When is an Electric Car not an Electric Car? When TfL say so!

by @edent | # # # | Read ~176 times.

Another middle-class rant about an easily solved problem. Or, how a software bug nearly cost me £80.

Things you should know...

  1. London has a Congestion Zone. You have to pay £11 to drive through it.
  2. If you have an EV (Electric Vehicle), you don't have to pay the Congestion Charge.

Easy, right? Not quite. In order to get the 100% discount, you have to register your vehicle and pay a £10 per year charge. A bit annoying but basically fair. So, I registered. That's where the problems began.

TfL (Transport for London) demanded a scanned copy of my car's V5C - a government document which, amongst other things, tells you what fuel type your vehicle is. I got a scan of it from my vehicle lease company, uploaded it, paid £10, and got a receipt. Nifty.

A few days later I drove through the Conestion Zone and got hit by a fine. WTAF?

If I'd read the small print, I would have seen that it can take up to 10 days for the exemption to be applied to their system.

Why? How does it take so long to add an entry into a database? I suspect it's because someone has to manually check the V5C to check it says the car is electric. And, in case of forgery, double check the information is correct with an official source.

But, here's the thing... If they're going to check my vehicle - why bother asking me in the first place?

If you use the Government's vehicle checking service, you can see that my car is an EV.
DVLA screen showing vehicle is electric.
There's even an API they can use.

Perhaps this is a bit beyond TfL's technical team? Nope!

London has an Ultra-Low Emissions Zone. If you want to drive a polluting vehicle in London, you have to pay. If you drive an EV, it's free.

But here's the thing with the ULEZ - you don't have to register!

If you go to the ULEZ exemption checker and enter your EV's numberplate, it will tell you that the vehicle is exempt because it is electric.

TfL screen saying the vehicle is exempt.

WHY THE BLOODY HELL DO I HAVE TO PAY TO TELL YOU IT IS EXEMPT FROM THE CONGESTION CHARGE WHEN YOU AUTOMATICALLY KNOW IT IS EXEMPT FROM THE ULEZ CHARGE!?!?!?!?

...ahem...

Anyway, I wrote a grovelling email, and TfL graciously used their discretion to waive the charges.
Letter saying they'll use their discretion to waive the charges.

What have we learned?

This isn't a "don't make me think" situation. It's a "do this automatically for me" situation.

If you can automatically get the information from somewhere - don't ask the user for it!

When one part of your system works automatically, and another part doesn't - fix it!

If something is going to take an unexpectedly long time, make it extremely clear to the user.

Never drive through London.

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