Poor Air quality has been deemed the “biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK”, as it is thought to be linked to 40,000 premature deaths per year. Levels of air pollution have generally been falling across the country but in many cities, nitrogen oxides regularly breach safe levels. These enter the atmosphere via exhaust discharge with the overwhelming majority of nitrogen oxide gases coming from Diesel vehicles.
Studies conducted by the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Pediatrics and Child Health concluded that air pollution is linked to heart disease and lung problems. There is quite substantial evidence that suggests that Dementia may also be linked but studies are ongoing. Additionally, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are needed to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5C.
Earlier this year, the government lost a High Court Case to campaigners ClientEarth, who claimed that not enough was being done to achieve compliance regarding air pollution levels. Mr Justice Garnham concluded that, “The Environment Secretary must ensure that, in each of the 45 areas, steps are taken to achieve compliance as soon as possible, by the quickest route possible and by a means that makes that outcome likely.” He added, “In effect, these local authorities are being urged and encouraged to come up with proposals to improve air quality over the next three years, but are not being required to do so. In my judgment, that sort of exhortation is not sufficient.”
As a result of the above ruling the Government has outlined new plans relating to the reduction of nitrogen dioxide pollution. These are heavily focused on petrol and diesel vehicles as they are one of the main causes of nitrogen dioxide pollution.
Government plans to tackle the problem
In 2017 the Government unveiled plans to ban all diesel and petrol cars and vans from our roads by 2040 to tackle air pollution. This was formally introduced in their “Road to Zero” document which was published in July, 2018.
The document provides targets such as, “We want to see at least 50%, and as many as 70%, of new car sales and up to 40% of new van sales being ultra low emission by 2030” and “By 2050 we want almost every car and van to be zero emission”. It describes how they plan to achieve the targets by funding, infrastructure etc but the emphasis is heavily on the manufacturers to update their production facilities to become compliant as soon as possible. Of course there are many companies already manufacturing electric and hybrid vehicles so it appears the Governments goals are not unattainable.
One common and major concern that the public have regarding Electric Vehicles is where they can charge them up. There are plenty of petrol/diesel stations around, but it is much harder to find an electric charge point. The Road to Zero document explains how new homes and commercial premises will be built with electric charge points as standard and how local councils will build them into their future infrastructure plans.
The Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Act, part of the Road to Zero strategy, empowers the government to mandate electric vehicle charge points at motorway services. The legislation allows mayors to request Charge Points to be installed at large Fuel Stations in their area. Roads Minister Jesse Norman said, “ The UK is becoming a world leader in the roll-out of low-emission transport. Today we have passed a significant milestone in that journey.
“The increasing automation of our cars is transforming the way we drive, and the government is steadily updating our laws in order to prepare for the future. This act will ensure that the UK’s infrastructure and insurance system is ready for the biggest transport revolution in a century.”
Following the release of the Road to Zero document, the UK held the 2018 Zero Emission Vehicle Summit. This cemented the UK as a world leader in the race to achieve a zero emissions future around the world. Theresa May told delegates that she wants to see Britain “leading from the front and working with industries and countries around the world to spearhead change”.
There was a lot of discussion around leasing electric vehicles at the summit with Lex Autolease Managing Director, Tim Porter commenting, “As the global automotive industry goes through this transformative period, the leasing industry has a huge role to play. We have been working with customers for a number of years to help them upgrade to low emission vehicles – where it’s the right move for them as individual drivers or fleets.
One of the key benefits of leasing an electric vehicle is that customers avoid any of the potential risk associated with its future resale value. With battery technology and range continuing to improve, electric vehicles are fast becoming suitable for mainstream motorists. With this in mind, we’re pleased to have announced our new £1 million fund to encourage wider take up of zero emission technology”.
Everything the Government is proposing and starting to put into place appears to be extremely positive. However, the focus is fully on cars, vans and lorries whereas there is very little to no consideration of Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEV’s).
What Is a Personal Light Electric Vehicle (PLEV)
A Personal Light Electric Vehicle is typically an electric vehicle with 2 to 4 wheels, powered by a battery, fuel cell, or hybrid-powered. They generally weigh less than 100kg and some examples are electric bicycles, electric kick scooters, electric skateboards and Unicycles. Although some are purely for leisure, most PLEV’s are designed as an aid for the “last mile” of a journey or city commuters.
Laws surrounding PLEV’s in the UK
PLEV’s are currently not permitted for road use, in cycle lanes or on pavement in the UK with the exception of electrically assisted pedal bicycles (EAPC’s) that meet certain criteria i.e. must have pedals for propulsion, the manufacturer or power output of the motor visible, the battery’s voltage or speed off the bike displayed, must have a maximum power output of 250 watts, should not be able to propel the bike when its travelling more than 15.5mph and 2 or more wheels. However, many modern PLEV’s are far safer than electric bicycles as they have indicators, front, rear and brake lights as well as reflective strips, electric horns, wing mirrors, speedometers and high-quality brakes as standard. They can also be electronically restricted to the maximum speed whereas a pedal bike can easily achieve speeds in excess of 20mph when ridden manually. That fact that they have “fixed pedals” and are therefore not propelled manually seems to be the regulatory tipping factor even when all other criteria is met and surpassed. It can be argued that an electric scooter can also able to be ridden completely manually by pushing like a standard kick scooter.
The law restricting their use on pavements dates back to 1835 Highway Act and outlines the prohibition of any carriage, Horse, Ass, Sheep, Mule, Swine, or Cattle on a pavement. This law is extremely outdated when the types of vehicle are compared from 1835 to now.
European Laws for PLEV’s
Electric Scooters were rigorously trialled in California over the past couple of years and they proved so popular, a rental infrastructure has been developed, similar to “Borris Bikes”. Due to their success in reducing carbon emissions and city congestion along with their increase to levels of commuter enjoyment (which is linked to happiness and productivity), mainland European countries are rapidly updating their PLEV laws.
In France a PLEV can go up to 25km/hour in a cycle lane, while Austria, France, Finland, Netherlands and Switzerland additionally extend this to road use. In France and Germany a PLEV can also go up to 6km/hour on the pavement, similar to a mobility scooter.
Main Benefits of PLEV’s and why the UK Laws should be updated
Some of the major benefits offered by certain PLEV’s are as follows:
• Significantly Reducing Carbon Emissions compared to diesel/petrol cars or most public transport
• Far more compact than a car so much less congestion on the streets
• Powered by renewable energy so cheaper to run and better for the environment
• They can be charged from a 240V socket so less infrastructure costs required than other larger, electric vehicles
• Potential to enhance commuter enjoyment significantly which is linked to productivity.
• Can be built specifically to meet regulations
From the above list and the previous paragraphs, it is hard to see the downside of a regulated introduction of PLEV’s onto our streets/ cycle lanes and potentially pavements. They reduce emissions which will significantly aid the government in its “Road to Zero” strategy immediately. They are compact and lightweight so the levels of congestion in cities will drastically reduce as proved in California and more recently mainland Europe. This will also lessen the impact of vehicles on our roads so there will be less maintenance required, saving more money. From our experience and research people that currently use public transport are the least content with their commute, down to congestion, expense and cancelled/late services mainly. The PLEV’s will target all of these negatives in a positive way i.e. decrease congestion, save the commuter money within a matter of months generally and allow the rider the freedom to travel at a time that suits them. I believe that at the very least the PLEV’s should be considered for cycle lanes and pavements under similar regulations as Europe are enforcing.
Petrol and Diesel supplies will eventually run out, not to mention the impact that their combustion has on the environment. It is time to evolve into the renewable energy markets and pioneer rather than follow, As Mrs May stated, “leading from the front”.
To try and clarify the UK regulation specifically for PLEV’s we wrote to the Department of Transport and received the following response 06.12.18:
“The Government is committed to ensuring the safety of all road users, and as a result the UK has one of the best road safety records in the world. Requiring vehicles to comply with construction requirements, and putting appropriate restrictions on where they can be used, is an important part of maintaining the UK’s good road safety record. For pedestrians, particularly disabled people, unobstructed access to the pavement is a key part of enabling them to move around freely and independently.
As set out within the powered transporters information sheet, the Department does not believe that personal powered transporters can meet the current requirements for vehicles for use on the road. The Highway Act 1835 continues to prohibit the use of ‘carriages’ on pavements for this reason. ‘Carriage’ refers to all vehicles, including pedal cycles and powered transporters, which means that they cannot be used on pavements. In addition, powered transporters are also not permitted to use cycle facilities such as tracks or lanes. These are defined in law as being reserved for pedal cycles, including electrically assisted pedal cycles that meet the relevant legislation.
Wheelchairs and mobility scooters (defined as ‘invalid carriages’ in law) are permitted to use the pavement through specific legislation, which also sets rules on their use. For example, mobility scooters are limited to a maximum speed of 4mph on the pavement and 8mph on the road. Further guidance on invalid carriages can be found on GOV.UK.
This does not mean that we wish to prohibit the introduction of new technologies, such as powered transporters, by default. The Government recognises the essential role that new technologies, transport solutions, and business models will play in helping to resolve transport issues such as increasing congestion and pollution.
I’m sure you will be pleased to know that the Government is reviewing a wide range of transport law as part of the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge, announced in the Industrial Strategy in November 2017. The aim is to establish a flexible regulatory framework to encourage new transport modes and business models, by undertaking a thorough review of all relevant legislation. The scope of this regulatory review will be informed by the responses to the Future of Mobility Call for Evidence, which closed on 10 September 2018.
We are currently analysing these responses, and will be announcing the priorities for the regulatory review alongside the Future of Urban Mobility Strategy, in early 2019. For further information on the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/industrial-strategy-the-grand-challenges/industrial-strategy-the-grand-challenges.”
So although the Department of Transports’ response did not clarify a date that the laws will change, it is clear they are taking the approach to more eco friendly transportation very seriously. This can only be a good thing for the not too distant future!
Check out www.rideandglide.co.uk to see all the electric products. Call us for more info or to arrange a demo and experience for yourselves the electric revolution!