London T-charge: How to upgrade your fleet for Sadiq Khan’s diesel crackdown

As of late 2017, a new fine on pollutant vehicles has come into operation within the boundaries of the London Congestion Charge zone. Labelled the T-charge, the £10 fee is an addition to the existing £11.50 daily cost of driving through London, and aims to improve the capital’s air quality by reducing the number of higher-polluting vehicles driving through it. The charge is in operation between Monday and Friday from 7am to 6pm, and affects vehicles that do not meet the minimum Euro emission standards, including cars, vans, and HGVs.

If your business regularly requires vehicles to drive through the congestion charge zone, then an inability to comply with these emission standards could prove costly. It is imperative that you determine whether your fleet is compliant with these regulations, and if not, make sure that it is. This can have benefits to your business on a wider scale; as fleet management experts Movolytics note, eco driving reduces carbon emissions, can cut business costs, and will help you to fulfil your corporate social responsibility. Here are some of the different measures that you can take to prepare your business’ fleet for the T-charge.

Check whether the vehicles in your fleet are liable

All vehicles sold from January 2005 onwards automatically meet the emissions standards, so a simple check of when they were registered will tell you whether you need to update your fleet or not. Alternatively, the TfL website has a T-Charge checker in which you can input the number plates of your vehicles to check if they are liable to incur the charge.

If some vehicles in your fleet meet the emissions standards and others don’t, you could consider simply re-organising your fleet so that only T-charge compliant vehicles are driven within the Congestion Charge zone.

Replace your vehicles

If it turns out you do have vehicles that are aren’t compliant with the emission standards, you could take steps to replace them with vehicles that are. In addition to helping you avoid the T-charge, some of these options can also be cost effective for your business in other ways. You have a number of options when it comes to replacing non-compliant vehicles:

  • Upgrade to new vehicles – Consider replacing any vehicles you have that were made before 2005 with later models.
  • Replace your fleet with electric vehicles. You could also replace your current vehicles with electric vehicles, which don’t emit any fumes at all. However, many businesses have been put off by the higher initial costs of EVs, which 45% of small businesses say is the biggest barrier to switching from petrol-run vehicles.

In spite of this, research shows that EVs are cheaper to run than diesel or petrol vehicles. With the government launching a grant in 2011 to subside the costs of EVs, and pledging another £100 million on the plug-in scheme in 2017, buying EVs is cheaper than ever. When you take into account the T-charge, making this switch  could be an incredibly cost-effective measure for your business in the long term.

  • Replace your vehicles with hybrids. You could also consider switching your current vehicles to hybrid models, which use internal combustion engines in combination with electric motors. However, as with EVs, many have been reluctant to switch to hybrid vehicles, with 22% of businesses saying that a significant barrier is the lack of places to recharge them. Despite this, many hybrid cars are cheaper to run than their counterparts, in addition to allowing your business to avoid the T-charge.

Convert your vehicles to gas

Instead of replacing your fleet altogether, you could convert non-compliant vehicles in your fleet to run on liquid petroleum gas. Although you will have to spend a substantial amount on getting them converted, it won’t take long to recoup this outlay. This is because gasoline vehicles cost around half the price to run than vehicles that need diesel or petrol.

There are around 200 approved installers across the UK, but after a conversion is completed, you’ll need to register your vehicle with the DVLA, and obtain a certificate from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

Have exhaust filters fitted to your vehicles

Another way to avoid the T-Charge without replacing your fleet is to have filters fitted to your vehicles’ exhausts. This could reduce their emissions enough to meet the emissions standards. You need to make sure you go to an approved supplier to get these fitted, and should bear in mind that the process for one vehicle takes at least three months to complete.

The cost of the filter itself will depend on the age, type and usage patterns of the vehicles, but will typically cost between £1,800 and £3,500 for most vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles. You will then need to spend a further £200-£500 on the fitting costs.

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