Autonomous Vehicles: Is the self-driving car around the corner?

Autonomous Vehicles: Is the self-driving car around the corner? https://wvl.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/autonomous-featured-1.jpg 1000 600 Anthony Anthony https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a9c4089fd91833b9d9ac3cd2423e0fcb?s=96&d=mm&r=g

Having a beautiful Tesla Model S at our Windsor showroom has captured the imaginations of our customers, web visitors, attendees at this month’s Thames Valley Expo, and not least: all here at WVL! Excitement was palpable at the new technology in the vehicle, and having this glimpse of the future inspired us to research the topic of Autonomous Vehicles and see what the future holds for drivers… how safe will autonomous vehicles be, is the technology really there yet, or are we trying to run before we can walk?

“Every car in production will now have the capability for full autonomy by 2018”


What is an Autonomous Vehicle?

Used widely these days to describe ‘driverless’ or ‘self-driving’ cars, technically, the term means a vehicle able to sense its environment and navigate without human input – now a coveted goal in the motor industry.

We’re all familiar with the early stages of autonomy: cruise control has been around for some time, and now with lane departure warning and auto parking there’s a stepwise transfer of control to onboard computers. Each new development chalks up a point of difference for manufacturers trying to sell vehicles in a hugely competitive marketplace.

Manufacturers, regulators and insurers all recognise the importance of defining the degrees of autonomy, which are based on the degree of driver attentiveness rather than vehicle capability. Put simply: feet off, hands off, eyes off, brain off. They are more formally defined by SAE International, a US automotive standardisation body, definitions now adopted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and which range from complete driver control to full autonomy as follows:

Level 0 Automated system has no vehicle control, but may issue warnings
Level 1 Function-specific autonomy – Driver must be ready to take control at any time. Automated system may include features such as Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Parking Assistance with automated steering, and Lane Keeping Assistance (LKA) Type II
Level 3 Limited self-driving autonomy – Within known, limited environments (such as freeways), the driver can safely turn their attention away from driving tasks, but must still be prepared to take control when needed. e.g. Audi’s piloted driving concept in the A7
Level 4 Fully self-driving autonomy – As level 3, but no driver attention is required. Outside the limited environment the vehicle must be able to enter a safe fallback mode – i.e. park the car – if the driver does not retake control. e.g. Google car, Volvo ‘Drive Me’
Level 5 Fully autonomous in every driving scenario – Other than setting the destination and starting the system, no human intervention is required. The automatic system can drive to any location where it is legal to drive and make its own decisions

Read on to see how these systems are being implemented, the journey to this point, and how the road ahead looks.

Safety First

Tesla claim they could have a fully autonomous vehicle on the road by 2018, and Volvo has announced its Drive Me London programme for next year, but neither of these vanguards have had an unblemished journey so far.

In April of this year, an Uber driverless Volvo carrying two engineers was hit by a vehicle which failed to give way at an intersection in Arizona. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but Uber suspended its driverless fleets in Arizona, California and Florida until the investigation was complete – the Volvo was shown not to have malfunctioned. Confidence is still strong in this partnership, with Volvo announcing a $300m (£226m) investment with Uber.

In May 2016 the driver of a Tesla Model S with ‘Autopilot’ engaged sadly became the first fatality in a self-driving car when its sensors were unable to discern the bright side of an 18-wheel truck & trailer crossing the highway in front of it. The Tesla’s windscreen impacted with the bottom of the trailer and the driver was killed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigators found that the driver had been watching a movie at the time, with seven seconds to take action, and that Tesla were not to blame. Their investigation also showed that crash rates for Tesla vehicles dropped by 40% after its Autosteer technology was installed. Tesla also pointed out that this was one fatality in 130 million customer miles driven, compared with one fatality in every 94 million miles driven among all US vehicles.

Google’s vehicles have clocked-up over 2m autonomous miles… but they haven’t gone unscathed with around two dozen recorded accidents. Nevertheless, just one – a collision with a bus – was found to be the fault of the self-driving car. Google recently gave data that 1.2 million people die in car accidents each year… with 94% resulting from human error.

The argument for lowering those statistics is strong: McKinsey & Company estimated that widespread use of autonomous vehicles could “eliminate 90% of all auto accidents in the United States, prevent up to US$190 billion in damages and health-costs annually and save thousands of lives.”

Software Giants

Whilst it’s logical for the major manufacturers to add their automation step-by-step, leaders in the software & technology field, Google and Apple, are going all-out for full automation.

Pioneers in driverless vehicles, Google’s self-driving programme began back in 2009 using Toyota’s Prius, and they’ve recently consolidated their work under the new spin-off brand ‘Waymo’. For 2017, and now in partnership with Fiat Chrysler, they’re introducing Chrysler’s Pacifica Minivan to their fleet, equipped with the Waymo hardware/software suite for full autonomy.

Much rumour and speculation has surrounded Apple and whether it will be designing its own autonomous vehicle. An announcement by their director of product integrity (formerly a Ford Motor executive) last December gave little insight, but their project ‘Titan’ now appears to be a software platform for autonomous driving, like Waymo, to be licenced to manufacturers.

Ford has invested $1bn in artificial intelligence company Argo AI to produce the software for its next generation of self-driving cars – indeed, they claim they’ll be mass producing cars without a steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedals in just four years.

Clearly no manufacturer wants to be left behind, and indeed all these additional brands have projects underway, too: BMW, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Landrover, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, PSA (Peugeot-Citroen-DS), Renault-Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and VW group.

Safety in numbers

Autonomous driving is in some respects a misnomer – these vehicles won’t be completely independent as data will pass from vehicle to vehicle forewarning about upcoming hazards and providing information about each other’s status and position on the road.

With upgraded road infrastructure, where traffic signals and status are also communicated to vehicles in advance, the roads will surely be a safer place. Knock-ons will include shortened journey times as faster speeds will be safer, increasing traffic flow since vehicles will be able to drive safely closer together, and easing congestion as a result.

The full benefits of such a system won’t be realised immediately though: The Department for Transport (DfT) predict at the point 1 in 4 cars are driverless, it will cause delays to traffic flow and only once they’ve reached 50-75% of cars will congestion reduce – but potentially by as much as 40%.

“There’s a prize to be had in terms of swifter, safer journeys, but the transition to that world will be challenging.”

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation

Data Protection

All this, however, requires the sharing of data and the collaboration of  vehicle manufacturers and software giants to talk a common language. Not just on successes and failures during research and development between themselves and regulators, but also on the road, between vehicles and the road infrastructure. It’s this real-time data flow which is an area of significant concern in terms of data security.

The threat of hacking is very real: in 2015 a Jeep Cherokee was paralysed on the highway by a remote hacker gaining access via the vehicle’s internet connection. Chrysler recalled 1.4 million cars as a result and as more vehicle systems become online the potential for causing harm becomes more significant.

USB ports, for example, are easy points for gaining access, and driverless cars used as taxis would mean every passenger could be considered a threat. To date, only Tesla has talked of implementing trusted code signed with cryptographic keys to prevent such overrides. Consider a ransomware attack on Uber, with passengers locked in cars until a ransom was paid for their release. Or terrorist-controlled unmanned vehicles carrying explosives.

One of the original hackers Charlie Miller, formerly of the NSA, then security researcher at Uber, is now at a Chinese competitor, Didi – a move he made due to being able to speak more freely about the real threat of car hacking and the security problems it poses:

“Autonomous vehicles are at the apex of all the terrible things that can go wrong… Cars are already insecure, and you’re adding a bunch of sensors and computers that are controlling them… If a bad guy gets control of that, it’s going to be even worse.”

Charlie Miller, formerly at Uber, now at Didi.

Insurance Assurance

Insurance companies will also need to see vehicle driving data to help determine liability in the event of an accident. They’re proposing access to data covering 30 seconds prior, to 15 seconds after any incident, including vehicle location, driver mode, whether the motorist was in the driver’s seat and had a seatbelt on.

Understandably, drivers will need reassurance that they won’t be blamed in the event of a vehicle malfunction. Major insurers including AXA and Direct Line are collaborating on a new framework for the next generation of motoring, with an option being to extend to cover product liability i.e. if an autopilot fault causes an accident. Volvo however are the first manufacturer to announce they will accept the liability if one of its autonomous cars crashes when driving itself.

A report by consulting firm KPMG predicts the number of car accidents to go down 80% by 2040, the increasing degrees of automation changing the ‘risk profile’ of the car.

“The car becomes safer and safer as it moves towards fully-autonomous driving.”

Jerry Albright, KPMG

Long term, there may be little or no need for motor insurance due to the safety improvements made possible, but the interim could be a time of much confusion, insurance-wise.

To pave the way, recent discussions between the DfT and the BVRLA have confirmed that they’ll use public sector fleets as a test bed for setting out policy for insurance claims. Clear definitions are required to determine whether the driver, the insurer or the manufacturer are liable; whether the vehicle was under manual or autonomous control, and even whether necessary software updates have been applied or modifications made. Transport Minister Chris Grayling has set this for debate later this year in The Modern Transport Bill.

“To properly pave the way for these technologies, we must create an environment where developers can “bring their products to market in a safe way that protects consumers.”

Chris Grayling

We should expect to see changes to The Highway Code, Driving Test and licencing in order to keep pace with the changing road environment. Revisions have already been announced for this coming December to account for satnavs and auto parking.

UK Driving Force

The UK Government has established the University of Cambridge Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) with the DfT to help ensure that the UK remains a world leader in developing and testing connected and autonomous vehicles.

They are also providing funding for an autonomous car cyber security group with suggestions of star ratings for security levels, similar to EuroNCAP’s crash safety ratings.

Driverless car projects are already planned or in progress in a number of UK cities:

The £8m+ Project GATEway will involve 10mph 4-seater driverless shuttle buses around pedestrian public areas using a self-learning system called ‘Selenium’ by UK startup Oxbotica. This system can be added, along with the required cameras and sensors, to a standard vehicle.

“Driverless cars will make our roads safer and help an ageing population remain independent.”

Paul Newman, professor at Oxford University and co-founder of Oxbotica

Milton Keynes
Oxbotica’s technology was also at work as of October 2016 in 2-seater pod cars in a 1km loop around Milton Keynes’ railway station.

Autonomous cars will be reaching speeds of up to 70mph on the roads of Greater Manchester next year as part of a three year research study on roads between Stockport Railway Station and Manchester Airport. There will be a standby driver in each of the three vehicles to take control if required.

Following a pilot programme in Sweden this year, Volvo will begin real-world autonomous vehicle testing in the UK next year under a programme called Drive Me London. The first trials will involve semi-autonomous XC90s, but by 2018 they will be replaced by 100 fully autonomous cars with selected families trying their ‘Unsupervised Driving’ mode on city streets.

‘Transport as a Service’

Clean energy thought-leader, Tony Seba, anticipates that by 2021, autonomous electric vehicles operating under a ‘Transport as a Service’ model (essentially Uber, without a driver) will be 4-10 times cheaper per mile than buying a similar model, and 2-4 times cheaper than running an existing owned vehicle. And considering that cars aren’t used 96% of the time, according to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, will we still be choosing to have our own private vehicle – especially when initial purchase costs are likely to be high?

“In peak time, 30 per cent of city driving is people looking for parking. That goes away if you have cars that drive themselves and drop you off and go find another passenger.”

Sergey Brin, Google

The Road Ahead

The near future could be a confusing time for motorists: whilst we approach full automation, the car will take some of the strain of driving, whilst the motorist’s hands will be hovering over the wheel, and eyes still on the road. How appealing this technology will be to motorists, and whether they’re prepared to pay for it, remains to be seen.

The roadmap ahead as blogged by AutoExpress looks like the following:

2016 Assisted Driving – e.g. AEB and lane departure technology
2018 ‘Hands-off’ self-driving – for motorways, with the driver expected to remain responsible and take control if required, though able to remove hands from the steering wheels for 3 minutes at a time
2021 Automated Driving – with the next decade will come full autonomy in defined sections of motorway where the car can take full control
2025 Fully autonomous cars – it’s predicted that in ten years our cars will be able to drive us door to door without us needing to touch the wheel, with onboard technology to communicate with other vehicles as well as the road infrastructure. There may even be vehicles with no driver controls

“In 2019 you will be able to buy a car with an autopilot system where you can take your hands off the wheel for up to three minutes. But that will only work on a motorway.”

Matthew Avery, Thatcham

For this technology to develop a system able to interpret its surrounding filled with obstructions, hazards and other vehicles as quickly as a human brain, not to mention clearer road markings and weather-proofing to the sensors.

Come the Revolution

It’s perhaps no surprise that with its Silicon Valley and warm dry weather, California is paving the way in the development race. Momentously, as of 13th April 2017, Google, Apple (using modified Lexus Hybrids) and Tesla along with 27 other brands including Ford, GM, VW and BMW have been granted permission by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to allow them to test their technology on the roads. This is a landmark ruling.

“It’s a race towards a brave new world, it’ll be life changing.”

Jayne Waydo, head of systems engineering at Waymo (Google)

“The technology itself will perform a lot better than we perform now as humans… We needed to provide a clear path to completely driverless vehicles, because of the safety benefits.”

Bernard Soriano, deputy director of the Department of Motor Vehicles


Crucially, manufacturers are required to ‘self certify’ that their vehicles are safe to operate without a human driver. How they actually prove this hasn’t yet been determined and is considered “a very big leap” by Ryan Call, law professor at University of Washington.

The recent California ruling is a big step towards autonomy. Beverly Hill has already approved plans for a driverless car programme to replace the public transport system there, and in accord it’s likely that public transport systems worldwide will see driverless vehicles made mainstream before private vehicles. This has the double positive of making public transport cheaper, and potentially reducing the number of cars on the road too.

Pros and Cons

The benefits are clear to see. In 2015 a blind man ‘drove’ unaccompanied on a public road in Austin, Texas, for the first time thanks to a Google car, and a study by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) found that six out ten people with limited mobility will benefit from an autonomous car. Of those who agreed their lives would be improved, almost half said they would be able to pursue hobbies outside their home or go out to places like restaurants more often. A further 39% said they would have better access to healthcare as a result of an autonomous car.

Further benefits include:

  • A significant reduction in traffic collision, the resultant injuries, and motor insurance costs
  • major increases to traffic flow, higher speed limits, smoother rides
  • automated mass transit would reduce the need for vehicle – and thus roads and parking spaces – in cities
  • enhanced mobility for children, the elderly, disabled people, and the poor
  • relieving travellers of the chores of driving and navigation
  • reduced fuel consumption and emissions
  • reduced car theft due to the vehicles’ self-awareness
  • more comfortable cabins, with the removal of steering wheel and controls
  • plus being able to pick up passengers or go for maintenance without a driver present.

Potential downsides include:

  • Software reliability
  • breaches of vehicle software security, plus the security of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications networks, with potential for terrorism.
  • susceptibility of sensing equipment to adverse weather or deliberate interference
  • digital mapping will need resolution upgrading in many areas
  • current road infrastructure will need changes for systems to work optimally
  • drivers risk becoming ‘complacent’ – the conclusion reached by a House Of Commons report showed drivers in autonomous cars react on average 6x slower when having to intervene in emergency braking situations compared to driving manually
  • the loss of driving-related jobs across a wide range of industries, from haulage to insurance. That said, new industries will emerge around providing ‘Transport as a Service’, or TaaS, creating new employment opportunities, and success in the field here in the UK could create 320,000 jobs.

Eyes Forward

Progress is happening fast: autonomous trucks are already working hard in ports, mines and terminals for short repetitive trips, and with governments already onboard with city-based vehicle trials and significant investment. Latest opinion, however, may suggest we’re trying to run before we can walk.

AutoExpress have just reported back from a conference on the subject just last week, organised by the Financial Times. The leader of Nissan’s research centre in Silicon Valley, Maarten Sierhuis, who once wrote software for NASA, is a strong proponent for still having the human element.

Their Leaf prototype uses their Seamless Autonomous Mobility system and should it encounter an unknown obstacle, Sierrhuis’ vision entails it beaming images back to base for a human to examine and advise on a course of action which can be sent to other vehicles in the area. Despite them having autonomous prototypes in testing since 2015, and promising a fully autonomous car in its line-up by 2020, Sierhuis’ salient message was “It’ll be impossible to have autonomous vehicles driving around without them ever needing help.”

Around the Corner?

Waymo Autonomous CarWill this futuristic vision become reality? According to Tesla, it’s just around the corner, recently claiming we’re just two years away from sleeping in the car.

Advancing technology is not only big business, it’s unavoidable, so change will certainly come… particularly when its benefits are so far reaching in terms of safety, and mobility for those who currently struggle. But will the coming revolution see us still as a 1+ car-per-family society, or will the savings of switching to a TaaS, super-Uber system to pick us up and drop us off cause an even greater shift than anticipated?

The motoring world is moving forward into new territory, a journey which will bring much change to the industry, to our lifestyles, and no doubt to the way we view, use and rely on our motor vehicles.  Whether or not you’re comfortable with handing control to a computer, ultimately, with greater levels of safety being a key driver behind this change, our roads are set to be a far safer place, and we can all agree that’s a destination worth reaching.
Tesla Model S for lease

ULEZ London April 2019

London Drivers – Get Ready for the ULEZ Starting 8th April 2019

London Drivers – Get Ready for the ULEZ Starting 8th April 2019 https://wvl.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/ulez-2019-featured.jpg 660 300 Anthony Anthony https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a9c4089fd91833b9d9ac3cd2423e0fcb?s=96&d=mm&r=g

In just over a month’s time, on 8th April 2019, the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) will come into force in London as part of Mayor Sadiq Kahn’s longer term plan to tackle the dangerously high levels of air pollution in our Capital.

At present, motorists driving in London face the long-established Congestion Charge as well as the more recent Emissions Surcharge, or Toxin-Tax for vehicles not reaching the required emissions standard.

Next month, the Toxin-Tax will be replaced by the Central London ULEZ. It will operate continuously, 24/7 across the existing central London Congestion Charge Zone, and drivers’ vehicles must meet a strict emissions standard, or pay a charge.

ULEZ 2019 map

The vehicles affected are:

  • Cars (petrol and diesel)
  • Vans, minibuses and lighter specialist vehicles
  • Motorcycles, mopeds and more
  • Lorries, coaches and other larger vehicles

The emissions standards are:

  • Euro 4 for petrol cars and vans (roughly more than 14 years old in 2019)
  • Euro 6 for diesel cars and vans (roughly more than four years old in 2019)
  • Euro 3 for motorcycles and mopeds
  • Euro VI for lorries, buses and coaches

The charges are:

  • £12.50 per day for cars, motorcycles and mopeds, and vans with £160 fine for failing to pay on time (reduced to £80 if you pay within 14 days)
  • £100 per day for lorries, buses/coaches, with a £1,000 fine for failing to pay on time (reduced to £500 is paid within 14 days)

Check your vehicle now on the TFL website: click here.

There are some exemptions – see here including a grace or ‘sunset’ period for residents extending to 24th October 2021.

Don’t forget

The ULEZ is in addition to the £11.50 Congestion Charge which applies from 7am-6pm Monday to Friday (excluding public & bank holidays), and the LEZ (Low Emission Zone) Charge for heavy diesel vehicles which operates 24/7 across most of Greater London.

The Next Phase

The ULEZ will be expanded from the 25th October 2021 to the North and South Circular roads, covering all the inner London boroughs.

ULEZ map

The 2019 and 2021 ULEZs – click to download PDF

“We’re doing everything in our power to tackle this issue and are starting to see improvements in air quality with the wide-ranging action we’ve taken already on tackling the most polluting cars, and cleaning up our bus and taxi fleet. An expanded Ultra-Low Emission Zone, in conjunction with the Central London ULEZ, will really help transform the air that millions of Londoners breathe.”

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Clean sweep

A £23m scrappage fund has been set up but only for small businesses with no more than 10 employees to encourage them to switch from their dirty vans to cleaner vehicles. Grants of £3,500 are available for every older van replaced by a Euro6 vehicle, and a £6000 grant towards the purchase and running costs of an electric van. Full details can be found here on the TfL website. Kahn is pressuring the government to extend this to low income households.

Real World Benefits

Whilst TfL predicts just a 5% drop in car traffic in central London in response to the ULEZ, they anticipate that after one year, harmful emissions of NOx and Particulate Matter will have been reduced by 45% in central London and 40% in the surrounding areas. When the ULEZ expands in 2021, this should give a further 20% reduction across London. In real terms, this means over 100,000 fewer people will be living in areas with NO2 pollution exceeding legal limits, and 71% fewer schools will be in areas of illegal air pollution.

Combine this with significant investment in fully electric buses, London’s taxi fleet on track to be the greenest in the world, and ULEZ-style roll-outs across other key cities including Birmingham, Leeds, York, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Manchester and Newcastle, Sheffield and Bath, London is paving the way in the greening of our cities.

Taking Charge

Thankfully the vehicle manufacturers are redoubling their efforts to including hybrid and electric vehicles in their ranges – indeed, they’re the hot topic in this year’s Geneva Motor Show currently taking place.

Here at WVL we have a number of low emission vehicles for you to test drive, including the fantastic hybrid MINI Countryman PHEV, and the 2019 European Car of the Year: the electrifying Jaguar I-PACE. Call 01753 851561 to talk to us about eco options for your next vehicle and join the growing movement towards cleaner air and sustainable motoring!


The T-Charge, Toxin Taxes, and Diesel Engines

The T-Charge, Toxin Taxes, and Diesel Engines https://wvl.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/T-Tax-featured.jpg 660 300 Anthony Anthony https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a9c4089fd91833b9d9ac3cd2423e0fcb?s=96&d=mm&r=g

Hot on the heels of the new Crit’Air Emissions scheme for driving in Paris (see our recent blog post for details), and after news of elevated parking rates for diesel vehicles in some London Boroughs, the UK has taken recent vehicle emissions data and made plans to further penalise drivers of the most polluting vehicles during peak hours.

“The air in London is lethal and I will not stand by and do nothing.”

Sadiq Kahn, Mayor of London

“Despite the hype in the media, we should keep in mind that the modern Euro6 Diesel engines with their Catalytic Converters, Diesel Particulate, AdBlue technology and attractively low CO2 are much cleaner than the old diesel engines and are not being targeted with the T-Charge.”

Peter Fletcher, Account Manager at WVL

In the turbulent wake of Dieselgate, the emissions scandal seeded by significant discrepancies in test-conditions emissions versus real-world-driving emissions, the UK has also received a ‘final warning’ from the European Commission for breaching air pollution limits. In one street in London, air pollution levels were measured at the annual limit in just the first week of 2017. And with 40,000 premature deaths caused each year from long-term exposure – over 9,000 of those in London at the last count – action is swiftly being taken.

Recent independent analyses have yielded data which turns the tables on the petrol vs diesel debate. Previously, the key marker was the amount of CO2 generated (a ‘greenhouse gas’ implicated in global warming). On that front, diesel burns more cleanly that petrol, emitting around 20% less CO2 per km than petrol, hence the government’s tax breaks to encourage the sales of diesel engines in 1998. In fact, back in 1990, diesels represented just 6.4% of the vehicles on the road; by 2015, every other vehicle was a diesel. The data, however, overlooked other serious pollutants and real-world analyses has shown diesels to produce 4x the levels of Nitrous Oxides (NOx) as petrol, and 22x the levels of sooty particulates. Policy is changing as a direct result – but not just for diesels, for older petrol engines too.

Emissions testing

The T-Charge

A ‘Toxicity Charge’ will come into force 23rd October, 2017 in London where drivers with pre-Euro4 diesel and petrol engines will face a £10 daily fee on top of the existing £11.50 Congestion Charge in order to drive in the that zone 7am–6pm weekdays; that’s £21.50 per day.

Use this checker to see if your vehicle will be affected: www.tfl.gov.uk/emissions-surcharge

This will be superseded in April 2019 when central London becomes an Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) with daily charges ranging between £3–£12.50 dependent on your vehicle model’s emissions in a bid to reduce London’s NOx emissions by 50% by 2020. Diesel cars over four years old in 2019 and petrol cars over 13 years old will face the charge 24 hours a day, year-round (in addition to the existing Congestion Charge during weekday hours), in a bid to cut air pollution whilst buses, coaches and HGVs could face charges of £100 per day to operate in the ULEZ. Plans thereafter exist to extend the ULEZ to the North and South Circulars after 2021.

Sadiq Kahn and Anne Hidalgo, the Mayors of London and Paris respectively, are launching the ‘Cleaner Vehicle Checker’ website this autumn where independently assessed, real-world emissions data will be published. This will give consumers and fleet managers crucial information when considering a new vehicle in light of ULEZ fines and restrictions, and it’s hoped this new transparency will incentivise manufacturers to reduce their vehicles’ emissions long ahead of the EU ‘real-world driving emissions’ standards deadline in 2021.

“By having ‘on the road’ testing I believe we will help Londoners make an informed choice and incentivise manufacturers to build cleaner vehicles sooner. The toxicity of the air in London and many other big cities is an outrage and schemes of [this] type have the potential to make a massive difference to the quality of air we all breathe… [London] will have the toughest emissions standard of any world city.”

Sadiq Kahn, Mayor of London

“Every motorist who uses the capital’s roads needs to be ready for some pretty big changes that are coming up as London acts to cut harmful emissions which will either hit drivers in the pocket or force them to rethink their choice of vehicle.”

Nick Lyes, RAC


Low Emission Zone signOther polluted cities across England will also face the new restrictions with Toxin Taxes up to £20 per day, or even bans for the heaviest polluters during peak times. These measures are planned for up to ten more town centres, another 25 more where commercial diesels will be the targets, along with increased parking fees in at least 15 towns and cities. The finer details are yet to be worked out, but Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom has suggested the rules for each location will be written on a case-by-case basis and will announce outline measures imminently.

What about Diesels?

Diesel engines are being hardest hit; there are 11.9 million on the road in the UK and a scrappage scheme has been suggested but remains in debate as the £2billion cost has been deemed too high. Nevertheless, Theresa May has said she is conscious of past governments encouraging people to buy diesel cars and that this would be taken into account in plans made, but it does remain likely that pre-September 2015 (Euro6) diesel cars will be devalued at resale as a result.

Diesel cars aren’t the only emitters of problem NOx and particulates – nearly a quarter comes from coal and other energy plants, and cargo ships too: fifteen of the largest pump out more oxides of Nitrogen and Sulphur than all the world’s cars combined. And even Electric vehicles with their heavier battery packs have been shown to wear their tyres faster and release more rubber-derived particulates.

Manufacturers are quick to point out that Diesel will still have a place, perhaps moreso in vehicles and developing countries, but given the R&D costs involved, those engines will likely render smaller consumer models as uneconomic purchases. That said, with the advances made already in achieving Euro6 standards, diesel is very much still in the running and manufacturers are standing by it.

“It’s a pity diesel got so much miscredit in the past two years, because we all desperately needed to achieve our goals. It can be a really clean engine, and the new diesels really are. And it can also be, and is, the most efficient combustion engine in terms of CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. But I think social acceptance of the diesel is going down, and that the ban from city centres of diesels is bad for consumer confidence. So I see diesel penetration is going to decline.”

Karl-Thomas Newmann, Opel/Vauxhall

“You get high mileage, you get huge torque, but it will get more expensive and it will probably mean in the entry-level cars there will be a shift from diesel to gasoline. But it is still a great engine, and with the addition of after-treatment it will be very clean. Our Euro6 diesels are the best cars you can buy in the industry when it comes to emissions. Diesel is not at its end.”

Herbert Diess, Volkswagen

The Way Forward

Advances in technology are enabling engines to be made more efficient – both petrol and diesel, and with hybrid and all-electric vehicles becoming more mainstream and affordable, drivers have an array of options to consider when making a vehicle choice. Vehicle purchases are significant investments, and with technology moving so fast, it’s getting hard to future-proof that investment.

Now, more than ever, Leasing is the ideal option when considering a new vehicle as it affords you complete flexibility. Motoring doesn’t need to involve the long-term commitment of ownership: trying to select a model now which will still suit you – and not be hit with emissions taxes – in another ten years time.

WVL offer vehicle lease contracts from 1 month to 4 years. Call us on 01753 851561 to discuss the perfect vehicle for your requirements.

Information correct at the time of publication.

Changes to Car Tax from 1st April 2017

Road Tax Reform: new prices from 1st April 2017

Road Tax Reform: new prices from 1st April 2017 https://wvl.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/VED-featured.jpg 660 300 Anthony Anthony https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a9c4089fd91833b9d9ac3cd2423e0fcb?s=96&d=mm&r=g

Announced in July this year, the Treasury has revised the current Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) payments for vehicles registered 1st April 2017 onwards to account for the growing number of tax-exempt cars being purchased – the current system, according to Osborne, being unsustainable.

Under the new rules, only Zero Emissions vehicles will remain tax exempt. If your chosen vehicle is emits 1g CO2/km or more, a one-off tax charge will apply to its first year based on a 13-band CO2 emissions based scale ranging from £10 to a staggering £2,000. Then, year 2 onwards, a flat annual rate of £140 will apply.

New VED system – for cars registered from April 1st, 2017
Emissions (g CO2/km) Year 1 rate Standard rate thereafter *
0 £0 £0
1–50 £10 £140
51–75 £25 £140
76–90 £100 £140
91–100 £120 £140
101-110 £140 £140
111–130 £160 £140
131–150 £200 £140
151–170 £500 £140
171–190 £800 £140
191–225 £1,200 £140
226–255 £1,700 £140
over 255 £2,000 £140
* Cars costing over £40,000 pay a £310 supplement in years 2 to 6

It seems that over 60% of vehicles which currently pay zero tax in their first year of ownership will likely see their costs rise.

Furthermore, if your vehicle costs over £40,000, an additional £310 supplement will be payable for five years once the Standard Rate kicks in, i.e. years 2 to 6.

Vehicles registered before 1st April 2017 will be taxed under the old system, i.e. on a scale ranging from £0 – £1,100 based solely on CO2 emissions.

Whilst these new payments will be earmarked solely for road repairs, maintenance and improvements – the first time since the 1930s, many are disappointed that the new rates may disincentivise manufacturers to produce low emissions vehicles as they strive for zero emissions.

How will current models fare?

AutoExpress have published an enlightening list highlighting the highest and lowest proportional increases. Surprisingly, certain Peugeot 208, Ford C-Max, Lexus IS300h and VW Passat models all suffer 950% increases in road tax over 3 years – from £40 to £420. At the other end of the scale, the SEAT Alhambra increases around 10% from £435 to £480 and the Ford Mondeo EcoBoost by 23% from £390 to £480, again, over a 3 year ownership period from new.

Seeing how the elevated tax for first year ownership is likely to cost us all more for the vast majority of vehicles, once again, leasing comes into its own with those initial outlays and losses (depreciation) associated with driving a brand new vehicle, being reworked into affordable, fixed, monthly payments.

Talk to us at WVL about your vehicle requirements, the new road tax implications, and how we can help you drive your choice of vehicle at the best possible price.

ULEV grants to change March 2016

Charging more — beat the plug-in car grant deadline and save £5,000

Charging more — beat the plug-in car grant deadline and save £5,000 https://wvl.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/ULEV-featured.jpg 660 300 Anthony Anthony https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a9c4089fd91833b9d9ac3cd2423e0fcb?s=96&d=mm&r=g

Are you considering having an electric vehicle? If so, you have until 29th February to maximise the potential savings!

While the government has pledged support to Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) till 2020, the grant for plug-in cars will reduce from its current level of £5,000 from 1st March 2016.

However, if your car is ordered by 29th February, you will still qualify for the full £5,000 grant, as long as delivery is within the next 9 months.

From 29th February, there will be 3 categories of grant, defined by range and CO2 emissions, unlike the current flat structure for all car ULEVs with emissions below 75g/km. This means the grant could reduce to £2,500 (e.g. if the ULEV car has emissions of 0g/km and a range of 10-69 miles). Furthermore, vehicles costing over £60,000 will no longer be eligible for the grant.

To match, there are three types of ULEV, defined as you’d expect, by their power source:

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

  • Power: fuelled solely by electricity provided by a rechargeable battery.
  • Tailpipe emissions: zero
  • Example cars: BMW i3, Nissan LEAF, Renault ZOE, Volkswagen e-Golf and e-Up!
  • Example vans: Nissan e-NV200, Nissan e-NV200 Combi and Renault Kangoo Van ZE

Plug-in-Hybrid vehicles (PHEVs)

  • Power: these supplement their battery with a combustion engine. They have more limited electric range, and the combustion engine drives the wheels at higher speeds and when the battery is depleted.
  • Tailpipe emissions: around 40-50g/km CO2
  • Example cars: Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, BMW i8, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Volkswagen Golf GTE
  • Example vans: Mitsubishi Outlander 4Work

Extended Range Electric Vehicles (E-REVs)

  • Power: having the benefits of a PHEV but promising greater efficiency via a larger capacity battery plus a combustion engine to recharge the battery once exhausted.
  • Tailpipe emissions: around 20-30g/km CO2
  • Examples include: BMW i3 with optional range-extender and the Toyota Prius Plug-in

Holding charge… holding value?

Key drivers for leasing these vehicles are firstly the initial purchase price – generally more than the marque’s combustion engine version… but also the depreciation.

Electric-only vehicles fare worst with 3yr/36,000 mile resale values averaging around just 17% of the initial cost – reflecting a lack of confidence in used purchases, and revealing a hidden factor which ups the overall cost of ownership when bought from new.

The real performers are the Petrol/Electric Hybrids – the latest data from CAP showing them to outperform traditional fuel cars and thus being the smart, green choice in every sense.

Petrol/electric hybrid:39.3%
3yr/36,000 mile residuals

Combine that with the financial benefits of a ULEV:

  • Fuel costs as low as 3p per mile
  • Low Benefit In Kind (BIK) rates (good for company drivers)
  • Exemption from Congestion Charge
  • Exemption from Vehicle Excise Duty (Car Tax)

…and you really can drive with your head as well as your heart!

Purchase or Lease?

Given lease costs are based on a vehicle’s depreciation, the better it holds its value, the lower the lease payments. And, given the higher initial purchase prices of these vanguard vehicles, leasing makes sense every which way – these vehicles are as economical on your wallet as they are on fuel.

If you’d like to discuss this further, or for advice on sourcing ULEVs, call us on 01753 851561, send us an enquiry online here, or try our Configurator, and spec up your ideal ULEV lease car or van.

Remember, if you place your order before the end of this month, you’ll benefit from the full £5,000 government grant. Demand for vehicles and grant applications is already heavy, so if you’re interested, do get in touch!

Further reading:Full details of the new grant changes
Full list of vehicles eligible for the grant
Learn more about ULEVs here

Switch On to Driving Electric

Switch On to Driving Electric https://wvl.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Electric-featured.jpg 660 300 Anthony Anthony https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a9c4089fd91833b9d9ac3cd2423e0fcb?s=96&d=mm&r=g

If leasing’s the budget-savvy way to drive, then ‘leasing electric’ is surely the ultimate win-win. Want to drive a high value, top-tech, greener than green vehicle for an affordable monthly fee… and with impossibly low running costs? Then leasing electric is the smartest way to drive!

Electric Vehicles

Back in the mid-2000s forward-thinking motorists (and fans of Logan’s Run and The Jetsons) firmly believed the industry was on the brink of an electric car revolution – that by 2010 every household would be refuelling their cars from a plug socket; petrol and diesel would be a reserve of the Classic car and our combined eco-drive would collectively be saving the planet from being greenhouse-gassed. The shift, however, didn’t come and electric vehicles (EVs) remained in their infancy.

But as more and more manufacturers have joined the EV race, the pace of development has picked up with many of the major car manufacturers investing millions of pounds into the development of electric/hybrid vehicles: BMW with their ‘game changing’ i3; Toyota with the ever-popular Prius; even McLaren with their hybrid hyper car the P1. Mainstream models rightly vie for today’s car-buyers’ attentions as taxes, fuel costs and eco-awareness continue to rise. The time is right, and this new technology is clearly here to stay.

Sales data reflects this upward trend: although there are only 13,000 electric vehicles on the UK roads, sales in Europe more than doubled in 2013 compared to 2012.


Whilst gaining pace, the switchover to electric won’t happen overnight, not least due to lack of vehicle choice, but also because the change from petrol/diesel to electric is a mindset shift too, with anxieties over charging, recharging and range in particular. Let’s have a look at these in more detail and see if we can help switch you on to considering an EV for your next car!

Charging ahead

Charging an electric vehicle is much simpler than you think: every vehicle comes with a charging cable that can be plugged into a domestic plug socket. Of course, whilst most home sockets are suitable for EV charging, it’s worth checking with a qualified electrician to ensure that your wiring is up to the required standards. Once confirmed, plug in, recharge and drive!

For a range of approximately 100 miles, it will require around 6–8 hours’ AC charge in the UK, costing just a couple of pounds.

Manufacturers also offer higher power home charge units (around £1,000) which significantly reduce the recharge time, generally from 0 to 100% in 4 hours, some restoring 80% charge in just 30 minutes.



Charging on the go

Since the UK Government made £30 million available to provide vehicle recharging points around the UK, infrastructure is already being put in place with eight ‘Plugged In Places’ so far securing the investment: East of England, Greater Manchester; London, Midlands; Milton Keynes; North East; Northern Ireland; and Scotland. Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in city centre car parks such as this one we recently spotted in Manchester, will soon become a common site:


There is also an increasing number of public DC fast-charge points such as Tesla’s ‘Supercharger’ and others for the e-Golf and BMW i3 providing 80% charge in just 30 mins – perfect for a coffee break on your road trip.

rcn-logoAlready supported by BMW, Nissan, VW and Renault and co-funded by the EU, the Rapid Charge Network across the UK and Ireland, so far provides recharging coverage for 1,100km of major roads. It’s growing fast: many service stations such as Welcome Break have had them installed already, and they’re being rolled out across IKEA, Waitrose and various other locations to give rapid recharges whilst drivers take a break or shop.

That said, since 85% of motorists charge either at home or at work, and given the range-per-charge (see below), these stations are not seen as a necessity for day-to-day driving or work commutes since an overnight charge should provide more than ample range for a typical day. Recharging on-the-go will only be needed when on longer journeys, and that’s no different to petrol/diesel; so for most of our motoring, charging up looks to be a far more convenient way to drive.

The technology really is there to give these new vehicles a natural place in our über-connected modern world. And of course, there are apps too – from monitoring your EV’s charge remotely via smartphone, to also helping you navigate to the nearest recharge station when your battery’s running low. EVs are now showing us the way forward.



Current Trend

We’re catching on. The British market showed a rapid growth of EV sales this year, likely driven by the introduction of several new models.

  • Registrations of all-electric cars were up 132.9% year-on-year (and plug-in hybrid registrations were 261.4% up from a year earlier)
  • Jan – July: 3,058 plug-in electric cars were registered in the UK
  • …with the Nissan Leaf the most popular, selling 2,029 units, and a total of 5175 since its introduction in March 2011 – affirming its position as the UK’s top-selling plug-in electric car.


New EVs in 2014

There have been some superb EVs launched to the market this year – here are our favourites:


VW e-up!

Price: £19,270
Range: 93 miles


Nissan Leaf Acenta

Price: £23,490
Range: 124 miles


BMW i3

Price: £25,670
Range: 80–100 miles


VW e-Golf

Price: £25,845
Range: 118 miles


Ford Focus Electric

Price: £28,580
Range: 100 miles


Model S

Price: £49,900
Range: 240 miles

The Plug-in Car Grant program reduces the up-front cost of eligible cars by providing a 25% grant towards the cost of new plug-in cars, capped at £5,000. Both private and business fleet buyers across the UK are eligible for this grant.

The Tesla is arguably the most highly acclaimed EV of 2014 with the top spec model boasting a range of 312 miles, but the performance and luxury comes at a price at just under £50,000. The initial outlay for an EV is no doubt deterring many drivers with the majority of our list costing between £20,000 – £30,000 after grant, though prices will surely fall as manufacturing costs decrease over time.


But factoring the cost per mile in terms of electricity (around 2–4p), zero road tax, zero Congestion Charge, great Benefit In Kind for business drivers, plus no more spark plugs, oil changes, timing belts, oil filters, smog checks etc… financial benefits will come as you drive. Don’t forget safety benefits too, with no fuel tanks to rupture or flammable spills in the event of an accident.

Lease your EV and have the best of both worlds!

Whilst the initial outlay does reflect manufacturers’ investment in new technologies and designs for these futuristic cars, there’s no disputing they’re more expensive than their fossil-fuel stablemates. So don’t buy one… lease one! Leasing enables you to drive an EV affordably since payments are based on the vehicle’s depreciation over the contract period, not the purchase price.

Contact us at WVL and ask about leasing an Electric Vehicle – it’s about more than just going green… with drastically reduced running costs, there’s never been a smarter, more budget-friendly way to drive! Call us to discuss options, prices and benefits on 01753 851561.


The Week In Motoring #5

The Week In Motoring #5 https://wvl.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/taxi.jpg 660 300 Anthony Anthony https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a9c4089fd91833b9d9ac3cd2423e0fcb?s=96&d=mm&r=g

100% Electric Nissan e-NV200 Taxi Heads for Amsterdam

Amsterdam-based Taxi Electric is to become the first private taxi company to add the Nissan e-NV200 taxi to its fleet of zero emission taxis.

The 100% electric e-NV200 taxi will join the 25 LEAFs that Taxi Electric have been using since it became the first private taxi company to operate a fleet of 100% electric taxis in November 2011.

Reliability has not been an issue for the company who have amassed over 1.5million KM since going completely electric which Andy Palmer, European vice President of Nissan says is testament to Nissan’s electric technology.

“(Taxi Electric) have covered an astonishing distance in their fleet in such a short time and have shown just how reliable our electric technology is in a demanding environment. Their pioneering spirit closely matches ours and we are certain they will continue their success with the ground-breaking Nissan e-NV200.”

Cars on UK Roads Reaches 10-year high

2013 saw a 1.4% rise in the number of cars on UK roads reaching a total of 31,917,885 units – over 436,000 up on 2012. Not only demonstrating a 10-year high in industry growth, they also reflect greater vehicle longevity.

It’s said that improvements in car reliability as well as several economic factors have seen the lifespan of cars significantly extended – the average age now being a year older compared to a decade ago. Additionally, numbers of cars over 12 years old rose by a staggering 11.3% in 2012 further proof that cars are being kept on the road for longer.

Chief Executive of SMMT, Mike Hawes, added ‘With more cars bought and less scraped in recent years, the total number on UK roads reached an all time high last year.’

Formula 1 Returns

Looking ahead, we’re very much looking forward to the upcoming Formula 1 season that gets underway this weekend in Melbourne. Let’s face it, the last four seasons have hardly been filled with edge-of-your-seat excitement as Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull has calmly jogged to four consecutive world titles, but there have been murmurings that this season’s championships is set to be one of the most exhilarating in 30 years.

We suggest that this sense of anticipation is down to the sheer unpredictability of the year ahead. New engines, new rules, new regulations, new drivers; this really is impossible to call.

Some bookies have Lewis Hamilton down as a potential favourite for the title but it would still take a brave punter to lump on with him at this early stage. Perhaps most encouraging for those wanting a more competitive season this year is the fact that Red Bull are still experiencing significant issues with their latest car, the RB10, meaning that we are unlikely to see Vettel with one hand on the championship trophy as we enter June.

The RedBull RB10

Whatever happens this year, we can’t wait. But what about you? Are you excited for the new season or have recent years meant you’ve found a better way to spend your Sunday afternoons?

• Drivers Championship:– Lewis Hamilton
• Constructors Championship:– Mercedes

Car of the Week

Our vehicle of the week is the excellent Kia Cee’d – we have two on loan as demonstrators at our showroom at the moment. Here’s the spec. of the vehicle we’ve been driving:

Year / Reg 2013
Mileage New
Engine 1.6L
Fuel Diesel
Gearbox Manual
Body Hatchback
Colour Black

Kia C'eed

You can read our full profile on this vehicle here (and watch the video too!). If you’d like to book a test drive and talk to us out about our latest leasing options, then don’t hesitate to call on 01753 851561.

Eco Feature: Going Green… and the new BMW i3

Eco Feature: Going Green… and the new BMW i3 https://wvl.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/i3.jpg 660 300 Anthony Anthony https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/a9c4089fd91833b9d9ac3cd2423e0fcb?s=96&d=mm&r=g

When you consider that we live in an ever increasingly environmentally conscious society, it’s a wonder that people are seemingly so reserved when it comes to acquiring green cars.

In the UK motor industry just 1.5% of cars sold are accounted for by electric and hybrid cars and, although there has been slow and steady market growth at home, across the channel in Europe sales of green cars are down 5% from last year. Which begs the question, why?

The lack of sales is a conundrum that the government are keen to solve which has led to the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) being granted a further £500million to develop a more effective strategy aimed at increasing the uptake of low emission vehicles. This is to be carried out in the 5 year period between 2015 – 2020.

To aid them in their task, OLEV have been seeking feedback from various external bodies as to how best to invest the money. Representatives from the BVRLA have stated that “more resource is needed to be put behind information campaigns and fleet training so that many misconceptions around electric vehicles can be corrected.” Among the suggested incentives that OLEV have been advised to implement are the following; tax incentives for companies to install charging points, reinstate 100% FYA for leased or rented ultra-low emission vehicles and to provide subsidised or free EV parking.

Trying to encourage consumers and businesses to acquire greener cars is nothing new: in 2002 the chancellor announced changes to company car tax with the main intention of encouraging employers and company car drivers to choose cars with low CO₂ emissions. The basic premise of the tax is: the lower the harmful emissions, the lower the tax. These company tax benefits are the primary reason that the majority of electric car sales in the UK are for fleet or company car use.


All eyes are on BMW’s i3
From a manufacturer’s point of view there has been a lot of excitement and hype around the newly released BMW i3. Having first released plans for the i3 in 2007 and having spent $2billion in development, the car is now being widely acclaimed for its innovation, with Topgear heralding it as a car that can ‘change open minds (with regards to green cars).’

BMW insist that the primary version of the i3 is the all electric model which has a range of between 80-100 miles, but there is also a range-enhancing version equipped with a petrol generator which, among other factors, is aimed at reducing range anxiety among drivers.

Since going on sale in September 2013, sales for the i3 have been very slow, with just 400 units being sold during November in Western Europe. However, experts say that this is not to do with consumer doubt and rather that BMW are consciously being slow in the production of the car for fear of their newly developed technology failing, resulting in numerous (rather embarrassing) recalls.

BMW have been quick to release confidence boosting figures of 10,000 orders having been taken around the world with a further 100,000 requests for test drives. Whatever the figures may be one thing is for sure: 2014 is going to be a big year for the i3… and a big year for green cars in general.

If you’re considering a greener option for your vehicle or fleet, call us to discuss the options, prices and benefits on 01753 851561.