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London’s new Ultra Low Emission Zone comes into operation today (April 8th) and unless you own a Euro 3 modern scooter, or a classic it’ll cost you £12.50 a day to ride in the current congestion area of the capital (you can check if you own vehicle naturally complies or not here). That’s a lot of money if you rely on your scooter for commuting.


Thankfully though, amongst all the doom and gloom there is a ray of light, the man running the TFL approved Emissions Testing Centre told us…


Two strokes will pass the emissions test”

Vespa PX launch 039
Piaggio's NOx figures for the Vespa PX 125
Piaggio’s NOx figures for the Vespa PX 125


The PX will pass


We’ve done a bit of research into the NOx* output of the humble PX 125 and found that although it was never Euro 3 tested it actually falls below the 0.15 NOx limit (it’s not just the PX 125 either, most two-strokes will pass) that is set for the ULEZ zone in London. In some ways, that’s good news but because the scooter wasn’t Euro 3 compliant Piaggio can’t just issue a certificate of conformity.


To exempt your PX, (Lambretta, or any other non-compliant scooter) from the charge you need to get it tested. That’s £175 just to prove that your already ULEZ friendly scooter is as clean as the manufacturer says it is.


Long live the two-stroke


Even so, it means the end may not be nigh for Londoners wanting to ride a traditional scooter in the city. That’s right, if you’re a two-stroke owner, even a tuned scooter owner and want to still ride it in the new ULEZ zone (remember the ULEZ zone will be spreading further across London in 2021) read on because we have some very good news for you (and you can win a free test for your scooter).


Image courtesy of The AA
Image courtesy of The AA


What is NOx?


*NOx is a generic term for the Nitrogen Oxide gasses usually formed during the combustion process of vehicles as nitrogen and oxygen react. NOx can form as air pollution and smog in heavily congested areas and fall as acid rain. They also affect the ozone layer. 



Two-stroke nut in charge of testing centre


The TFL appointed National Emissions Testing Centre is based at Riverbank Motorcycles in London and run by a former 125cc New Zealand Grand Prix rider and two-stroke nut, Neil Freeman. When we spoke to him at the end of last week he was just putting the finishing touches to the testing facility before he starts submitting customer’s results to TFL today – Monday 8th April. 


Tuned two strokes?


Neil is no stranger to scooters either, he told us that a standard PX with its side-mounted plug position will pass no problem and give a lower reading than a T5 with its centre plug head. Even so, he says the T5 will pass easily enough. So what about tuned scooters? Neil said that no doubt about it, a tuned two-stroke will read higher than a standard one but if it’s set up correctly – read Sticky’s article, it’ll still pass the emissions test. Although if your scooter is tuned, with high compression and set up on the limit, or it’s detonating you may have problems. Detonation produces higher levels of NOx, although the actual test is measured at the tailpipe where the temperature reduces levels of NOx.


Incidentally, Neil over specified the testing equipment to make it two-stroke friendly. 


Classic electric conversions by Retrospective Scooters
Classic electric conversions by Retrospective Scooters


Retrospective Scooters


Obviously, ULEZ will have a massive knock-on effect for London based scooter/motorcycle shops. One forward-thinking business, Retrospective Scooters have been working on their electric conversions for classic scooters. You can read about those here if you missed our earlier features.


Retrospective are also happy to give your two-stroke a pre-emissions test check over to make sure it has the best possible chance of passing the test and swerving a life on the ULEZ enforced naughty step. It’ll cost you £25 to have it checked over. 




Emissions testing


Before any testing is carried out the scooter’s V5 is checked over, and the machine is inspected, tyre pressures adjusted, oil level checked etc.


The test itself is carried out three times with acceleration, deceleration (under load) and idling all taken into account. Each machine also has a speed test to a predetermined level for the model.   


Although other readings are recorded and sent to TFL with the examiner’s report it’s only the NOx levels that count (who knows when they’ll start to include other data in ULEZ charging though).


It’s a simple pass or fail. If your scooter passes, that’s it – you can ride it in London when and where you like without paying the £12.50 a day ULEZ charge. The test is a one-off with no yearly retest or other hoops to jump through. 


What’s it cost?


Ok, it’s not cheap but this is a purpose built facility, it’s not just an ‘ordinary’ dyno room and of course, TFL wants a nice cut from the fees. It costs £175 including VAT to test your scooter. It sounds expensive but that only equates to 14 days riding at £12.50 per day. It also means your scooter will probably attract a better price if you come to sell it in London in the future.


You can book your test here: National Emissions Test Centre or read on and you could win a FREE TEST.


No wonder the rider is wearing a face mask...
No wonder the rider is wearing a face mask…


Older four strokes?


Interestingly, Neil told us that many of the older four-stroke retro scooters (pre Euro 3), like the Neco Abruzzi, Lambretta LN and machines running older derivatives of the popular GY6 engines will fail the test. Especially if owners have junked the standard air filter.


Despite what we may think (or have been brainwashed into believing), four-stroke engines are prone to higher levels of NOx than two strokes…



Win an emissions test for your scooter


Riverside Motorcycles have given us one free test for a London based two stroke owning SLUK reader. If you live in or commute into London by a two-stroke scooter that isn’t ULEZ compliant (i.e not Euro 3 or historic) let us know how ULEZ will affect you in the comments section below.


We want to know the following:

What you ride?

Standard or tuned?

Where do you live?

How many miles do you ride per week? 

How ULEZ affects you?


We’ll pick a winner on Monday the 15th of April, you’ll be able to get your scooter tested for free and possibly save yourself the hassle of swapping your scooter or it costing you £4,562 a year to ride it in London every day. 



MCIA have their say as Mayor Khan ignores their calls…


The Motorcycle Industry Association have released the following statement regarding the introduction of ULEZ. 


The MCIA is extremely disappointed to see that riders of Powered Two Wheelers (PTWs), that occupy minimal road space and reduce traffic congestion, are charged at the same rate as single-occupancy 4x4s from the same era.


Transport for London (TfL) has chosen a cut off registration date for PTW exemption of July 2007, even though many motorcycles and scooters registered before then do not exceed the required NOx limit of 0.15 g/km. At present, it is up to the rider to prove that their vehicle is compliant, which may require an emissions test at the cost of £175. It is not hard to imagine the uproar if a similar burden was placed on car drivers.


As the relevant NOx information is not held by DVLA for many older PTWs, the MCIA has offered to help TfL develop a database, so that it would have access to accurate NOx data on which to establish the ULEZ status of each vehicle.


As this is a major piece of work, the MCIA requested a delay in the introduction of PTW charging until it was completed, an idea TfL agreed to consider.  However, in the run-up to the ULEZ introduction date, TfL has imposed a wall of silence with regard to PTW charging and has not returned any of the MCIA’s many calls on the topic. MCIA have also called for an urgent meeting with Mayor Khan, but his office has yet to respond.


Therefore, a situation now exists whereby riders of compliant machines are potentially charged an unnecessarily £62.50 per working week.


The MCIA once again calls on TfL to suspend the charge for PTWs and engage on this topic, so that PTWs of all types can assume their rightful place at the heart of the air quality and congestion solution, instead of being erroneously vilified.


Tony Campbell, MCIA CEO, commented:  


 “The Mayor of London and TFL have simply got this wrong. PTWs can and do provide cost-effective, non-congesting and in most cases, low or zero polluting transport solutions in the urban environment. 


We find it quite incredible that TFL and the Mayor continue to discriminate against the users of motorcycles and scooters and to ignore their benefits, while the Mayor has failed again to support his own manifesto commitments”.


New products always in development…