As the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expansion in London looms closer, there has been a surge in demand for the mayor’s vehicle scrappage scheme.
Londoners are eager to trade in their older cars and take advantage of the £2,000 grant offered by the scheme to purchase a vehicle that is exempt from the £12.50-a-day charge.
However, while the scheme aims to reduce pollution and improve air quality, there are concerns about the waste culture it promotes.
Classic car experts warn that thousands of perfectly good vehicles, some of which could be future collectibles, will be stripped from the roads. We explore the implications of the ULEZ expansion and the scrappage scheme on the classic car market and the environment.
The ULEZ Expansion and its Consequences
On August 29, the ULEZ will be expanded to cover the entire Greater London area, encompassing all 32 boroughs. This expansion means that only diesel cars meeting the latest Euro6 emission standard (typically those manufactured after 2015) and petrol models adhering to Euro4 (produced after 2006) will be allowed to drive in the zone without incurring charges. Non-compliant vehicle owners will face a daily fee of £12.50, which could amount to over £4,500 per year for those who drive regularly in the capital.
The mayor’s office estimates that approximately 200,000 owners of older cars in London will be affected by the expansion. However, a recent Freedom of Information request by the RAC revealed that the actual number is closer to 700,000 drivers. This discrepancy highlights the significant impact the ULEZ expansion will have on London’s motorists.
The Vehicle Scrappage Scheme
To mitigate the financial burden on non-compliant vehicle owners, Mayor Sadiq Khan has allocated £160 million to the vehicle scrappage scheme. This additional funding aims to make the scheme accessible to all Londoners with non-compliant cars, regardless of their eligibility for benefits. The scheme offers grants of up to £2,000 to those who live within the ULEZ boundary and choose to scrap their non-compliant vehicle.
The scrappage scheme also provides alternative payment options, such as receiving a lower grant amount in exchange for an annual bus and tram pass. Additionally, there are higher grants available for scrapping wheelchair accessible vehicles or retrofitting them to meet emission standards.
Increased Demand for Vehicle Scrapping
The impending ULEZ expansion has led to a significant increase in demand for vehicle scrapping. According to data from Scrap Car Comparison, there has been a 105.5% annual growth in traffic on their site from London users. This growth far surpasses the 67% increase observed in the rest of the country. During the months of May, June, and July, scrappage quotes in Greater London rose by 53%, compared to a 46% increase in the rest of the UK.
David Kottaun, the operations manager at Scrap Car Comparison, attributes this surge in demand to the ULEZ expansion. He explains that many drivers’ vehicles will become non-compliant, making them too expensive to run. As a result, scrapping the vehicle becomes the most sensible option for these owners.
Scrappage Schemes and the Waste Culture Debate
While scrappage schemes offer a solution for reducing emissions and encouraging the use of cleaner vehicles, they also raise concerns about promoting a waste culture. Opponents argue that these schemes result in the destruction of perfectly good and reliable vehicles, which could have significant value in the future, particularly in the classic car market.
When a vehicle is scrapped, it undergoes a process at an Authorized Treatment Facility. Here, hazardous materials and salvageable parts are removed before the vehicle is crushed. Materials like batteries, tyres, catalytic converters, and fluids are disposed of separately to prevent pollution and maximise recycling. Experts estimate that only about 5% of the vehicle is wasted during this process.
However, critics argue that destroying vehicles with several years of life remaining is a waste of resources and has unnecessary environmental consequences. They also highlight the impact on low-income families who rely on affordable vehicles. During the 2009 scrappage scheme, which aimed to boost the new car sector during the financial crisis, many classic, exotic, and rare vehicles were consigned to the scrap heap.
The Potential Impact on the Classic Car Market
The classic car sector is particularly concerned about the impact of scrappage schemes on the availability of collectible and modern-classic vehicles. The ULEZ expansion will render non-compliant petrol models manufactured before 2006 and diesel vehicles produced before 2015 eligible for scrappage. This could lead to the elimination of many modern-classic cars from existence.
Analysis of the 2009 Government-funded scrappage scheme revealed the destruction of several valuable classic cars, including Alpina B7, BMW M5 and 850i, Porsche 928s, and an original Audi Quattro. These vehicles, which are now highly sought after, would have been preserved if not for the scrappage scheme. The scrapping of 31 Peugeot 205 GTIs, 14 Subaru Impreza Turbos, and numerous Series Land Rovers, Morris Minors, classic Minis, original VW Beetles, Citroen 2CVs, and MGs also caused dismay among enthusiasts.
Tom Wood, CEO of Car & Classic, argues that scrappage schemes fail to consider the bigger picture. He believes that preserving classic vehicles is essential for maintaining our history, heritage, and individuality. Wood suggests that rather than scrapping non-compliant vehicles, there should be a greater focus on repairing and converting them to electric vehicles (EVs) to extend their lifespan and reduce environmental impact.
Expert Opinions on Scrappage Schemes
Renowned figures in the motoring industry have expressed their concerns about scrappage schemes. Tim Shaw, host of the National Geographic show Car SOS, criticizes the destruction of perfectly good cars under the guise of greenwashing. He argues that it would be more sensible to repair these vehicles, offsetting the carbon emissions from manufacturing new components against the longer lifecycle of existing cars.
Fuzz Townshend, co-host of Car SOS, dismisses scrappage schemes as short-sighted throwaway society nonsense. He compares cars to underpants, suggesting that they should be used until they are no longer functional. Townshend highlights the potential for unnecessary purchases of new electric cars through scrappage schemes and predicts a future claims industry campaign targeting those who participated in such schemes.
Mike Brewer, host of the TV show Wheeler Dealers, shares his regret over the first scrappage scheme, recalling the scrapping of valuable classic cars that could have been saved. He emphasizes the emotional connections and cultural references associated with classic cars and argues for their preservation.
The ULEZ expansion in London has sparked a surge in demand for the vehicle scrappage scheme as non-compliant vehicle owners seek alternatives to avoid daily charges. While scrappage schemes offer a solution to reduce emissions and improve air quality, they also raise concerns about promoting a waste culture.
The classic car sector is particularly alarmed by the potential loss of valuable and collectible vehicles. Experts argue for a more comprehensive approach that considers repairing and converting existing vehicles rather than scrapping them.
As London prepares for the ULEZ expansion, the impact on the classic car market and the environment remains a topic of debate and concern.