City authorites all over the UK are watching the London congestion charging experiment with interest, as are the carmakers. Motorists can steer a course around the cost of London’s congestion charging by taking the wheel of the revolutionary Toyota Prius, a petrol-electric hybrid.
What’s happening in London now could easily happen elsewhere. All cities face congestion problems, and if it works in London, similar schemes could be operating across the UK within months. If charges are the way of the future there could be more demand for vehicles like the Toyota Prius.
The Prius is exempt from the £5 daily charge, which will be levied on vehicles entering the centre of the capital from 17 February, thanks to its environmentally friendly, advanced engine technology. The potential saving for drivers is £1,250 a year.
The four-door saloon is a hybrid vehicle, using a combination of a conventional 1.5-litre petrol engine and a 33kW electric motor. On the open road, power is derived from both sources, but on start-up, when stationary and in slow moving traffic (speeds below 10mph), the Prius switches to its electric motor. In this mode, exhaust emissions are reduced to zero.
This ‘green’ quality, which qualifies the Prius for exemption from the London congestion charges, is just one of the benefits of owning the car. Since the Prius was launched in 1997 as the world’s first mass-production hybrid vehicle, more than 110,000 have been sold around the world.
Here in the UK it has offered substantial savings for Britain’s drivers, thanks to excellent fuel economy and low carbon dioxide emissions that place the car in the lowest Vehicle Excise Duty band.
Petrol consumption on the combined ‘open road’ cycle is 57.6mpg, while in urban conditions, where conventional petrol-engined vehicles return poor figures, the Prius can achieve 61.4mpg. The car’s automatic transmission also makes for more relaxed driving around town.
Toyota (GB) PLC managing director, R. Graham Smith said: "Commuters and business users driving into London every day can reduce the pain of congestion charging and save up to £1,250 a year by driving a car like the petrol/electric Toyota Prius, which is exempt from the daily £5 congestion charge.
"Once you have registered for the charge exemption, you don’t have to log on every time you want to drive into London. So, as well as saving you money, it will save time and reduce aggravation – all of which drivers suffer enough from in London anyway."
Furthermore, anyone buying a Prius can take advantage of a £1,000 grant towards the £16,400 on-the-road price from the PowerShift programme, a Government-funded initiative to encourage motorists to choose cleaner vehicles.
Prius owners do not have to make compromises on performance and comfort. The car has a top speed of almost 100mph (where permitted) and will accelerate from rest to 62mph in 13.4 seconds. The cabin has space for five passengers and there is a well proportioned boot. It is well equipped, too, with driver and passenger airbags, ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), electric windows and air conditioning.Published 5 February 2003