digital radio. Lotus has also improved the sound insulation to reduce road noise. It’s more ‘just add luxury’ than ‘just add lightness‘.

Evora GT410: just add armrests

Lotus Evora GT410 interior

Inside you’ll find integrated armrests and storage bins ‘for greater comfort and practicality’. Time to cancel that order for the Nissan Qashqai, this is the daily driver we’ve been waiting for.

There’s more. Lotus has revised the damper rate compared with the GT410 Sport to create a more comfortable ride. A set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S all-weather tyres will ensure the Evora needn’t be confined to the garage when the weather turns British.

At the back, a larger glass section in the tailgate will make it easier to reverse out of a garage. You can’t only rely on that camera, after all.

Further standard equipment includes cruise control, heated seats and rear parking sensors.

Lotus Evora GT410 launched

If you’re not ready for the soft-focus Evora, Lotus has revised the standard specification of the GT410 Sport. Upgrades include the integration of Sparco sports seats, air conditioning and a premium infotainment system.

Not to be left out, the Elise and Exige can be ordered with optional Touring and Sport packs. As the names suggest, one is for enhanced road use, while the other is designed for track-based frolics.

Tesla Model S and X could offer 400-mile electric range soon

Tesla Model S range

Tesla boss Elon Musk has announced during a financial meeting that the Model S and Model X are due a new EPA rating for range. According to the American standard, the existing cars are rated at 373 miles and 328 miles respectively.

While this isn’t a physical update, Musk did field questions as to why the Model S and X hadn’t adopted the ‘2170’ battery cell used in the Model 3 and Model Y.

“We’re pretty happy with the energy content of the [current] cell, and the improvements in the efficiency of the vehicle,” he explained. The Model S received its last range upgrade last year, jumping to a circa 370-mile WLTP-certified figure for both the USA and Europe.

As for what’s to come, Musk hinted that “We’re rapidly approaching a 400-mile range for Model S”.

Plaid powertrain is ‘like alien technology’Tesla Model S range


Speaking about the upcoming Plaid powertrain, Musk said “This is like alien technology, it’s insane”. Plaid will consist of three motors when it arrives on a top-end Model S later this year. Whether this version will offer a range upgrade to take it past the 400-mile barrier remains to be seen.

More likely, it is partly a rebuttal to claims that Teslas cannot sustain their performance for extended periods of time. Tesla was hot on the heels of Porsche at the Nordschleife, following the record set by the Taycan, with a Plaid-equipped prototype Model S. It claims to have beaten the four-door lap record at Laguna Seca, too. 

Musk has revealed before that Plaid will also be available on the Model X SUV, along with the upcoming Roadster. The 3 and Y, however, will miss out on the three-motor drivetrain.

Hyundai now builds Kona Electric in Europe to meet demand

Hyundai Kona Electric built in Europe

Waiting lists for the new Hyundai Kona Electric will be ‘significantly reduced’.

This comes as a result of a new production plant in the Czech Republic and the ramping up of supply from Hyundai’s facility in Ulsan, South Korea.

Availability of the Kona Electric has tripled, says Hyundai.

The Hyundai Kona Electric Premium costs £35,100 after the government plug-in car grant, while the top-spec Premium SE costs £37,450. Both versions feature a 64kWh battery and can deliver up to 278 miles of all-electric range.

When using a 50kw DC charging station, the battery can be charged to 80 percent in about 75 minutes. Using a domestic wallbox charger, a full charge can be achieved in a little over 10 hours.

Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, climate control, front and rear parking sensors, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, wireless charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Premium SE adds electric seats, front and rear heated seats, a heated steering wheel and head-up display.

The Kona Electric is available to order now and comes with Hyundai’s standard five-year/unlimited mileage warranty. The battery pack is covered by an eight-year warranty.

‘Outstripping supply’

Hyundai Kona Electric 2020

Ashley Andrew, managing director, Hyundai Motor UK, said: “The Hyundai Kona Electric has achieved outstanding success in the UK since its introduction, with demand for the model quickly outstripping supply.

“We have listened to our customers and are significantly ramping-up availability in order to cut delivery times, a move that we hope will encourage more people to consider a fully electric car.”

The Kona is also available as a hybrid model, which pairs a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to emit just 90g/km of CO2. It costs upwards of £22,500.

Alternatively, the regular Kona is available from £17,500. Unlike other compact crossovers, the Kona was designed from the ground up as a crossover and isn’t based on a regular hatchback.