In 2015, the UK government announced plans to implement clean air zones (CAZs) across the country as part of a wider initiative to reduce air pollution and improve air quality. While important for both society and the environment, such a move has brought with it a number of consequences for vehicle owners. That’s why, as people who own and are passionate about electric scooters, we thought it worth discussing:
- What is a clean air zone?
- How does living in a clean air zone impact vehicle owners?
- Is an e-scooter a good option for commuting in a clean air zone?
What is a clean air zone?
A clean air zone is an area where targeted measures have been taken to improve air quality and the environment. These measures are implemented by local authorities in accordance with the UK government’s Clean Air Zone Framework, and are designed to support economic growth and protect public health.
Evidence suggests that clean air zones lead to significant reductions in particulate matter (PM), which are tiny particles in the air known to cause lung and health problems. Furthermore, such zones help reduce pollution from oxides of nitrogen (NOx), which also cause health problems and are formed by burning fuel, especially in diesel engines.
As per government guidance, the following cities have or are scheduled to have clean air zones:
- Bradford (to begin charging in 2022)
- Bristol (to begin charging in 2022)
- Greater Manchester (under review)
For vehicle owners, it’s worth keeping in mind that the above list is not exhaustive, as more cities plan to implement clean air zones in the coming years.
How does living in a clean air zone impact vehicle owners?
Clean air zones attempt to address all sources of pollution. When it comes to vehicles, which represent a persistent or unavoidable pollution problem, there are restrictions which encourage only the most eco-friendly of vehicles to operate in the area.
Though they come in different grades, there are essentially two types of clean air zones:
As its name suggests, the latter refers to zones where vehicle owners are charged for entering or driving within them. How much they are charged depends on their vehicle’s emissions. Vehicles with high emissions are either not allowed to enter CAZs or are charged steep fees. Vehicles which are exempt from these charges must first prove their emissions meet the requirements of the clean air zone. Such vehicles include:
- Fully electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles
- Ultra-low emission vehicles
- Retrofitted vehicles (the government has put into place a Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme to guarantee that all actions taken to retrofit a vehicle will indeed reduce emissions for free entry to clean air zone)
The government has a clear long-term goal for all new cars and vans to be zero emission by 2040, and for all cars and vans to be zero emission by 2050. Clean air zones, and measures taken within them, are therefore all aiming to support and deliver on this long-term goal.
Is an e-scooter a good option for commuting in a clean air zone?
The short answer is yes. Simply because e-scooters are emission-free.
While e-scooter laws in the UK state you cannot ride a privately owned e-scooter on public roads and cycleways, the government is trialling a shared-scooter system as a clean, convenient and cost-effective way by which to commute. If it’s a success, then there is a chance laws on this front might change. At the moment, all signs point to e-scooters creating ‘greener’ travel habits.
In Wellington, New Zealand, 21% of e-scooter trips would otherwise have been made by car. In Chicago, 43%. In Portland, 36%. Closer to home, a survey conducted in Birmingham, where there’s a clean air zone, found that roughly 140,000 car journeys were replaced by e-scooter trips, leading to an estimated reduction of 66 tonnes of carbon dioxide in the city centre.
It's clear that e-scooters are a great eco-friendly choice not just for people commuting in clean air zones, but for people across the world, with many shared-scooter services now pushing to become fully carbon-neutral. If you’d like to learn more, check out our post on the best e-scooters for commuting, or view our range of popular e-scooters.