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Honda to Triple Supply of Civic Hybrids in the UK; London Congestion Charge Accelerating Demand for Hybrids

Honda is tripling the supply of its gasoline-electric Civic Hybrid in the UK to 3,000 during 2007 to meet projected demand resulting from the expansion of the London congestion charge zone. (Earlier post). SMMT (The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) figures show that from 2005 to 2006, the percentage of hybrid cars in London rose from 1.03% to 2%—or more than 1,100 cars.

Sales forecasts now predict there will be more than 6,500 additional hybrid cars on London’s roads by 2008, each taking advantage of the 100% discount from the congestion charge.

Honda’s sales figures confirm the regional growth, with a third of recent orders for its Hybrid coming from London and the South East—influenced largely by the impact of congestion charging on buying habits in and around the capital. Meanwhile, worldwide sales of Honda hybrids have reached more than 185,000.

Toyota also reported that sales of the Prius in London jumped up 135% in January 2007 from the year prior. (Earlier post.)

Hybrids are now mainstream cars. Global demand is increasing and across the world we are ramping up production to meet that interest. It’s true that more people want to drive ‘greener’ cars, but financial incentives such as congestion charge discounts and lower road tax are also playing their part.

—John Kingston, Environment Manager at Honda (UK)

Last year, in the biggest hybrid fleet deal to date, the Metropolitan Police ordered 117 Civic Hybrids. Other companies running Honda hybrid cars include Innocent Drinks and Clearchannel.

Honda will also launch a concept hybrid sports car in March. Moving beyond the family saloons that make up much of the current hybrid market, the two-seater coupe demonstrates how hybrids can be sporty and stylish. (Earlier post.) Honda has also committed to producing a global, purpose-built hybrid car that will be smaller and cheaper than the Civic. This will go on sale in 2009. (Earlier post.)



Encouraging hybrids in cities makes sense from an air quality point of view.
It makes NO sense from a congestion point of view - a hybrid civic is the same size as a normal civic.
It makes a small amount of sense from a CO2 point of view - there is not much difference between a regular civic and a hybrid - you won't see the glaciers growing back but it is a step in the right direction.
Perhaps they need to rename the congestion charge to "arbitrary fuzzy green type charge" or something more accurate.
Don't get me wrong, I am for hybrids and greenness, but a 100% reduction for hybrids is over-egging the pudding.


Do cars with LPG and CNG conversions still get exemption from the charge too?


The discount is going to change to a CO2 based charge. A and B band cars (<=120g/km) are going to get the 100% reduction rather than hybrids so it will become much more focussed in its greenness. For the moment though hybrids, EVs and the vehicles on the PowerShift register (which includes some impressively ungreen vehicles) get the discount.


London mayor Ken Livingstone is proposing a policy to reduce CO2 emissions by introducing Emissions Influenced Charging to London Congestion Charging:
Cars up to 120 g/km CO2 100% discount
Cars 121 to 225 g/km Standard Charge £8
Cars over 225 g/km £25

The policy might be revised before or after they are introduced.
For example, it might be better for the discount to be proportional to emissions.
BEVs are being sold in London and would be encouraged by 100% discount.
Should a Toyota Yaris diesel with 119 CO2 g/km & Civic hybrid with 109 CO2 g/km get the same discount as a BEV or PHEV?
This would provide no incentive to manufacturers to market plug-in versions of their hybrids.
Bear in mind that BEVs & PHEVs will provide demand for off-peak electricity from the future London Array wind farm with annual output equivalent to 1/3 of London domestic electricity consumption.

Also, should the marginal cost of CO2 emissions between 121g & 225g be zero?

Likewise should the marginal cost of emissions above 225g be zero?
Should Toyota GS300 saloon (232g), Landcrusier 4L (307g) & Amazon (387g) all pay the same?
This provides no incentive to downsize from an SUV to a luxury saloon.

The size of emissions discounts & surcharges can be debated.
Nevertheless, discounts make sense for reducing both air quality and congestion.
The reason discounts benefit congestion is because discounts enable the mayor to set the congestion charge very high.
£8 per day would be more than £1800 $3500 pa for a commuter, which is a lot of money.
Discounts enable the mayor to counter objections that some people need to travel in central London for their work.
The steep congestion charge is much more effective in persuading people to travel by bike or bus and has enabled the mayor to buy a lot more buses. It has also enabled the mayor to reduce bus fares to very modest levels which benefits the low paid who are most adversely affected by regressive charges - car fuel tax, annual license fees & congestion charges.

Also the congestion charge has funded the cost of fuel cell & hybrid buses for evaluation.


You raise some interesting points there.

I think there'll be incentives to develop PHEVs beyond the congestion charge - reduced operating costs & far superior environmental performance will be strong influencers on buying habits in the future in Europe.

I expect they'd want to keep a CO2-based fare structure simple to start with but I'd favour the congestion charge (and fuel duty) being directly linked to CO2 emissions.


There are 3 types of problems caused by cars:

a: Congenstion and road spacing - this is a function of the ground area of a car + a margin and is the same for all propulsion types.

b: Local pollution - NOx, CO, Hc etc all that stuff.
That varys greatly by car type.

c: Global pollution which we could equate to CO2/km.

You want a pricing model which encorporates those 3 in whatever proportions you decide and yet is simple to understand and enforce.

Easy really !!

Patrick Lambourne

To be fair, originally one of the main arguments for the congestion charge was to reduce the local pollution that congestion causes, not just to improve traffic speed.

Therefore it is reasonable to give a steep discount to vehicles which achive this by polluting less even if they do travel through London. However I agree that a 100% discount to a wide range of vehicles does reduce incentives to the best performing ones.


So there we have it, a tax not just changing consumer habits but persuading manufacturers to support those changes by increased demand from the marketplace. Who'd have thought it?

Time for a federal gas tax any of you lot over there?

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