Clean diesel could get drivers into low emission zone

Diesel drivers could enter London's proposed low emission zone without facing stiff charges using a device which would scrub out the worst of their tailpipe toxins.

The consultation period for the capital’s low emission zone began at the end of January and runs until April 24th. It aims to improve London’s air quality by forcing operators of large diesel vehicles to clean up their fleets through reductions in particulate emissions.

From 2008 charges of up to £200 per day will be levied on the heaviest diesel vehicles entering the zone. Fines of up to £1000 per day are proposed for vehicles failing to pay the charge.

Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said at the launch: “The proposed low emission zone is the most effective way of reducing the most harmful vehicle emissions quickly and will make London one of the only cities in the world to have taken such a radical step to tackle air pollution.

“London suffers the worst air quality in the UK and amongst the worst in Europe. I want people living, working and visiting London to benefit from better air quality and to live longer and healthier lives.”

Particulate matter such as PM10 is one of the most harmful forms of air pollution from a human perspective, posing a serious risk to respiratory health, and is known to contribute to premature deaths through carrying carcinogenic compounds deep into the lungs causing respiratory problems as well as causing heart damage and worsening asthma.

According to Defra estimates, the proposed low emission zone core scheme, focusing on PM10, would bring health benefits worth between £130 million and £180 million to the capital.

Diesel engines are among the worst offenders when it comes to producing particulates and their exhaust emissions are the primary source of the ultra-fine dust on the city streets.

The London Mayor’s office estimates that air pollution causes 1,000 premature deaths every year with an equal number of hospital admissions, while many more Londoners suffer ill-health as a result.

To combat these health problems, Mayor Livingstone has proposed introducing the Low Emission Zone which will cover all 33 London boroughs.

Under the proposals, from 2008, all diesel-engine lorries, coaches and buses over 7.5 tons would have to meet a minimum standard, known as Euro III for particulate emissions or pay a charge of up to £200 per day.

From 2010, the more stringent Euro IV standards would apply.

The problem for those driving diesels, from the family car to the biggest truck, the taxi to the double decker, is that most of the technologies available to scrub out particulates only come into their own once the engine has had time to heat up.

For urban drivers, this is a real problem, as short journeys in slow traffic often do not give the scrubbers a chance to kick in.

But a Mancunian engineering outfit believes it has come up with a solution that works from the moment the engine starts up.

Per-Tec Ltd has designed an electrostatic diesel particulate reduction device that removes over 90% of particulates from the exhaust fumes.

The Power Trap device can be fitted to existing vehicles by replacing the existing silencer on the exhaust.

Peter Kukla, chairman and managing director of Per-Tec, said: “The Power Trap’s qualities make it ideal for the proposed low emission zone in London as it starts removing particulate matter from the minute you start the engine and operates fully in slow moving traffic even whilst waiting at traffic lights.

“Most other technologies rely on specific exhaust temperatures being attained which are largely impossible in the high-traffic, low-speed conditions of urban areas.”

“Mayor Livingstone’s approach is the right way forward. In order for his plan to work it requires highly flexible technology.

“Per-Tec has focused on this direct need and our new system exceeds the requirement. A lot of existing technology is too sensitive and expensive for the OEMs to develop and optimise.

“Per-Tec’s system simply replaces the existing silencer, so is easy to fit and achieves greater noise reduction as an added extra.”

by Sam Bond

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