Andrew Elphick delves into Low Emissions Zones (LEZs), and how their widespread introduction could affect widespread classic car usage for years to come…
The future. Its scary right? Maybe. One thing is for certain you will never outrun it in a car. You may or may not be aware of the LEZ, or you might have read about the ‘Umweltzone’ or presently it may be of little concern to you if London is far, far away on a map.
Here at AROnline we love cars, all cars old, new, desirable and British Leyland. But here’s the rub: they’re killing us. Yeah we all know that, we all ignore it too – after all we are only doing a few hundred miles in our pride and joy, on top of which as enthusiasts our pride and joy is normally in optimum condition. This is absolutely true for the most part, and the liberty four wheels and a gallon of petrol gives us is un-measureable at the moment. However current EU regulations force several European cities to take measures (including our own capital if your classic is a commercial or a Landrover) that are strangling our right to throttle assisted roaming.
Low Emission Zones (LEZ) are becoming common place, a fact which lets be honest is no bad thing. But what is a LEZ?
LEZs are areas where the vehicles in the highest polluting group are banned. Yep, you clutching your Castrol valvemaster bottle. Yep, you too, the proud owner of the million mile LTI Fairway. Around the globe these areas can be spotted as Enviromental zones, Umweltzonen, Milieuzones, Lavutslippssone, Miljozone to name the most famous. All open 365 days a year bathed in glorious CCTV and warden control.
We know Air travel is far more polluting, as are cattle, domestic heating and pretty much ever other mechanised process. However the motor vehicles pollutant level is easy to monitor, easy to rectify (should you have the fiscal means for a brand new car). Transport for London’s grounding by 2013 of over 4000 traditional FX4 based Taxi’s shows the power behind these incoming environmental measures.
Our car loving Italian cousins have the ability to battle their nation’s famous legal bureaucracy, and register pre-1992 vehicles as ‘Historic’ so long as the New Highway Code requirements are met. Germany is possibly the strictest emissions disciple with 42 existing ‘Umwelt’ environmental zones. In a nutshell if you’re not Euro 1 compliant, you not allowed in. However register as an ‘Oldtimer’ and freedom is restored – if over 30 years old.
AROnline’s deputy editor Alexander Boucke explains: ‘When German authorities looked for solutions to fight the PM10 and NOx immisions often exceeding limits imposed by EU law since 2005, a bundle of measures was taken. Apart from targetting industry and domestic heating, a particular emphasis was put on road traffic. In the end laws were passed that allow cities to ban cars based on emssions if other actions did not achieve the necessary effects.
‘When it transpired 2006 that all cars without catalytic converters and almost all old Diesels would be banned, the classic car movement was shaken up – and finally started some protest actions after debating the topic. The argument that the small number of registered historic cars (‘Oldtimer’) would not significantly affect the immisions in the new Umweltzone areas could be backed up by numbers and brought to the parliament. The nice – and not self-evident result was the total exemption from these regulations for classic cars.’
So what is this pollution fear? Air pollution. The two most prominent are microscopic particles (PM10) and various Nitrogen oxides (NOx). PM10 particles are less than 10 microns in diameter, that is 10 millionth of a meter. These particles can be dust, pollen r soot – either natural or man-made. The contaminant of most concern being Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) which as Nitrogen monoxide (NO) mixes with atmosphere ozone (O3) to create NO2 (Nitrogen dioxide). Both are thought responsible for an increase in respiratory (breathing, asthma) and fine particles also for cardiovascular (heart) conditions. A black cloud over our most densely populated cities. In simple terms that choke you do if you’re stood near the back of a smoking bus.
European emissions regulation compliance chart:
|Light commercial vehicles (N1-I)
|Sept 2015 (diesel only)
|Light commercial vehicles (N1-II & III)
|Sept 2015 (diesel only)
|Trucks and buses
So is the British classic car movement is prepared and armed?
Not yet. At present the classic car community at large seems preoccupied with free RFL – road fund licence. A fair goal, one which would likely benefit tens of thousands of enthusiasts. However if you can’t actually drive your car, it doesn’t matter if RFL is free or not.
Several associations (including the Association of car enthusiasts and the FBHVC have submitted proposals questioning future trends with the LEZ’s, AROnline’s worry is that the average enthusiast in the street has missed these potential incoming dangers for the classic car community.
So dear reader what do you think? Should we lobby for a combined registration and taxation system similar to the German ‘Oldtimer’ process? An ability to drive the length and breadth of Britain tax free at a vehicles 30th build date anniversary?
It seems a simple pilgrimage to us.