Your complete guide to low emission zones

12 September 2021

What are they and will they affect you?

Back in 2008, the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) was introduced, more than a decade before the government pledged to ‘be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it’.

Whilst the idea is simple, there is a lot of confusion now surrounding the subject. From Euro 6 standards to ULEZ, CAZ and LEZ, from delays in schemes launching to frustration at how blunt the rules are, it’s little wonder that we’re often asked about the latest news and guidance.

Here’s everything you need to know about Low Emission Zones and whether you will have to pay.

Evidence suggests that a clear air zone can reduce toxic air pollution. Based on this principle, Low Emission Zones are designed to discourage certain types of vehicles from entering cities or urban areas, thereby tackling levels of urban pollution. While not banned, larger vehicles including vans, motor caravans, minibuses, lorries and buses are charged to enter the zone. In April 2019, London took a further step by introducing an Ultra-Low Emission Zone, charging daily tolls of £12.50 for cars and vans not meeting emission standards.

Where air pollution exceeds European legal limits, councils are taking action to set up Clean Air Zones where initiatives including traffic flow measures are being implemented to cut emissions. Although not all Clean Air Zones charge vehicles, it’s increasingly likely that there will be a move to charge drivers in the future. Since 2015, more than 60 local authorities have been tasked with tackling illegal levels of air pollution.


Are you going to be charged?

To help you prepare for Clean Air Zones becoming more widespread across UK cities, enter your vehicle’s registration number in the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit online checker to see if you will be charged. For London, use the TfL checker instead.

As a rule, any diesel not conforming to Euro 6 emission standards and any petrol not conforming to Euro 4 emission standards will incur a charge.

In London, automatic number plate recognition cameras will detect entry into the zone so there’s no dodging the system. Failure to pay will result in a hefty penalty charge notice of £160, reducing to £80 for prompt payment.

Of course, electric vehicle drivers can breathe a sigh of relief. Not only are all electric cars exempt from ULEZ charges, they are also exempt from London’s Congestion Charge too.

Although London is leading the way in terms of cutting emissions, Clean Air Zones will be coming to a city near you soon with schemes launched or planned in Brighton, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Glasgow, Leeds and Birmingham.

However, implementation is proving more complex than first thought and many schemes have been hampered by Covid-19. Concerns have been raised in many cities about the economic impact on lower-income families and workers.

Bristol City Council announced earlier this year that its Clean Air Zone would be delayed launching from October 2021 to summer 2022, primarily to allow for more financial support to enable residents and businesses to upgrade their vehicles to low emission models. Plans for a Clean Air Zone in Liverpool have been put on hold and proposed schemes rejected in Canterbury, Derby and Exeter.

Europe is following suit with more than 200 cities and towns having schemes in place. As travel restrictions ease and thoughts turn once more to driving to the Continent, check where you can drive to avoid paying a penalty.

Driving electric is the safest way to ensure no charges, no restrictions and no penalties. Tusker is leading the way in providing electric and low emission vehicles for organisations across the UK whilst also saving employees and employers money in the process. Switch to electric and start reaping the benefits, not least of which could be a daily saving of more than £10 to drive in our cities. Play your part in cutting emissions and ensuring a brighter future for us all.

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