electric car charger (2) Kārlis Dambrāns

Yesterday, we reported that Senator Brown has proposed a new bill that would give financial incentives for workers to commute in electric vehicles. Well, it seems like our friends across the pond are also looking for ways to increase EV usage and subsequently reduce pollutants.

Separate rules for electric vehicles

According to the BBC, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has instructed five English cities to introduce clean air zones by 2020. These include Birmingham, Leeds, Notthingham, Derby, and Southampton – all of which have alarmingly high levels of nitrogen dioxide.

These clean air zones would have newly-designed road layouts that would allow electric vehicles to “bypass one-way systems or get priority at junctions.” Those who drive electric vehicles will also get special parking privileges such as designated spots or lower parking fees.

On top of that, these zones would also introduce certain restrictions on commercial vehicles that emit particularly high levels of gases. For instance, these zones would impose restricted access to buses, coaches, taxis, and trucks either by making them pay a toll fee or by making the licensing process for buses and taxis more difficult. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs assures, however, that these restrictions would not apply to private cars or motorbikes.

Given the fact that more than 40,000 deaths a year in the UK are linked to pollutants primarily caused by diesel fumes, these clean air zones seem like the right step going forward. However, there are some concerns as well.

Limitations and criticism on clean air zones

The biggest limitation of these proposed clean air zones is simply the fact that they aren’t everywhere. As Edmund King, president of the Automobile Association, points out, having separate rules for electric vehicles in some areas of the country would be too confusing. King believes that while these zones may help in the short run, ultimately, they won’t solve any of the fundamental issues.

Echoing King’s concern, environmental groups like ClientEarth have pointed out that requiring just five cities in the country won’t have any meaningful impact on the thousands of premature deaths caused by air pollution.

Though we will have to wait to see how these clean air zones shape up, I think they are certainly guiding us in the right direction. What are your thoughts?

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