Oxford aims to be world's first zero-emissions city


Hyundai ix35 (Tucson) gasoline car parked in electric-car charging spot, Oxford Services, U.K.

Hyundai ix35 (Tucson) gasoline car parked in electric-car charging spot, Oxford Services, U.K.

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The college town of Oxford, England, is poised to become the first municipality in the United Kingdom to ban gasoline and diesel-fueled cars from its city center.

A proposal headed to the Oxford City Council has four stages that would culminate in a city free of vehicular emissions by 2035.

Initially, the city hopes to ban gas and diesel cars, taxis, and buses from six streets in the college town's historical center by 2020.

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Every five years after that, the proposal suggests widening the size of the area where gas and diesel vehicles are banned.

Beginning next week, councils for both the city of Oxford and its county will begin a six-week comment period to gauge the public opinion.

However, Oxford's plans are essentially a done deal since the U.K. intends to ban fossil fuel-powered vehicles from sale by 2040.

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Oxford's intent is to significantly reduce harmful nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels. Over the last decade, Oxford says it has reduced NO2 levels by nearly 37 percent, but council member John Tanner told The Telegraph that a ban is "urgently needed."

Tanner said that George Street, one of the city's main commercial arteries, could see NO2 levels drop by as much as 74 percent. 

At least initially, Oxford would fine gas and diesel vehicles about $80 if they're caught operating within the zero emissions zone.

Modern-day MINI assembly at MINI Plant Oxford, England, Mar 2013 (the plant's 100th birthday)

Modern-day MINI assembly at MINI Plant Oxford, England, Mar 2013 (the plant's 100th birthday)

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That's the same that Oxford currently charges cars that enter bus-only zones.

Of course, banning gas and diesel-fueled buses and taxis costs money—as much as $18.5 million, the city estimates.

However, the council says that 18 years would give it plenty of time to budget for new vehicles as it seeks to replace aging gas- and diesel-fueled trucks and buses.

Oxford itself has a long history with automobiles—it's where Mini builds its Cooper hatchbacks and convertibles—but the city is putting a major emphasis on bicycles and electric vehicles.

 
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