The BVRLA has slammed the latest congestion charge plans as a “money-making exercise masquerading as an emissions reduction scheme”, after London Mayor Ken Livingstone confirmed the huge price hike for higher-emitting cars entering London’s congestion charge zone.

From 27 October, any vehicle emitting over 225g/km will be charged £25 per day to enter the zone, though cars at 120g/km or less will get free entry as long as they meet Euro4 emissions regulations, which were standard from January 2007. They also have to pay a £10 annual registration fee.

“This scheme does not affect taxis, many of which, if not most, fall into the higher polluting category,” said BVRLA director general John Lewis (pictured). “If the Mayor was really serious about doing something to help Londoners and the capital’s many visitors then he should take radical action to improve air quality, not pay lip service to it and reap the cash dividend for his pet projects.”

Figures from the Mayor’s Office claim 17% of cars entering the zone will now be forced to pay the £25 per day charge, while only 2% will qualify for the 100% discount. The remainder will still be subject to the current £8 per day.

Models over 225g/km that will be hit by the new charge include top-end versions of the Vauxhall Zafira, Peugeot 407 SW, Renault Espace and Honda Accord.

“Nobody needs to damage the environment by driving a gas-guzzling Chelsea tractor in central London,” said Livingstone, describing the latest scheme as a “polluter pays principle”.

Hybrid and LPG vehicles currently registered for the alternative fuel discount will continue to receive it until January 2010, as long as they don’t change ownership, and the Mayor has left the door open to remove the 120g/km and below exemption in the future.

Some commentators are worried by the number of new models that now fall into the category, including versions of the Audi A3, VW Golf, BMW 1-series and Ford Focus, with others sure to follow suit. A sharp rise in the number of congestion charge-exempt models available would lead to increased congestion, going against the claimed principle of a congestion charge.