Skip to main content
Blog Post 22 May 2019 Updated 3 November 2020

Why you might be better off retrofitting fleet vehicles

Organisations that operate heavy duty vehicles (HDVs) face a bigger challenge than most when it comes to the new Clean Air Zones and Ultra Low Emission Zone, having to pay a large sum of £100 a day for non-compliance. Retrofitting these vehicles can make them compliant, while saving on the costs that come with replacing larger and more specialist vehicles, such as refuse collection vehicles.

What is retrofit, and who can it help?

Although manufacturers have reduced diesel engines’ environmental impact, new emission standards and the declared climate emergency mean we’re likely to see increased calls for stricter regulations on the emissions produced by vehicles.

Instead of replacing a vehicle, retrofitting involves reducing emissions from older engines by either adding emission control devices, rebuilding engine components or replacing existing equipment. Some retrofitting options can eliminate 99% of nitrogen oxides in diesel exhausts.

The process of retrofitting a vehicle usually takes around one or two days, with two people working on the vehicle. This can cost anywhere between £15,000 and £25,000. While it’s not a small cost, in many cases it’s cheaper than purchasing an entirely new, compliant vehicle and ensures that vehicles that have plenty of life left in them can stay on the road without incurring further penalties.

At the time of writing, you can find approved suppliers for buses, coaches, black taxis, refuse collection vehicles and non-road mobile machinery retrofitting services. There are standards and test protocols in place for vans, but currently no approved suppliers.

How to navigate the world of retrofit

There is a steady increase in suppliers and products in the retrofit market. To navigate this increasingly crowded market effectively, you need to stay on top of changing technologies and their relative reliability. Energy Saving Trust’s Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS) can help you do just that.

CVRAS is a technology neutral certification scheme that approves suppliers and products that can make a vehicle Clean Air Zone, Ultra Low Emission Zone or Low Emission Zone compliant. It is delivered in partnership with the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, funded by the Joint Air Quality Unit and developed under consultation with local authorities, trade associations (Freight Transport Association, Road Haulage Association, Environmental Industries Commission), test facilities, Department for Transport agencies (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, Vehicle Certification Agency) and the retrofit suppliers.

How does the CVRAS Register work?

Energy Saving Trust and Zemo Partnership certify qualifying emission reduction systems and vehicle adaptations. Accredited retrofitting systems and suppliers are listed on the CVRAS Register hosted on the Energy Saving Trust website once the company and product(s) have demonstrated it meets the established CVRAS requirements. In this way, the scheme gives assurance to fleet operators who choose retrofit as the compliance option and to local authorities implementing clean air initiatives under the DEFRA Clean Air Zone framework.

Fleet operators and vehicle owners operating in Clean Air Zones, the Ultra Low Emission Zone or Low Emission Zones can incur major costs with non-compliant vehicles. A compliant vehicle needs to be either Euro 4/IV for petrol or Euro 6/VI for diesel.

Using London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone as an example, if your vehicle entered the ULEZ Monday to Friday, every week of the year, this could cost around £26,000. Retrofitting a vehicle can be costly, but it is much cheaper than paying these ongoing charges. Clean Air Zone operating authorities will recognise older vehicles that have been retrofitted with CVRAS approved systems that reduce emissions to the more stringent levels. But only if the retrofitting is carried out by suppliers with products listed on the CVRAS Register.

Take a look at the CVRAS Register and our dedicated retrofitting information.

Last updated: 3 November 2020