What do the new ultra low emission zones mean for drivers?

26 April 2019

It’s been a long time coming but as of 8th April 2019, the world’s first ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) went live in London. Before you hop in your car for your next trip into or out of the capital, take a few minutes to read this article. We explain which areas are affected, whether your vehicle will be impacted and how much you’re likely to be charged.

Which areas are impacted?

London is a big place but, for now, the ULEZ centres on a small, central area. Ranging from Marylebone and Mayfair down to Westminster and the edges of Vauxhall across to Whitechapel, the zone covers 8.1 square miles of London. Just 1.3% of the city.

However, from 25th October 2021, the ULEZ boundary will expand to create a larger zone with its edges marked by the North and South Circular Roads.

Not sure if your route will take you via the zone? Use this postcode checker to find out.

When does the ULEZ operate?

If you thought you might be able to avoid the new charge by arriving early or leaving late, think again. The zone operates 24/7, 365 days a year so there’s no escape.

As the Transport for London website notes: “If you drive within the ULEZ area across two days, for example before midnight and after midnight, you need to pay two daily charges if your vehicle doesn't meet the ULEZ standards.”

Will my vehicle be impacted?

Unlike the congestion zone, not all vehicles will be charged for entering the ULEZ.

Issued guidance says that diesel vehicles that don’t meet the Euro 6 emission standards and petrol vehicles that fail to confirm to Euro 4 emission standards will be required to pay the ULEZ charge.

As a general rule of thumb, diesel cars that have been registered with the DVLA after September 2015 and petrol cars that have been registered after 2005 will likely be exempt. However, some petrol cars that meet the Euro standards have been available since 2001 or before making it a little tricky to know if you’ll be charged.

That’s why TfL have introduced a handy online tool to check whether your vehicle meets the standards. Just enter your number plate into the TFL’s vehicle checker and it will tell you if your vehicle is in the clear.

If my car doesn’t make the grade, how much am I likely to pay?

The ULEZ daily charge is £12.50 for most vehicles including cars, motorbikes and vans up to and including 3.5 tonnes. Heavier vehicles, including lorries over 3.5 tonnes and coaches over 5 tonnes, incur a hefty £100 fee.

Don’t forget that London also operates a congestion zone with an £11.50 charge, so you might have to pay for this instead of or as well as as a ULEZ fee.

How do I pay the ultra low emission zone charge?

TfL will use automatic number plate registration cameras to identify when your car enters the ULEZ. You’ll then be sent a bill asking you to pay the fee. Failure to cough up will result in a large fine of £160, reducing to £80 if paid within 14 days.

There are a range of payment options available:

  • Online via the TfL website or their smartphone app
  • Autopay enables automatic payments to be taken from those who drive regularly in London
  • Pay by phone on 0343 222 2222

How can I avoid the charge?

If you’re a London resident, you can register for a congestion charge discount which removes the fee until 24th October 2021. This is to give you enough time to get hold of a vehicle with lower emissions.

And it’s low emission vehicles that are the key to avoiding the ULEZ charge in the first place.

With the UK government’s commitment to reducing emissions, the ULEZ is also going to be replicated across a large number of other cities including:

  • Bath - higher emission vehicles including taxis, buses, lorries and coaches will be charged from 2020. Cars are exempt for now.
  • Birmingham - a clean air zone is expected to operate from January 2020 charging car and other small vehicle drivers £8 per day.
  • Glasgow - already has a low emission zone in place but this will be extended to a wide range of other vehicles including cars from 2023.
  • Greater Manchester - plans are afoot to charge older taxis, minicabs, vans and minibuses £7.50 per day, while buses, coaches and lorries will pay £100.
  • Leeds - will be running an around the clock clean air zone from January 2020. The most polluting taxis, minicabs and vans face a £12.50 daily fee; buses, coaches and lorries will pay £50.
  • Sheffield - there’s no start date for the proposed low emission zone for older minicabs, vans, minibuses and taxis.
  • Elsewhere - older buses are restricted in Oxford and Brighton and York are due to introduce similar schemes in 2020. Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dundee, Leicester, Liverpool and Tyneside are all in the process of deciding whether to implement measures to improve air quality.

So wherever you live or plan to travel to in the UK, there’s a good chance you’ll need to pay emission zone fees. And it’s possible that, as car design improves, the emissions limit could be reduced further in London and potentially in other cities too.

In summary, if you’re planning on traveling to London, it’s worth checking to see if your existing car will fall foul of the new ULEZ. Or, if you want to ensure you’re one step ahead of potential low emission zones in other cities, consider getting your hands on an ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV). Not only will you help save the planet but you’ll save fuel too. With more ULEVs available than ever before, there’s never been a better time to trade up.

Think an ULEV is too expensive? You’ll be surprised by the affordability of our wide range of ULEVs. Take a look today.

Call us: 0333 400 2020

If you would like help placing an order or you are an existing driver.

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