Clean Air Zones - an innovative solution

Nissan Leaf in St Albans

Executive Summary

Coventry is faced with the task of removing emissions from transport to address a major public health issue caused primarily by poor air quality. With the UK government committed to introducing Clean Air Zones (CAZ) to improve air quality in at the very least, Coventry wanted to adopt theirs voluntarily.

Electric Blue proposed a project that would also result in the creation of a CAZ management and reporting platform permitting data visualisation and reporting. As the project would be collecting live vehicle data, commercial models were also developed with recommended pilot deployment costs and user tariffs.

About Coventry City Council

Coventry City Council is the local government body responsible for the governance of the City of Coventry in England.

Coventry City Council is working closely with neighbouring authorities and Government Agencies to address poor air quality. It is one of seven local authorities in the West Midlands working in partnership to improve air quality and reduce emissions from road transport as part of ‘The Low Emissions Towns and Cities Programme (LETCP)’. It is also working closely with Defra to determine whether the introduction of a Clean Air Zone will be beneficial to air quality.

The Challenge

Coventry is working on several key priorities including:

  • Completion of the feasibility study for the introduction of a Clean Air Zone(CAZ) following instruction from Central Government.
  • Completion of the local plan which includes the commitment to improve air quality
  • Continue to monitor NO2 concentrations at existing locations using existing technology and to introduce new technologies that will give more accurate, real-time measurements
  • Continue to facilitate low emissions vehicles.
  • Continue green procurement for the promotion of low emission transport and vehicle fleet efficiency improvements

A CAZ will either charge or restrict access for different vehicle classes; HGVs, Buses, LCVs, Taxis and private cars, with the first four compulsory in most of the proposed zones. This will require a daily charge for the vehicles entering the zone and currently the only accepted method to enforce this is ANPR systems. These systems are costly to install, maintain and modify and provide a blunt instrument to monitor entries and exits. Whilst zero emission vehicles can be added to ANPR whitelists it is not possible to relate their actual emissions to a monetary charge. The cost of implementing and running an ANPR system means that it is difficult to cost effectively target certain fleets but if this scheme is extended to include all parties then it is highly likely to be politically unpopular and thus difficult to implement.

Finally, to ensure compliance with legal obligations on air quality local authorities are under significant time pressure and so any solutions must offer a short implementation timeline and deliver a positive impact on air quality from the outset.

Our Solution

Based on the requirements outlined above we propose installing low cost, plug-and-play telematics into the OBD port on vehicles and creating a geofence around the designated CAZ. The system will utilise the real time GPS tracking on the devices to detect ‘breaches’ which will trigger vehicle mileage and emission tracking. The vehicles can then be charged on a per mile, or emission basis, to create clear incentives for switching to zero emission options. As emissions are also released when vehicles are idle as well as moving, the system will either allocate a mileage charge for a moving vehicle or a time based fee, if the vehicle is stationary with the engine running.

We propose that the model is trialled initially with taxis, where the installation of the telematics is part of their conditions of fitness. The use of telematics offers the potential to provide drivers with personalised reports showing the feasibility of using electric vehicles and the business case for doing so. This provides the local authority with a value added service that will enhance the positive impacts of this solution.

Ultimately the solution can be extended to other vehicles under contract with the local authority (vehicles from their supply chain) and those that require licences.

Advantages

  • Low cost - estimated £50-100k for an average size taxi population
  • Existing processes - taxis (Hackney Carriage and Private Hire) are already subject to licence requirements e.g. taxi meters and so this would form part of that assessment
  • Simple to update and modify - moving cameras is expensive, but the virtual geofence can be updated in minutes and the changes communicated digitally
  • Scalable - the solution could be trialled with very few devices but all vehicles have OBD ports so could also be fitted to other fleets
  • Multi-purpose - telematics can offer insurance premium reductions, improved service and maintenance, research data on emissions and EV suitability assessment
  • Generates additional funding - funds raised from the CAZ charge could be applied to other projects i.e. the installation of chargers to support EVs

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What was achieved?

Electric Blue partnered with a telematic specialist - Omnia, Coventry Council - and a real world emission analytics firm - Emissions Analytics - to test technology and develop a commercial model to help resolve this issue. This project received funding from Innovate UK under the Infrastructure Systems programme and launched the phase 1 project in September

Next steps

A round table event was held to permit the project partners to provide feedback on the project to a group of key stakeholders. The event will took the format of a guided discussion to understand the different challenges and market conditions that will affect the next stage of the development process.

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