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Clean Air and Alternative Fuels: Is Your Fleet prepared?

Nov 9, 2021

With COP26 taking place in Glasgow, a focus on climate change impacting government policy decisions and the UK targeting net zero by 2050, changes to the way we live, work and travel are coming.

Here we look at two big changes: Clean Air Zones and alternative fuels. We examine what they are and how they are likely to impact you if you are a fleet operator or fleet manager.

Clean Air Zones

What are Clean Air Zones?

Clean Air Zones (CAZ) are being defined as areas where targeted action is being taken to improve air quality. The Clean Air Zones are implemented at a Local Authority level and can see a range of actions implemented to achieve the above objectives.

There are two categories of Clean Air Zone:

Non-Charging Clean Air Zones

These are defined areas where these is a focus on action to improve air quality. A range of actions can be taken to improve air quality but charging vehicles driving in these areas is not one of them.

Charging Clean Air Zone

These are as above but also include the need for drivers to pay a charge when entering or driving in the zone if they are driving a vehicle that does not meet the standard for their vehicle type in that zone

When will Clean Air Zones be implemented?

COVID-19 delayed many plans for Clean Air Zones. However, there are several cities which have implemented a CAZ.

These include:

  • Bath
  • Birmingham
  • Portsmouth (charging will start from the 29th November)

Due to the delays caused by COVID-19, it is expected that more cities will implement CAZs later in 2021 and into 2022.

If you are a fleet operator, be aware that London has its own separate solution to improving air quality. The Low Emission Zone (LEZ) which covers most of Greater London. And the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) which was recently expanded and now covers all areas within the North and South circular roads. Both of which set a charge for driving a vehicle in the area which doesn’t meet the emission standards.

What impact will clean air zones have on fleets?

There are 4 types of clean air zone A, B, C and D which set out the vehicle type which must adhere to the emission standards set.

Each vehicle type has a minimum emission standard. And to avoid having to pay the charges which apply in Clean Air Zones, your vehicle must meet the minimum standards.

  • For Buses, HGVs & coaches this minimum standard is Euro VI
  • For vans, minibuses, taxis, private hire vehicles, cars the standard is Euro 6 for diesel vehicles and Euro 4 for petrol vehicles

HGVs are listed under type B, C, and D Clean Air Zones as being liable for charging if they do not meet the emissions standards.

This means you fleet will face additional charges for driving within these areas, increasing your cost base. Along with the administration associated with setting up payment for these charges.

One study estimates as many as 43% of fleets will be impacted by both CAZ and London’s ULEZ. And a Commercial Motor Magazine study found that 49% of fleets surveyed were compliant with all the CAZ emissions requirements.

Fleets will have several options to deal with the introduction of CAZ

  • Replace vehicles to comply with emissions standards (either new or second hand)
  • Redistribute fleet vehicles so that non-compliant vehicles do not enter a CAZ
  • Accept the charges for non-compliance

Alternative Fuels

Why will fleet operators need to look to alternative fuels?

The government has set the target of banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030. With all new cars and vans needing to be fully zero emissions by 2035.

For trucks and lorries this deadline is slightly later, with sales of all new non zero emissions HGVs to end by 2040 (subject to consultation).

What alternative fuel options are available?

Many fleet operators are beginning to make the move to electric vehicles (whether fully electric or hybrid models), or at least consider how they will embrace alternative fuels. Electric is currently the most widely available form of alternative fuel for cars and vans.

The picture is more complex for HGVs and lorries given the additional complexity of the weight of the vehicle and the distances which they often need to cover. Manufacturers such as Tesla and Volvo are developing electric trucks, but these are still very much in the development phase.

There are concerns over battery life, costs associated with the number of batteries required to power HGVs and charging times for electric powered HGVs.

Others believe that hydrogen powered HGVs may be the alternative fuel that will help decarbonise the sector.

Whichever technology is ultimately used, the charging and refuelling infrastructure for these alternative fuel sources will need to be embedded across the UK to enable fleets to continue to operate at today’s levels.

What impact will this have on your fleet?

Change is coming and the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will be implemented over the next decade according to current government targets. So, your fleet will need to act now to prepare for this change. You’ll need to set your vehicle strategy so that you comply with any government led changes and look at your infrastructure and operating model.

This is a significant change for fleet operators but one which likely comes with both financial and environmental benefits. Once issues around supply, infrastructure and rapid charging are dealt with hopefully your fleet will have confidence to make the switch.

The governments Decarbonising Transport plan sets out targets, ambitions and funding proposals for achieving decarbonised transport and is worth a read if you are a fleet operator.

At Anthony Jones we’re keeping a close eye on technology advances in the transport industry and how this may impact our customers business and insurance needs so will keep you updated as we find out more. We work with a wide range of insurers so can work hard to access the right cover for your vehicle – petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric vehicle. Get in touch with us today if you have any questions about your motor and fleet insurance.

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