The Mayor of London wants me to buy a new car!

Filed in Blog by on April 8, 2011 11 Comments
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Our beloved Gus, a green sinner

Our beloved Gus, a green sinner

This week I had a letter from the Mayor telling me he wanted me to landfill my perfectly good car and buy a new one. Yipee! (or not)

From January 2012, The London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) will bring in tougher legislation to protect the long term health of people living and working in London. If we don’t take further action, London will not be able to meet EU legal targets to avoid heavy fines.

Apparently, even though my car has sailed through the last 4 MOTs, it’s a sinner…

Rather than looking at the actual emissions of my car, the test is based on the age and weight of the vehicle. Yep, it’s old and heavy, rather like a loyal Labrador that’s had a few too many Bonios.

My choices, if I want to avoid paying £100 per day to drive near London, include modifying my vehicle with a filter (which takes 3 months apparently and Boris neglects to tell me how much this costs), converting to gas (mine’s an import vehicle and I know it’s not possible because this was one of the first things I checked) or upgrading my vehicle to a new one. Recognising that this could be difficult for me, the Mayor has negotiated hefty discounts on new vans and minibuses from Ashwoods, Citroen, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot and Volkswagen.

Well isn’t that nice? I’ve always had a Mercedes Benz on my wishlist and here’s the perfect opportunity to part with £30,000 to buy one.

Oh, wait a minute, I haven’t got a spare £30k hanging around my handbag.

And I don’t need a mini bus or van…

As it happens I don’t go to London very often, so it’s really not an issue for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for reducing pollution and making the world a happier, healthier place as you know, but there is a lot missing from these assumptions.

Yes, it’s confession time folks. Mr and Mrs ‘Green’ drive a 1996 4×4 <gasp>. How can that be? How can one of Britain’s top recycling families, ‘eco warriors’ no less, drive such a heap of pollution-producing metal? (Called Gus, if you’re interested)

Well, we run a wood burner and wood burners need wood to produce heat. To pick up a tonne of wood you need a vehicle up to the job that isn’t going to sulk at the sight of an uphill field. You need to be able to go out in all weathers in all terrains to get fuel preferably without getting stuck in the mud or having your wheels spin in other unmentionable things that we have to drive through…

We don’t have pretty loads of wood cut for us to size by a local wood merchant. It’s the real deal at Chez Green! It involves very grown up things like safety shoes, chain saws and braving the elements in order to keep warm in the winter. THIS, ironically, reduces our carbon footprint because we burn gash wood and ya know, dead trees instead of using electricity generated by fossil fuels…

In addition we take our car out about twice a week. At the last MOT we had clocked up 7000 miles for the year. The average annual mileage for a 4×4 in the UK is 13600.

Now despite the tone of my post, I’m not really complaining because if I lived near London I probably wouldn’t need a 4×4; I’d be living in a town house and a smart car would be good enough for me but what concerns me very much is that vans, ambulances and minibuses will have to pay £100 a day charge if their vehicles don’t come up to standard. Fire engines, gritters and snow ploughs will have to pay £200 per day to travel through the LEZ.

I’m wondering how many perfectly decent cars will be scraped? I understand about reducing pollution and making the ‘polluter pay’, but we have to look at the bigger picture, right? Is it REALLY better for the environment to dump serviceable vehicles and manufacture new ones?

Will ambulances and the Fire brigade make charges to attend emergencies?

What about small, independent businesses who are struggling to make ends meet?

How will it effect mini bus drivers (many of them volunteers) who pick up the elderly or disabled, giving their carers a rest and their passengers a much-needed day out?

Maybe it’s time to covert our garage into a bio-diesel factory…

As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I know 4×4 drivers are the butt of a lot of criticism and jokes (except when the village floods or is under several inches of snow and then, funnily enough, people are quite pleased to accept our services), so now you’ve heard ‘my story’ what do you think?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (11)

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  1. Colleen says:

    Clearly Boris isn’t prepared to wait for natural progression decluttering to take care of these old pollution emitters. I hope he reads your post and realises not everyone is made of money and his solution is going to affect the more than just the rich 4×4 owners who’s vehicle never go off road in there lifetime and can afford to make the transition.
    Like you I know it is important to do what we can to reduce pollution but I think they need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a better plan.

  2. LJayne says:

    I was going to say I’m glad we don’t live near London any more but DH works just as Middlesex becomes West London so I’d better check this out. He commutes in our old family car – yes sinful, we have 2 oops. But in our defence it is 1996 and we decided that it was far better for him to drive it until it gave up the ghost than just change it. It still works absolutely fine, gets great mileage etc and, like yours, never fails the MOT emissions test or anything else for that matter because we still service it and look after it.

  3. Julie Day says:

    I think that all the eco stuff you do sets off the carbon that your car releases, so you are OK. I have a Vauxhall Corsa from 1998 but don’t use it that much only for local journeys really.

  4. Tracey says:

    We have a 4×4 too. It’s my big eco-shame, but on the other hand, she’s also semi-veggie (on bio-deisel when we can get it), and is being fed bio-deisel on a semi-regular basis, she doesn’t get out much (poor thing!) and is the only car I can get in and out of without crippling myself – I’ve got a bad back and the upright position of the seat is the only one I can drive in.

    We also have wood-burners and (until it was stolen in November), we also had a 7′ x 5′ trailer that we used for regular “moving things” trips as well as to take our home-made yurt away with on camping trips!

    I say that, as long as you look after it right and use it appropriately, a 4×4 can be just as eco-friendly as the most hyped up “eco-car” – all these electric cars they’re bringing out, still run on electricity made from burning fossil fuels! I can see the day when we all have solar power to charge our cars, but we’re not there yet!

    If you’re serious about the bio-deisel, LILI have a selection of courses for making your own reactor and making your own bio-deisel ( – it’s something we’ve been considering for the cellar! Or there are a selection of places sell it (cheaper than normal deisel too!) listed here:

    Hope it helps… 🙂

    *sits and waits for the letter through the door about her 4×4*

  5. stephen says:

    I also have a 4×4 , a Landrover SII 1963, I have had since 1981, my sister went to her wedding in it, ribbons and all!, it has been a very handy vehicle for all sorts of things like towing 4 tonnes of fire wood from the forests with a 16ft trailer, taking 40 bails of straw from the fields to the store, taking feed from the seed merchants and also going on long holidays over seas etc etc, the list is endless ,we run it on biodiesel which we make ourselves out of chip fat etc as it only will do 18 MPG, but it doesn’t have road tax and the insurance is £155.00 a year but we have a small runabout that we use as much as possible,as on a run it does over 90 MPG,if you dont go to fast, we went down to London the other day to go to the uk aware show, and noticed a great may 4×4 SUVs, it may be at the time of day the “school run” is in full swing I don’t no but their must have been 50% of them on the road, lots of back range rovers?and new freelanders etc, all very shiny so im wondering if this is the type of vehicle mr Boris Johnson is talking about.and not the working ones out of the city?…

  6. stephen says:

    sorry traey,
    i would like to no if you would, if I you can run 100% bio-diesel in modern cars as we don’t in our modern golf , as it says not to use more than 5% bio-diesel, and we have not so far…, ( don’t want to reck the engine) the old landrover will run on anything including heated veg oil if need be, with no smoke ( Ar progress)!.

  7. stephen says:

    mrs g I didn’t no it was all of greater London,! I have just been reading up on it, good lord thats going to cause a lot of trouble I had no idea ……

  8. When I lived in Memphis, TN, many years ago, the city of Memphis passed a law saying that every vehicle that entered Memphis and drove the streets had to have a city sticker. Now, we all had those, not just outsiders. It was a move to raise revenue. You must understand that a dozen or more smaller cities served as bedroom communities for Memphis. Plus, shopping in Memphis was the thing to do. A hullabaloo was raised in the press when the smaller cities complained. Finally, it was all settled when one of the smaller cities made a decision and others were going to follow suit–cities around Memphis were going to require all vehicles that entered their city limits to have stickers, too. Immediately, Memphis dropped the new law/regulation. Maybe cities on the route out of London should pass some outrageous law that would cause all the Londoners to had to spend money to drive in their city. Oh, for whoever said so, I would not be making biofuel in the basement.

  9. Teresa says:

    I read ‘Not Easy Being Green’, based on the TV programme, and in it Dick Strawbridge works out which would require less energy ; to scrap his old petrol guzzling van or buy a new one. He worked out that it would cost less energy to keep the old van taking into consideration mining of raw materials, distribution to factory, manufacture and distribution of the car to the showroom along with the energy involved in scrapping his old van as well as the engine efficiencies.

  10. Alyson says:

    My husband has a landrover that he uses for work, he’s a gardener and carts his tools around. He’s got a trailer,too, that he will be using today to get a load of dirt for his parents. I, very, rarely drive it. It’s his baby. Most of the seats are out and if the rest of us need to go in the car, enjoy the smell of the grass and don’t dress in your best clothes.But I do have a two- wheeled trolley that I drag into town to do my shopping, much to my daughter’s embarrassment.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @Colleen: ‘natural progression decluttering’ I love that! It’s going to be my catch phrase 😉
    @LJayne: Yes, the area covered by the LEZ is surprisingly large. I wonder if old cars are like old gadgets; built to last …
    @Julie Day: Why thank you Julie!
    @Tracey: Fab, thanks Tracey. I’ll check out that link and see what we make of it.
    @stephen: It’s a huge area, Stephen. I might be coming to you for tips on making bio diesel as well then!
    @Practical Parsimony: Interesting story. I read in the pamphlet which came with the letter that this was part of a move to make the city ‘clean’ before the London Olympics…
    @Teresa: That’s the sort of overall carbon footprint of this exercise I could imagine, Teresa. I’ll see if I can find anything out about that – thanks for the headsup 🙂
    @Alyson: Loving the trolley idea, I wonder how much oak I could cart in one of those 😀

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