Friday, July 24, 2009

Emission Equality Congestion Charge campaign success

Hot on the heels of the What Car? poll that lets drivers decide on what they'd like any future Congestion Charge exemptions to be, we've heard from The Mayor. Well sort of....

In a response in the London Assembly to a question posed by Mike Tuffrey about Volvo's challenge, The Mayor confirmed "I have already asked TfL to undertake a full review of Congestion Charging discounts and exemptions, and they will be reporting to me on this later in the year. I have also responded to Volvo to that effect. It is appropriate to keep the criteria for Congestion Charging under review and consider the effects of changes in vehicle technology, as well as the range of other calls for changes to the discounts and exemptions available. I will consider this matter fully when I have the results of TfL’s review later this year."

Now technically The Mayor is telling a bit of a porky because we haven't yet received a response and have sent a follow up letter today requesting one. However, the fact that he has asked TfL to fully review the basis on which Congestion Charge exemptions are applied is excellent news, and to be welcomed.

It'll be very interesting to see what they come up with, but rest assured we'll keep lobbying so that logic and sanity prevails, unlike when the Charge was set up!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Have your say on the Congestion Charge.

If you've been following Volvo's Congestion Charge campaign, you'll know that we've been lobbying The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to review the charging model of the London Congestion Charge. Put simply, if you drive a hybrid-powered car into London, irrespective of its emissions, it's free of charge. However, if you drive an equivilent-emitting conventional internal combustion engined car into the the capital, it'll cost the driver £8.00. And we think that that pricing model is outdated and simply unfair.

What Car? have been supporters of the cause since the outset and now they've given you the chance to register your thoughts on what the charge should be by hosting a poll on their home page. Have your say -

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Volvo performance for road and track

In conjunction with participation at the Brands Hatch round of the WTCC this weekend, Volvo Car UK and Polestar Racing AB have announced a new range of performance upgrades for Volvo road cars.

A collaboration between Volvo’s Racing Team, Polestar, and Volvo Car Corporation’s power train department has produced ‘Polestar Performance’ - bespoke software that enhances vehicle performance. The software upgrade will be available from Volvo’s UK dealer network and complies with EU emission regulations.

The performance upgrades will be made available on 1 August for the popular D5 185 PS engine fitted to the Volvo V70, XC70 and S801, while the XC90 will be available later this year. The engine control system upgrades offer a power increase of 20 horsepower to 205 PS, without affecting the car’s fuel consumption in normal driving. After optimisation, the acceleration of the car improves on average by 0.5 seconds in both manual and Geartronic transmissions. Naturally, the car will also comply with the strict emissions regulations stipulated by EU legislation. Prices for the upgrade are £650 including VAT.

More importantly, all warranties from Volvo will apply. None of Polestar’s power optimisation kits increase the car’s top speed. As a result, standard brakes and tyres can be used.

The upgrades are being launched to coincide with the Volvo/Polestar Racing team’s appearance in the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at Brands Hatch this weekend.

The team is currently lying in second place in the Swedish Touring Car Series with two ethanol-powered Volvo C30 DRIVe race cars. This weekend, drivers Robert Dahlgren and Tommy Rustad will travel to Brands Hatch to test their skills against the world’s best touring car drivers, during a one-off appearance at the latest round of the WTCC.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

50 years of safety innovation

Sitting on a train on the way to London. Not a normal commute this one though.

Today is Volvo's opportunity to present our safety credentials and heritage to a select number of key infleuncers. This morning will be spent in the Houses of Parliament presenting to a group of MPs, Ministers and Lords on the importance of a number of Volvo's safety innovations including one that has saved over one million lives. More details to follow on 13 August - the 50th birthday of the innovation.

The evening will be spent with some of the most influential motoring journalists on the same mission, but in very different surroundings - the top floor of The Gherkin - one of the best views of the capital.

But, bearing in mind our current Congestion Charge campaign, it'll also be really interesting to count the number of hybrid cars on the roads that are exempt from the charge compared the rapidly increasing number of other low emission cars, such as Volvo's DRIVe models, whose drivers currently have to cough up £8.00 for the priviledge.

So, Volvo cares about safety and the environment - just like it's always been.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Still no response from The Mayor

If you're a regular visitor to Torque Talking, you'll have seen that Volvo Car UK has launched a campaign requesting that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, revisits and reviews the grounds on which hybrid cars entering London do so free-of-charge while cars that emit the same levels of CO2 are charged £8.00.

And we seem to have hit on something that the vast majority of people agree is unfair and outdated. Since the campaign launched 10 days ago, we've already had hundreds of people either following us on Facebook, Twitter or signed up on the website which is fantastic. However, there is one notable absentee from the ever lengthening list. The Mayor.

The initial letter was sent to his City Hall office and his Head of PR on June 22nd and we gave him a week to formulate a response. Nothing. When we launched the campaign, I expected a response, assuming that even if they hadn't received the letter (you know what the Post Office is like without partial privatisation!!), at least his PR team who surely monitor the internet for him would have picked it up. Still nothing.

Which leads me to one conclusion. Either the postman doesn't deliver to City Hall (which he does), or City Hall doesn't monitor said what's said about The Mayor online (which they must) or that he's so embarrassed by the status quo that he doesn't know what to say. I know which one I believe.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A bit of background to Volvo's Congestion Charge campaign

This issue has been rumbling around for awhile within Volvo Car UK, mainly because this is a business that believes in fairness and equality. The fact that you can travel into London in a hybrid car free of charge yet are charged £8.00 to travel in an alternative low emission car just seemed unfair and out of date.

When London's congestion charge was launched in 2003, it contained exemptions for 'alternative fuel' vehicles. Very little is mentioned in the legislation about why but the assumption has to be that, at the time, these were the only viable low emission cars.

The fact that The Mayor offers an exemption for such cars surely calls into doubt whether it's a congestion charge at all? Surely, by definition, a congestion charge would charge more for the more congestion you create? But no. The driver of a MINI and the driver of one of those ghastly stretched Hummers transporting loads of screaming hen-night goers are charged the same. You could get three or four MINIs in the same space so to call it a congestion charge isn't credible.

And on the basis that The Mayor is offering a discount to low-emission hybrids, it must be an emission charge. And if it's an emission charge, isn't it fair and reasonable to expect drivers of similar emission cars to pay the same? Even more, isn't it crazy that drivers of larger hybrids emitting over 200g/km of CO2 travel free while cars emitting half as much are charged £8.00?

And the campaign was born. Where it goes, who knows? However, there's a saying that you should only fight the battles you can win. What I do know is that for a business who believes in fairness and equality, this just feels like a fight worth having.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The campaign ball's rolling

Well, we're 24 hours in and I didn't really know what to expect, but we certainly seem to have struck a chord with the public and media mood. Checking out Google this morning under the search 'Volvo cars' and reference to the campaign was the 4th highest ranking story. Searching 'Congestion charge' delivered a similiar result.

The dynamics that sit behind a Google search are still a mystery to me but what I do know is that a result like that doesn't happen by accident. Lots of influential people are talking and writing about it, and reading it.

And the snowball should just keep rolling. Articles like this - - show me that we weren't the first to think about this, just the first to do something about it.

So if you haven't already, sign up at or or and show your support for righting the wrong and achieving Emission Equality.

Volvo Car UK challenges The Mayor of London to Emissions Equality

Late yesterday afternoon, Volvo Car UK challenged the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to review the basis of charging for the London Congestion Charging zone.

We believe that the principle of hybrid cars being exempt from the Congestion Charge is now outdated and unfair. Drivers of hybrid cars enter the zone free of charge on a daily basis while drivers of low emission cars powered by conventional internal combustion engines with the same, or even lower, levels of emissions are charged £8.00 per day. This could add a financial burden of over £2,000 per year to those drivers who have selected a traditionally-powered low emission car.

The apparent disparity was highlighted to Boris Johnson by the Regional President for Europe from Volvo Car Corporation when he collected the What Car? Green Car of the Year award from The Mayor recently. This was followed up by a letter to The Mayor's office on 22 June.

What Car? has joined the campaign, and you can too by registering support at . Using the power of Social Media, you can also follow the cause on or befriend the campaign at
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