A lot can happen in three years, but banning combustion engines from a major city centre? That seems a bit of a stretch.
Oxford City and Oxfordshire County Council have proposed plans to rid the city centre of all diesel- and petrol-fuelled vehicles — buses and taxis included — by 2020. This could potentially make Oxford centre the very first Zero Emission Zone, and the council also wants to expand this Zero Emission Zone twice more, in 2025 and 2030.
The council cites the health risks caused by pollution as the reason behind this bold proposal. In a statement, Oxford council says, “Oxford city centre currently has illegally-high levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide, which contributes to diseases including cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease – and contributes to around 40,000 deaths in the UK every year.”
The council projects that this new plan will lead to a 74% reduction in nitrogen dioxide on the centre’s most polluted street by 2035.
The City Council had already made some headway, as they state in their press release that they have won £500,000 in government funding to install charging points for electric taxis, and a further £800,000 for charging points for use by Oxford residents.
However, as optimistic as this plan may seem, The Memo picked up on a slight catch.
The area that would be covered by the 2020 no-emission zone is incredibly small, and already contains “very little traffic,” according to the Oxford Zero Emission Zone Feasibility and Implementation Study. It notes that implementing the diesel and petrol ban in this area “would potentially have little overall effect on air quality”.
On the other hand, three years is not a long time to adapt a city centre to electric vehicles, so changes would have to be incremental.
TheOxford Zero Emission Zone Feasibility and Implementation Study also suggests that the council could incentivise people to switch to electric vehicles by offering free EV (electric vehicle) parking in 2020 and then introducing EV-only parking areas in 2025.
James McKemey at Pod Point, a company which installs EV charging points, believes that the real incentive to switch to EV won’t come so much from the public sector, than from consumer experience. He told us that government grants and tax breaks encouraging the purchase of electric cars are “small incentives which are helpful in the early days […] but ultimately the real incentive to drive an electric vehicle will be that they are fundamentally better.”
He also thinks that Oxford City Council’s 2020 goal isn’t an unreasonable target, given that EV battery pack prices have recently become far more affordable at a rate that is “far beyond what we expected”.
So from this point of view Oxford centre wouldn’t be forcing a change to electric vehicles so much as keeping up with a trend.
However, this doesn’t mean that enforcement won’t be an issue. Oxford council’s study recommends the implementation of Automatic Number Plate Recognition to help identify anyone infringing on the Zero Emission Zone, regardless of the “illuminated signs” they would put up.
The plans are still only a proposal, and from Monday Oxford residents will have six weeks of public consultation to voice their opinions about their town going electric. Lovely though the plans to reduce pollution sound, they’re bound to make disrupt life for local businesses, as well as the few Oxford professors who don’t ride to work on penny farthings.
Of course if Oxford does go electric, it will make for much more environmentally friendly car chases on Lewis. And what about Endeavour? Hard to say.