Seen a sign for the ‘ULEZ’ on a recent trip to London? Wondered what it is? Here’s what you need to know about the Ultra Low Emission Zone in our capital, and who needs to pay it. Is your vehicle exempt, or is it time to get a car valuation and trade yours in for something newer?
What is a ULEZ?
A ULEZ, or Ultra Low Emission Zone, is an area in a city that looks to lower emissions from vehicles, be they cars, vans or lorries. It does this by only permitting certain, lower-emitting, vehicles to travel in it for free – those that don’t meet a certain set of standards are required to pay a daily charge.
The hope is that this will put off drivers in older and dirtier cars from heading into the zone and this will in turn result in an improvement in the air.
Is a ULEZ the same as a congestion charge?
No. The London congestion charge zone (CCZ) was designed to lower the number of cars in central London, thus making the roads less busy. This was set up in 2003 while the London ULEZ was brought in in 2019.
The congestion charge is only in a small area of central London (it was expanded to cover a larger area of West London in 2007, but this was scrapped in 2011) and it has historically only given exemptions to vehicles based on their emitting low levels of CO2.
The ULEZ exemptions are based on a different set of emissions – those governed by the Euro standards.
Where is the London ULEZ?
The London ULEZ was originally over exactly the same area as the congestion charge, so just in the centre of the city. However, in 2021 it expanded to take in most of the area inside the North Circular (A406) and South Circular (A205) roads.
However, it’s likely you have read about the ULEZ expansion in the news, as it is set to grow further on 29 August 2023. It will then cover much more of the area inside the M25. However, it won’t cover everywhere inside the nation’s most famous motorway, so it is worth checking on the tool on the Transport for London website to see if your destination lands within the chargeable area.
What cars have to pay the ULEZ tolls?
The London ULEZ is more about improving the local air quality by looking at a car’s overall emissions, rather than tackling CO2. It is also less stringent than the congestion charge requirements, as most modern cars will be exempt. The latest cars also have an airbag light.
If your car is a diesel then it will have to conform to Euro 6 emissions standards, which came into force in September 2015. Anything sold from that date onwards should be exempt,
If your car is a petrol, then it need only conform to Euro 4 emissions standards. This means that most cars sold from September 2005 onwards should be exempt.
However, if your car was made before either of these dates it might also comply with the necessary emissions standards – some manufacturers were ahead of the game when it came to getting their models up to scratch with the legislation.
To find out if your car is exempt then you should be able to check on its logbook (the V5C document that details the ownership history of a vehicle, among other things) – this will list which emissions standard it conforms to. If you don’t have that to hand, then you can also head to the dedicated ULEZ number plate tool on the TfL website.
Are any cars or drivers exempt from the ULEZ charge?
Despite their inefficient nature, cars that are older than 40 years old are exempt from the toll. This is the case on a rolling basis, so as your car passes its 40th birthday it should be exempt. Other vehicles that are exempt include wheelchair-accessible vehicles, London Taxis, military vehicles, and vehicles coming into London for a traveling show.
Disabled Blue Badge holders don’t automatically qualify for a discount or exemption, but there are exceptions – the TfL list of exemptions explains more.