London's ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) explained
Driving in London has never been considered easy and with the introduction of the new Ultra-Low Emission Zone charge (replacing the old London T-Charge) earlier this year, it’s getting more expensive to do so too.
The scheme has been designed to improve London’s air quality, so if your vehicle doesn’t qualify and you drive into the zone regularly, either upgrading to a ULEZ-exempt vehicle or considering the rising popularity in car-sharing could prove worthwhile. Literally millions of drivers could face fines they were completely unaware of and that’s where we come in. We’ve put together an easy guide in order for vehicle owners to know first of all if they have to pay at all and if they do when to pay and how.
What is the ULEZ?
ULEZ stands for the new Ultra-Low Emission Zone covering an area of London with high levels of toxic air pollution. It has been introduced in order to help limit this pollution, along with particular matter from combustion engines in the capital. The zone targets diesel vehicles, in particular, but it’s worth checking your vehicle’s status anyway just to be sure.
It is important to note that the ULEZ charge is applicable AS WELL as the Congestion Charge. So, effectively, a trip to our beautiful capital could mean shelling out £24 before you’ve even had a chance to sample any of the delights it has to offer.
What are the standards?
Transport for London (TFL) states it prefers the use of vehicles that do meet the new emission standards, however, here are the ULEZ standards explained if you’re unsure:
The ULEZ standards are distinguished via Euro emission tiers. These tiers were introduced back in 1992 as a range of emission controls to help limit air pollution in the capital. Manufacturers must meet these standards in order for their vehicles to be approved for sale.
Introduced in 2007, Euro 3 is the current standard for motorcycles, mopeds, motorised tricycles and quadricycles. From 2005/2006, petrol cars, vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles must meet Euro 4 standards. Euro 6 was later introduced on diesel cars, vans and minibuses (2014 for all new heavy duty engines for goods vehicles and buses, 2015 for cars and light vans, and September 2016 for larger vehicles up to and including 3.5 tonnes).
Euro VI standards are applicable for lorries, buses and coaches and other specialist heavy vehicles.
Which cars are ULEZ compliant?
ULEZ compliant cars are those that meet the emissions standards required for London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone. If you’re unsure as to whether your vehicle falls within compliance or not, it’s always worth checking. Whether your car is exempt to the charge is dependent on vehicle size, type and its emission levels. Find out if your car meets said requirements, here.
Where does the ULEZ charge apply?
To put it simply, the ULEZ area currently covers the same span as London’s current congestion charge zone. That said, that area is expected to increase in 2021 to encompass surrounding areas covering practically all areas that fall within the capital’s North and South Circular roads. More information as to which roads currently fall under the ULEZ area can be found on the TFL website, here
When and how to pay ULEZ
Charges apply 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you enter the zone on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, then you have until midnight on the Monday to pay. This is extended to midnight Tuesday should that weekend fall on a bank holiday. If travelling within the ULEZ zone Monday-Thursday, you have until midnight the following day to pay. If your trip is well planned, you can pre-pay the charge up to 90 days in advance. If payment isn’t received within this time frame, a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) will be sent to you equalling £160, which is halved to £80 if you pay within 14 days.
A daily fee of £12.50 will be charged for cars, motorbikes and small vans, while £100 will be sought for buses, lorries and heavier goods vehicles.
There are a number of ways in which you can pay the charge:
You can pay online or by calling TFL on 0343 222 2222.
You can pay through an AutoPay function which will automatically bill you every month for any ULEZ charge or congestion charge incurred — something you can set up here.
You can also download the TFL Pay To Drive In London app to pay any charges. The app itself is free to download.
Or there’s the option of setting up a London Road User Charging account, which you can do here.
What happens if you live within the ULEZ zone?
Those living within the ULEZ zone that own a car which doesn’t comply with the standards above and are currently registered for the residents’ Congestion Charge discount are entitled to a “time-limited grace period” until October 24, 2021, whereby a 100% discount from the ULEZ charge will apply.
Vehicles under a disabled or disabled passenger tax class are ULEZ-exempt until October 2025.
This is as it stands at the moment, but plans are in place for a smaller zero-emission zone to come into force in the capital from 2025. This area will be restricted to electric cars and hybrids able to drive solely on battery power for a “significant” distance only. A total zero-emission zone is proposed for 2050.