London will have a new Ultra Low Emission Zone charge that will be launched in 2021, and over 1.6 million motorists would have to change their cars to newer and cleaner ones to avoid the £12 (RM66.6) per day charge. This is according to the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders, reported by Autocar.

The 1.6m figure estimated by the carmakers’ trade body (UK’s version of our MAA) is much bigger than that officially recognised by Transport for London (TfL). The SMMT says that 782,439 diesels and 858,018 petrols will be hit by the new rules, whereas TfL believes that just 321k diesels and 255k petrols will be affected. That makes 576k cars.

If SMMT’s figures are accurate, it will cause a major impact to Londoners and the city’s car population. In tune with the latest trend, the new rules are harder on diesels than petrols – Euro 0-5 diesels and Euro 0-3 petrols will have to pay the daily ULEZ charge. Euro 5 diesels aren’t smoky old cars – they might be 3.5 years old today and by 2021, the last of the EU5s will be just seven years old.

The report calculates that owners of petrol cars will be affected if they drive a pre-2005 model, the date Euro 4 started. Today, those cars are 12 years old. The car magazine also laments the fate of the “young classics”, as generations of enthusiast cars from the 80s, 90s and 2000s will become prohibitively expensive to run as daily drivers in the capital city.

Classic cars will be spared, hence the concern for “young classics”. Lobbying by the Federation of British Historical Vehicle Clubs mean that owners of historic cars will be exempted from the ULEZ. Historic cars are defined as 40 years old by the government, so by 2021, cars made before 1981 will be exempt.

All for greater good, the authorities say. “Urgent action is required to tackle London’s air quality crisis and reduce emissions from older more polluting vehicles. We are currently consulting on expanding the ULEZ, which would see a 71% reduction in schools in high pollution areas in 2021 – lowering the exposure of school children to harmful toxins that can reduce their lung development,” said Alex Williams, TfL’s director of city planning.

“We are not outlawing or banning any cars. There is still the option to use a car, but only after paying a £12 charge. Owners may just choose to use their vehicle less often,” a TfL spokesman said.

Owners of ‘young classics’ such as these will have to pay £12 per day to use their car in London come 2021

Autocar calculates that an owner who uses a “young classic” every day faces an annual bill of £4,380 (RM24,331), while an overnight trip away to Silverstone or Goodwood, for instance, will cost £24 (RM133) because the charge is applied on the journey out and back in over the weekend.

The ULEZ charge is in addition to the existing Congestion Charge (CC), which started out at £5 in 2003 and has steadily moved up – first to £8 in 2005, £10 in 2008 and £11.50 (RM63.8) in 2014. London’s ULEZ is just the start, with Birmingham, Manchester and Oxford earmarked for future implementation.

What if something like this was proposed for Kuala Lumpur, citing a needed improvement in our city’s air quality – will you be for or against the move? Me? I say first things first – those belching lorries (don’t they have tests to pass?) and noisy, white smoke-emitting two-stroke kapcais should be taken off the road. Implement existing regulations before making new ones.