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a hybrid car free of charge yet are charged £8.00 to travel in an alternative low emission car just seemed unfair and out of date.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.


  1. Could you possibly post a chart of "exempt" cars vs. the non-exempt Volvo cars for comparison? It's hard to visualize what's happening without more than one example (the Lexus 400h).

  2. Hi Bob,

    I wish that it was that easy, and that emphasises the point made by What Car? in their support. The document - - tells you about cars that get an exemption, but it's pretty complicated.

    The basis of the campaign is that like-for-like cars get treated differently. A Toyota Prius at 104g/km is exempt yet a Volvo S40 DRIVe (of a similiar physical size and exactly the same emissions) is charged £8.00. The differentiator in TfL's view is the hybrid part, and the exemption is provided as a result. Our point is that you now don't need a hybrid to offer lower emissions.

    The Lexus 400h is another classic example. At 192 g/km, it's hardly a 'clean' car, yet it get's an exemption while the previously mentioned S40 at 104g/km still doesn't. It just doesn't make sense.

    Without a comprehensive list of exempt cars (because this will change all the time as cars are launched), I hope this addresses the point.

    Best regards, Duncan

  3. Hi Bob,

    Just found this link to a third-party site who've done a bit of work on this to provide some comparison - hope it helps.

    Best regards, Duncan


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