Volta Zero

The Manchester Clean Air Zone: What Can Businesses Do To Avoid Paying Charges?

The Manchester Clean Air Zone is coming in May 2022, with charges of up to £60 for some non-compliant commercial vehicles, so what can businesses do to avoid paying the charges? The Road to Electric event run by The Energy House 2.0 facility at the University of Salford looked at this issue and provided some solutions.

If you drive an old commercial vehicle into Greater Manchester – a truck or bus, or a taxi or private hire vehicle registered outside Greater Manchester with Euro 5 emissions standard or earlier for diesels – then you will have to pay a daily charge of up to £60 from 30 May 2022 – which is only around eight months away.

Just one year later, on 1 June 2023, non-compliant coaches, vans, and taxis and private hire vehicles registered in Greater Manchester, will become eligible for paying charges. £120 million is available to help businesses with the oldest and most polluting vehicles to upgrade to cleaner models. Some types of vehicles may only have Euro 6 diesel replacements available, but many businesses could move to an electric fleet, so making a much more positive difference with cleaning up Manchester’s air.

Volta Zero all-electric 16-tonne truck

Although you can buy electric buses today, most businesses will expect that there are no electric trucks on sale. There are in fact some electric truck options now, but coming soon is the Volta Zero, an all-electric 16-tonne truck.

Duncan Forrester from Volta Trucks explained that the Volta Zero has zero-tailpipe emissions, and lower fuel costs than a diesel truck, but it also has a number of other benefits, such as much improved safety for other road users such as cyclists. Because there is no huge diesel engine that the cab and the driver has to sit on top of, the driver is much lower in the Volta Zero (as well as having a central driving position), and so has much better visibility. This also has the result that the many knee and ankle injuries that are so common with drivers of traditional trucks should be mostly eliminated with the Volta Zero, because you basically step into the cab rather than climb into it.

Duncan explained that Volta Trucks is bringing its electric truck to market in a very aggressive timeline, however it will still be 2023 before the first 5,000 vehicles are produced.

Arrival Van

All-electric Arrival van

It’s not just an all-new, all-electric truck that’s coming soon, there’s also an all-new, all-electric van from a company called Arrival. Imogen Pierce explained that, like the Volta Zero, the Arrival Van has been designed from a blank sheet of paper, without the encumbrance of an internal combustion engine. The Arrival Van is also due to be built in micro-factories rather than in one huge global manufacturing site, which is more sustainable. Again like the Volta Zero, you can’t quite buy an Arrival Van today, but it’s coming soon (along with an Arrival bus and a car for the ride hailing market).

Salford EV Workshop Sep 21 DriveElectric

The Economics of Electric Vehicles

There is of course an increasingly wide range of electric vans that you can buy today, and the University of Salford’s ‘The Road to Electric’ event had a number of vans on display from MAN, Maxus and Mercedes-Benz. Electric vans are generally more expensive to buy than equivalent diesel vans, but Mel Creedy from DriveElectric was on hand to explain that electric vans can be competitive when looked at from a total cost of ownership perspective, as the fuel costs can be so much lower (with the right electricity tariff).

There were also case studies about shifting to electric vehicle fleets from the University of Salford and Electricity North West, who made a plea for more all-electric 4x4s.

Be.EV Manchester

Greater Manchester’s Public Charging Network

Another common objection to making the switch to electric vehicles is the challenge of charging them. Jason Smith from Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) explained how this issue is being addressed, with the recent expansion of Greater Manchester’s public charging network, Be.EV, which includes a specific investment in charge points for taxis.

Be.EV’s Adrian Fielden-Gray gave an introduction to EV chargers, explaining that having a mix of charge poins is important, as 7kW chargers may be most appropriate for some users, whereas rapid chargers may be needed by others. Adrian also regards charging an EV as taking ‘zero time’, as, unlike when filling up with petrol, you can get on with a variety of other things while an EV is charging (and of course most EVs are charged at home).

Salford EV Workshop Sep 21 EA

The Electricity Grid

But is there enough electricity to charge all the EVs that are coming?, and isn’t it a challenge to get EV chargers connected to the grid? Esther Dudek from EA Technology explained how smart charging, as trialled by the Electric Nation project, can help to move the potential evening peak electricity demand which could occur in winter to the middle of the night. There are also new, innovate ways being developed for businesses to check online if there is sufficient capacity to install new charging points, which should make the connection process quicker and cheaper.

Will it really be an Electric Future?

Just in case anyone was in any doubt about whether the future is electric, Green Car Guide’s Editor Paul Clarke provided a round-up of government policy, such as the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans, as well as a summary of some of the latest electric cars and vans that are currently available.

The Road to Electric workshop was chaired by the University of Salford’s Mike Brown and was part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Paul Clarke Green Car Guide

Paul Clarke