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Is it the end of the traffic jam?

Drivers of electric and hybrid vehicles have always been able to enjoy a number of perks and privileges, including free charging in special bays, and free parking in some areas, like in the London Borough of Westminster. Ultra-low emission vehicles, or ULEVs, are exempt from central London’s congestion charge, and they are not taxed. An insurance policy on an electric vehicle is often cheaper than insuring a traditional car, too.

Traffic jamNow, thanks to a new initiative from the Department for Transport, life is set to get even easier for ULEV drivers. The Go Ultra Low Cities programme has awarded funding to a total of £40 million to cities across the UK, including Milton Keynes, Bristol, London, and Derby. Bids were submitted by cities and councils detailing how they would use the funding to encourage the use of ULEVs, by improving the transport infrastructure and offering privileges to ULEV drivers. Plans submitted by cities included charging hubs, charge points in street lighting, and centres for education where drivers can ask questions about ULEVs and have the chance to try before they buy by leasing a vehicle on trade plates.

As well as improving air quality in our cities, the scheme is set to benefit motor traders by encouraging sales of new and used cars powered by an electric or hybrid motor, and boost local business and industry by opening up opportunities for research and development.

Drivers of ULEVs could even escape the traffic jams that make modern city driving so unpleasant and time consuming. Several cities have included special road privileges for electric vehicles as part of their plans to encourage greener driving. In Milton Keynes, bus lanes will be designated as low emission lanes, giving ULEVs the right to use the system of carriageways and traffic lights used by buses. Nottinghamshire and Derby will also open up bus lanes to ULEVs, while, in Bristol, low emission vehicles will have access to carpool lanes. London’s plans are concentrated on specific boroughs, and will include offering traffic priority to ULEVs on the streets of Harrow.

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Free parking, often with a charge point too, means less time spent looking for a space, which should also speed journeys and keep roads clear. Access to bus lanes is expected to be opened up in other cities throughout the UK, so all eyes will be on the first Go Ultra Low Cities to see how successful the implementation is.

The Department for Transport’s aim is that by the year 2040, every new car and van sold should be an ultra-low emission vehicle. Currently, ULEV sales account for less than three percent of new vehicles sold in the UK, although the number of units sold rose by 94% in 2015.