Alfa Romeo in London Congestion Charge zoneIn an open letter some may find surprising, the Society of Motor Manufactures and Trader (SMMT) has written to Mayor of London Boris Johnson telling him to be MORE ambitious with his London low emissions zone targets.

Transport for London should rethink its proposals for the 2020 Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), says the SMMT, to enforce the latest Euro 6 standards for both diesel and petrol vehicles.

Currently, the plans mandate Euro 6 emissions for diesel cars, but only insist on 2006-era Euro 4 emissions for petrol vehicles.

This would mean, by 2020, petrol vehicles with emissions standards 14 years out of date would be free to enter London – emitting CO2 emissions 72 per cent higher than the 95g/km CO2 target that will then be in place.

Removing this apparent bias against diesel cars would not weaken targets for diesels, but strengthen emissions regulations for petrol cars and thus help the ULEZ zone “bring air quality and carbon reduction benefits to London sooner,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

 “The implementation of the ULEZ will accelerate the take-up of ultra low and low emission vehicles, but a harmonisation of standards – a technology-neutral approach – for petrol and diesel vehicles would strengthen the initiative. 

“SMMT is urging London to be more ambitious with a universal (Euro 6) standard for both petrol and diesel vans and cars which would remove any confusion, strengthen the uptake of cleaner technology and bring air quality benefits sooner.”

Modern diesels ‘light years away’

Addressing a growing perception that modern diesel cars are the root cause of city centre emissions, Hawes added that “today’s diesel vehicles are light-years away from those built just a decade ago.

“Intelligent engine design and highly efficient exhaust aftertreatments, including particulate filters, capture over 99% of particulates and around two-thirds of NOx emissions.”

The big advantage of Euro 6 emission technology in cars is their ability to constantly monitor and manage exhaust emissions. Older Euro standards do not mandate this – so an out of tune car, either petrol or diesel, could be putting out much higher emissions than the theoretical limit without the owner realising.

All new cars now launched to market must meet Euro 6 emissions standards, and it will become mandatory for every car on sale to hit the Euro 6 target by autumn 2015.

The SMMT doesn’t believe motorists will be penalised by its suggested further toughening of emissions regulations, either.

Countering worries that motorists won’t be able to afford the low emissions cars, it said that “qualifying vehicles would be up to six years old and would be reasonably affordable, potentially on their third owner”.