4×4 Owners – Don’t Panic Over the LEZ

Ford Diesel Truck
Nice Truck - Is it Compliant?

After The Mayor of London confirmed that as of 3 January 2012 the Low Emission Zone will affect larger vans, minibuses, 4x4s, caravans and other specialist vehicles, I started receiving phone calls and emails from worried off-roaders with a question: “Am I banned from entering London?”

Being myself a Land Rover person, I had to investigate this. First things first – the Low Emission Zone or LEZ is a new initiative aiming to keep the old fuming diesels out of the Capital and Greater London altogether.

There’s nothing bad with a diesel engine as long as it is in a good nick. A new or well kept diesel engine is environmentally friendlier than a similar petrol engine. However, things go worse with age and bad maintenance.

Having read the new rules I had a feeling that many pre-1996 diesel 4x4s may be affected. However, things are not black and white here.

A Transport for London spokesperson said:
“From 2012 the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) will apply to all diesel engine vehicles over 1.205 tonnes and minibuses under 5 tonnes with 8 seats plus the driver’s seat. The LEZ will apply to vans and minibuses, but also includes other specialist vehicles including some 4×4 light utility vehicles. Some 4×4 light utility vehicles will therefore become subject to the LEZ for the first time from January 2012.

“4×4 Light utility vehicles will be subject to the LEZ from January 2012 if they are diesel vehicles, over 1.205 tonnes and are classified as commercial vehicles, minibuses, pick ups or vans. These vehicles will have to meet emission standards of Euro 3 for particulate matter or pay a daily charge to drive within the zone.  4×4 Light utility vehicles are not subject to the LEZ if they are classified as a car.”

Let’s Check Our Cars

Your best bet is to stop guessing and check your vehicle for compliance. Visit https://lowemissionzone.tfl.gov.uk/b/pb/lezComplianceProvideVRM.faces and enter your vehicle registration number… twice. If you get “Not Subject to LEZ” in both rows of the result table, bingo, you’re all right, welcome to London! If however, the lower row reads “Non-Compliant”, alas, you’ll be an environmental outlaw in London from January 2012.

I checked my own car and it passed, so you’ll see me in London again and again. I checked my pal’s 1990 Toyota Land Cruiser. Now, here I expected to see a negative result because he has a 4.2 litre monster under the bonnet and the blue fume from the exhaust cannot be anything to do with pancakes… still a pass! I cannot describe his car as environmentally friendly, although it is a diesel and consumes a relatively low amount of fuel.

Then I proceeded to checking my neighbour’s 1994 Toyota Hilux pickup. He’s what you’d normally describe as a white van man, the only difference is that he’s driving a Hilux 4×4. Clearly a commercial vehicle. Good times – his vehicle turned out to be non-compliant. He, however, seemed to be unperturbed by the sad news, says, I never go to London.

What to Do?

What to do if you find that your vehicle fails the LEZ criteria? Well, if you don’t want to get rid of your car, you’ll have to fit a particle filter on your exhaust system. It is not cheap but if you can justify the cost, by all means, install the filter. It will keep your wheels on the road for a few more years and the cost will even out. Or consider scrapping your car and get a new electric car for your business – and enjoy a massive tax credit!

Alex Mullen from Green Urban explains: “LGV filters vary from around £1400 to £3000 depending on the system and vehicle horse power – the more expensive end is usually for an active regeneration system that is more costly because it has a system that regenerates the filter even when temperatures are low – as in London “tootling” around with no motorway driving means that they are more prone to blocking.

“This phase was delayed from last year as a result of the single biggest issue. It is that TFL will only approve a Euro 4 technology even though the vehicles only need to meet Euro 3 legislation and Euro 4/5 technologies mean full flow filters – more expensive.”

The Countdown

The bottomline is that the majority of private vehicles will remain unaffected but to be sure, check your car on TFL’s website. As for the fleet owners, you have just 5 months to get your act together. You may say that this is not fair and I will somewhat agree that a dilapidated 20-year old diesel banger is worse for London than a new-ish well-maintained commercial vehicle but you have to understand that the transport system of Greater London should be improved and it is only obvious that the change should start with the commercial sector.

Will the Major’s new legislation improve the sales stats of Smith Electric and other manufacturers of green delivery vehicles? We’ll see!

Pic of the truck by crowdive via Creative Commons.

1 thought on “4×4 Owners – Don’t Panic Over the LEZ”

  1. Just got back from a trip to London (first one since I was a kid) and I really enjoyed myself. But I couldn’t believe the diesel fumes! It was slightly better in the parks and surprisingly right in the center of the city and ventually I got used to them, but it was great to breath fresh air back home.

    I know it’s a big city but seriously it stinks – literally. If anything can be done to reduce the diesel pollution it can only be a good thing – for the people who live and work there and their health.


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