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EV:1 LEZ: 1 - Electric Vehicles and Scotland's First Low Emission Zone

EV:1 LEZ: 1 - Electric Vehicles and Scotland's First Low Emission Zone

You might be forgiven for thinking that the title of this blog refers to a score draw in the World Cup. Instead, it refers to a potential ‘win’ ‘win’ scenario for the growing market in electric cars and the benefits of improved air quality for a busy city like Glasgow. In the latest in our series of articles focusing on the rapidly evolving ultra low emission and electric vehicle (EV) sector, our attention has turned to local government and policy initiatives that will potentially aid the transition to electrified transport.

Last month Glasgow City Council approved implementation plans for Scotland’s first city centre Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and agreed to extend the LEZ to apply to all vehicles types by 2022.

Local bus services will be the first to be effected, with LEZ restrictions being phased in from December 2018. Thereafter, it is proposed that all other vehicles entering the LEZ must be fully compliant with Euro 6 emission standards for diesel and Euro 4 standards for petrol, to avoid a penalty charge. The Scottish Taxi Federation has already expressed concerns that two thirds of taxis operating in Glasgow and Edinburgh use older non-complaint engines, and in response the Scottish Government has mooted the possibility of grants to fund engine replacements. It is anticipated that the LEZ will be policed by number plate technology, with a fine of around £20.

Some exemptions are likely to apply to blue badge holders, emergency and refuse collection vehicles. Owners of historic vehicles, registered as such by the DVLA, will be hoping the zone won’t catch their vehicles too. Before proposals are finalised, Glasgow City Council has undertaken to consult with interested parties to ensure that the policy to extend the LEZ to all vehicle types will properly balance the needs of the business community and commuters with the health benefits to be gained by lowering city centre air pollution. 

The implementation of a LEZ in Glasgow could lead to a rise in the use EVs and this is a welcome development, showing how policy can lead the way in implementing changes in the sector. However, as highlighted in our previous articles, a coherent policy implemented by central and local government is only part of the solution, and there remain a number of challenges that the EV market faces: the lack of a co-ordinated network of charging stations; overall driving range; the relative expense of EVs; and concerns over residual values with high depreciation rates.  These are infrastructure and technology challenges and will require significant investment to overcome, but coherent policy initiatives will help to focus attention on targets and hopefully drive this investment into the areas required.  One example of policy support for the use of EVs, could be a move by the Council to increase the number dedicated charge and park spaces.

At Burness Paull, we are actively engaged in the ultra low emissions and EV sector advising clients on the infrastructure challenges of developing charging assets, together with advising clients on energy generation and battery storage that will have a significant role to play in meeting the demands of the sector. The consultation launched by Glasgow City Council will run for 12-18 months and it will be interesting to see how the sector develops in this time period – the pace of technology often moves quicker than the pace of regulation, but it is hoped that getting the policy right at the outset will have the desired effect in aiding Scotland’s largest city in its transition to electrified transport. 

By James Forbes
Partner, Construction & Projects

Burness admin