Clean Air Zone – what does this mean for Bristol?

A few days ago, Bristol City Council approved Clean Air for Bristol’s business case for a Clean Air Zone (CAZ), which could be implemented from October 2021 and would mean that certain drivers may be required to pay a fee to enter a small area of central Bristol with their vehicles.

It is estimated that over 71% of vehicles in Bristol are already compliant, so CAZ charges would only apply to a minority of drivers in the city. This should decrease over the years as Bristol’s population takes advantage of new financial incentives to switch to an electric vehicle or opt for different modes of transport, such as cycling or public transport.

What is a Clean Air Zone?

A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is a specific area within a city where systems are put in place to reduce public exposure to polluting vehicles. Often these systems include restrictions on certain vehicles to encourage more sustainable travel options and reduce nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions.

There are four types of Clean Air Zones, ranging from A to D. Class A only charges buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles when they pass through the Clean Air Zone, while Class D requires all types of vehicles, including heavy goods vehicles, vans, minibuses and cars to pay a fee if they are non-compliant with emission standards.

Why does Bristol need a Clean Air Zone?

In 2010, the EU introduced new limits to annual NO2 emissions, which the UK has been in breach of every year since. As a result, Air Quality Plans were published which required the most polluted authorities, including Bristol, to draw up their own plans for reducing NO2 emissions, including Clean Air Zones.

Air pollution and specifically exposure to NO2 and fine particulate matter causes around 300 premature deaths each year in the City of Bristol and can lead to permanent lung damage in babies and young children, as well as exacerbating lung and heart diseases in older people. The impacts of air pollution could cost the NHS up to £18.6 billion by 2035.

Emissions of pollutants also result in changes in the climate, contributing to global warming and long-lasting effects on our ecosystems.

A Clean Air Zone can mitigate these effects by reducing car usage and incentivising cleaner modes of transport. London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), for example, saw a 36% decrease in NO2 emissions between Feb 2017 and Sep 2019.

How will it change travel in Bristol?

Bristol City Council has opted for a small Class D Clean Air Zone, hoping to meet the Government's legal limits within the shortest possible time. It is estimated that the largest source of NO2 emissions within the transport sector is diesel light duty vehicles so these are considered a key target by the council.

Should the proposed plans be accepted, any vehicle that does not meet the Clean Air Zone minimum emission standard will be charged if it enters the area. To be compliant, cars and vans have to meet at least Euro 6 standards for diesel or Euro 4 standards for petrol. Non-compliant cars, vans, pick-up trucks and taxis will have to pay one £9/day fee if they enter the Clean Air Zone in a 24-hour period. These restrictions will apply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The city council will also introduce exemptions and measures to support people who are likely to be drastically impacted by the Clean Air Zone, including low income workers (one year exemption for individuals earning less than £24,000 a year), hospital visitors and residents who live within the designated area.

The aim of the Clean Air Zone in Bristol is to deliver compliance with the legal limits for air pollution by 2023.

How can car sharing help?

Through car sharing, drivers can have access to a range of affordable vehicles within their residential area – ranging from Euro 6 compliant cars to 100% electric vehicles, which are exempt from the CAZ charges. These are easily bookable through the Karshare App and require no key handover with the car owner thanks to an entirely contactless process which takes place on a mobile device.

Owners of non-compliant vehicles who are looking to avoid the Clean Air Zone by opting for alternative modes of transport can rent out their cars in the meantime in exchange for extra income whenever they are not in use – or explore cleaner car options through Karshare’s Lease and Share scheme, which makes driving an electric vehicle easy and affordable.