Just 2% of scrapped vans replaced with electric vehicles under Ulez scheme

Out of 16,965 successful applications of non-compliant vans by the end of May 2024, just 372 were replaced with electric vehicles, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Oliver Lord (credit Noah Vickers/LDRS)
Oliver Lord (credit Noah Vickers/LDRS)

Only 2% of vans successfully submitted to the Ulez scrappage scheme have been replaced with electric vehicles, as of last month.

Data published by Transport for London (TfL) shows that out of 16,965 successful applications of non-compliant vans by the end of May 2024, just 372 were replaced with electric vehicles.

The mayor’s office said the scrappage scheme does not require vehicles to be replaced only with electric alternatives, and that Londoners can choose how to spend the money.

The scrappage scheme – now backed by £210m of City Hall funding – was launched by mayor Sadiq Khan ahead of his London-wide Ulez expansion last year. It aims to help individual Londoners, as well as the capital’s charities and small businesses, replace their non-compliant vehicles with less polluting alternatives.

For charities, sole traders and small businesses, vehicles which don’t comply with Ulez emission rules can either be scrapped, retrofitted or, if preferred by the owner and if deemed suitable, donated to Ukraine to assist humanitarian efforts.

Retrofitting a van means the owner receives a grant payment of £6,000, while scrapping it or donating it to Ukraine is rewarded with £7,000.

The money can be spent however the owner wishes, though it is thought that most who have chosen the scrappage or donation option will want to put it towards the cost of a new and compliant van.

However, if the owner can provide evidence that they have not only scrapped their van but also replaced it with an electric one – rather than simply opting for a more modern petrol or diesel version which complies with Ulez emission rules – they can apply for a larger sum of £9,500.

The data published by TfL shows that a relatively tiny number of van owners are going to this effort however, with the vast majority – 96 per cent – choosing only to scrap or donate and taking the £7,000 payment.

Oliver Lord, UK head of the Europe-wide Clean Cities campaign, said, “The mayor’s van scrappage scheme is a leading endeavour but something isn’t right if only two per cent of businesses in London have ditched diesel [and petrol] and switched to electric instead.

“Londoners rightly expect businesses to step up and play their part in cleaning the air and protecting the environment, but more support is needed to make cleaner electric vans a viable option.”

A spokesperson for the mayor said: “Since the introduction of the scrappage scheme in January 2023 more than 52,000 grants have been approved for Londoners, businesses and charities to switch to cleaner vehicles, with more than £178m committed. There is still support available.

“London is leading the way in electric vehicle uptake with more than 20,000 electric charge points – more than one third of the UK’s total. The mayor has committed to working closely with partners to deliver 40,000 charging points by 2030.”

As of the end of May, just over £31m remained to be allocated from the scrappage scheme.

Analysis published this week by Transport and Environment – parent organisation to the Clean Cities campaign – found that the number of vans on UK roads has increased by over a million since 2014.

The analysis further found that carbon emissions from vans in the UK have risen 63 per cent since 1990, while emissions from private cars and taxis have decreased by 19 per cent over the same period.

The organisation said its research showed that the majority of new van sales are diesel, accounting for 90% of all new van sales in 2023. In contrast, diesel cars registered on UK roads have fallen by 13% between the end of 2018 and the end of 2023, but diesel vans rose about 13% in that same period.

Transport and Environment said these figures are reflected in the UK’s nitrous oxide emission levels, with emissions from HGVs and cars falling by 91% and 88% respectively since 1990, but vans have only produced a fall of 38%.

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