The Ultra Low Emission Zone: How will it affect you?

Published 18 April 2017

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (also known as ULEZ) will be an area within London where all cars, motorcycles, vans, minibuses, buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) will need to meet new exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge to enter.

Although the start date is still under consultation, the ULEZ is expected to begin on the 8 April 2019. Once in force, the drivers of the most polluting cars and vans will have to pay an extra £12.50 (on top of the Congestion Charge) to enter London. Buses, coaches and HGVs, meanwhile, will be charged £100 per day.  

Why is London introducing the ULEZ? 

It all comes down to air quality. Or lack of it. The capital’s toxic air has been labelled as a ‘public health emergency’ by a cross-party committee of MPs and is linked to 9500 premature deaths in London every year.  

The problems are mostly linked to nitrogen dioxide (NOx) and particulate matter, which are linked to heart disease, cancer and a range of respiratory problems. The Mayor of London hopes that the introduction of the ULEZ fee will cut NOx by as much as 50 per cent by 2020 and deter owners of older cars and vans from entering the city.  

Which vehicles will be affected by the new rules? 

The ULEZ will affect petrol vehicles that do not meet Euro4 standards and diesels that do not meet Euro6 emission limits. This means diesel vans, cars and minibuses that are older than four years in 2019 will have to pay, while petrol cars older than 13 years will also be charged. 

For newer vehicles, you should be able to see its Euro emission rating on the V5C in section D2. Alternatively you can check on the Transport for London website to see if you'll have to pay the charge or not.

What areas will the ULEZ cover? 

The ULEZ will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, within the same area as the current Congestion Charging Zone (see below). However, there are already plans afoot to extend it to Greater London for 2020 and by 2021 the ULEZ could also cover the North and South Circular.


How will I pay the fee, and what happens if I forget? 

The details of ULEZ payments are still to be confirmed, but we'd expect it to mirror the existing Congestion Charge. This means you can pay online or over the phone in advance, on the day of travel or by midnight the following day. 

If the vehicle does not meet the ULEZ standards, and the daily charge is not paid, then a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) will be issued to the registered keeper or operator. For motorcycles, cars, vans and minibuses this will be £130 (reduced to £65 if paid within 14 days). For HGVs, coaches and buses this will be £1000 (reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days).

How will TfL know if I’ve paid or not?

Like the Congestion Charge, the ULEZ will be monitored by Transport for London (TfL) with ANPR (automatic numberplate recognition) cameras. Each time you enter and leave the zone, it will be logged. 

What about drivers who live within the ULEZ?

Drivers who live within the zone will be exempt, but only for a limited period of time. They will get a three year ‘sunset period’ to change their car and at the end of this period (from 7 September 2023) residents will be liable for the full daily charge, should their vehicle not meet the ULEZ standards.

And what about taxis? 

From 1 January 2018, all taxis presented for licensing for the first time in London will need to be zero emission capable and emit no more than 50g/km CO2, with a minimum 30 mile zero emission range. This means new diesels will not qualify for a licence, but Transport for London and the Government are expected to offer grants of up to £7500 for the purchase of purpose-built ultra-low emission taxis.

Will other towns and cities introduce ULEZ fees? 

Nothing has been confirmed, but there are signs that other cities will introduce similar schemes. We think it is inevitable that other cities and towns will follow London's example and start to charge older petrol and diesel vehicles to enter.

Indeed, air quality campaigners are calling for an outright ban on all diesels from city centres during peak hours and, with thousands of deaths linked to air pollution, we think it will only be a matter of time before Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Belfast introduce similar ULEZ measures. 


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