The ULEZ – Ultra Low Emission Zone - came into force in central London on April 8 2019.
ULEZ was planned by Boris Johnson when he was mayor, and implemented by his successor Sadiq Khan, with the aim of improving London's air quality, after a recognition that dangerous levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM) existed within the capital.
The ULEZ, which replaced the T-Charge (officially known as the Emissions Surcharge) aims to reduce these dangerous levels and protect London’s young, elderly and those suffering respiratory problems.
By July of 2019, a 20% reduction in emissions was recorded following the introduction of the ULEZ.
The fee targets diesel vehicles in particular, alongside many older petrol cars and vans.
The charge is levied on vehicles that do not meet the latest emissions standards:
Any ULEZ-liable vehicle driving in the zone must pay £12.50 per - that's on top of the daily £15.00 Congestion Charge. Heavier vehicles such as lorries over 3.5 tonnes, and buses over 5 tonnes, will need to pay £100.
The ULEZ operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. (excluding Christmas Day), with the daily rate resetting at midnight. This means that, if you were to enter at 11.59pm and exit two minutes later, you’ll be charged for two days (£25).
It is estimated that around 2.5m vehicles that drive in London are impacted by ULEZ. You may be wondering, is my car ULEZ-exempt? Read on to find our list of ULEZ-exempt cars.
Most diesel cars registered before September 2015 and most vans registered before September 2016 are subject to the ULEZ charge. Most cars with petrol engines registered before 2001 are liable, together with some vehicles registered between 2001 and 2005. The ULEZ must also be paid by lorries and buses registered before 2014.
A number of vehicles are ULEZ compliant; that is, you will not be subject to the ULEZ charge if you own a certain type of vehicle. You’re probably wondering ‘Is my vehicle ULEZ compliant?’ Well, if you own one of the following, it is:
- Vehicles that meet Euro 6 - introduced in September 2015 for cars and September 2016 for vans - are exempt, as are some models that met the standard earlier
- Almost every petrol car registered from 2005 and some registered between 2001 and 2005
- Petrol cars registered after 2006
- Motorcycles sold after July 2007
- All electric vehicles - since they are zero-emission, making them ULEZ exempt.
- Cars built more than 40 years ago
- Vehicles with a historic tax class
- Military vehicles
- Some farm vehicles
- Circus vehicles
If you’re still not sure whether your vehicle meets the current emissions standards required for the Ultra Low Emission Zone, check your vehicle here.
Read our article on 'Euro 1 to Euro 6 explained: what's your vehicle's emission standard?'.
Can I make my car ULEZ compliant?
It may be possible to modify your non-compliant car or van to meet the requirements, either by changing the engine of upgrading the exhaust, but the cost of doing so and then re-certifying your car so that it is recognised as compliant by the DVSA is unlikely to make it worthwhile. The best alternatives if you need to travel into the ULEZ are to go by other means , such as cycling or public transport, or sell the car and buy one that is compliant.
There are no physical barriers or checks for ULEZ. Instead, London’s vast network of number plate recognition cameras check to see if vehicles have paid the fee.
Those with a residents' Congestion Charge discount will not have to pay the ULEZ charge until October 2021.
Those with a disabled or disabled passenger tax class are ULEZ-exempt.
You can pay the ULEZ at the TfL website or using the TfL Congestion Charge App.
Alternatively you can pay by phoning 0343 222 2222.
There is also Auto Pay, which does carry a £10 admin charge but means TfL will automatically record the number of charging days a vehicle travels within the charging zone each month and bill you accordingly. You can register up to five vehicles.
If you drive a car into the ULEZ without paying, you’ll be sent a £160 penalty in the post. If you pay within 14 days this will be reduced to £80. However, you can appeal the fine if you feel it was unfairly levied.
The LEZ - Low Emission Zone - was phased in from 2008 and covers most of Greater London. It aims to encourage more polluting - especially heavier - vehicles driving in the capital to become cleaner. It operates 24/7, all year round. LEZ-liable vehicles will need to pay either £100 or £300 per day (see below).
- “£100 for vans or specialist diesel vehicles (over 1.205 tonnes unladen weight up to 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight) or minibuses (up to 5 tonnes) which do not meet Euro 3 standards.
- £100 for HGVs, lorries, vans and specialist heavy vehicles over 3.5 tonnes as well as buses/minibuses and coaches over 5 tonnes which do not meet Euro VI (NOx and PM) standards, but meet Euro IV (PM)
- £300 for HGVs, lorries, vans and specialist heavy vehicles over 3.5 tonnes as well as buses/minibuses and coaches over 5 tonnes which do not meet Euro IV (PM)”
At present, the ULEZ covers the same area as London’s Congestion Charge zone; an area expanding outwards from Waterloo, with the boundary stretching to Vauxhall Bridge in south west, up to Paddington in the north west, across to Angel in the north and down to Whitechapel, then over Tower Bridge and back to Vauxhall via Elephant and Castle.
London's ultra-low emission zone will however expand significantly from October 2021, extending to both the north and south circular roads – covering an area 18 times larger than the Central London Congestion Zone and affecting 100,000 cars.
A number of other UK cities have introduced Low Emission Zones, or are in the process of implementing these. These include Clean Air Zones in Bath and Birmingham, and a ZEZ (Zero Emission Zone Pilot) starting in Oxford in August 2021.
Low Emission Zones will be introduced in Manchester, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee in 2022. And from 2023, Glasgow will not allow entry to any vehicle that does not meet Euro 6.
Considerations are also being made for low emission zones in Sheffield and Newcastle.
Cars that meet the Euro 4 (and Euro 5 and Euro 6) emissions standard are exempt, which means almost every car registered after January 2006 is ULEZ compliant. Department for Transport data revealed that 12.7m of the UK's 18.3m petrol cars already met the applicable standards when ULEZ was introduced.
ULEZ-exempt diesels must meet the Euro 6 standard; most diesels registered since September 2015 meet these regulations. A number of pre-2015 diesels also meet the Euro 6 standard and are exempt from the charge.
To avoid the ULEZ charge, diesel vans must comply with Euro 6, while petrol vans must meet Euro 4. Nearly all new vans built since September 2016 meet Euro 6.
If you are going to be driving your van in a ULEZ area, don’t forget to get your van breakdown cover – No one wants the inconvenience of being stuck anywhere following a breakdown.
Hybrids do not receive any free-passes (in contrast with the London Congestion Charge); they get treated as diesel and petrol cars. However, most hybrids already meet the Euro 4, 5 or 6 standards, so won't pay the ULEZ.
For two-wheelers and quads, the standard to meet is Euro 3: All motorbikes, mopeds and quadricycles built after July 2007 had to meet Euro 3, meaning many such vehicles are exempt from paying ULEZ.
If you are going to be riding your motorcycle in a ULEZ area, don’t forget to get your motorcycle breakdown cover – No one wants the inconvenience of being stuck anywhere following a breakdown.