The London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) made a big impact when it was implemented in April 2019, initially covering the same geographical area as the London Congestion Charge Zone. Now, even more drivers are set to be affected, as the zone expands to cover the entire area of London within the North Circular and South Circular roads.
Owners of affected cars have to pay a daily charge to drive into the zone, which, unlike the Congestion Charge Zone, operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The ULEZ was introduced in London to cut emissions of nitrous oxides and particulates in the city with the aim of improving air quality.
But what is the ULEZ charge, what area does it cover and which types of vehicle are affected? We answer these questions and more in our ULEZ guide below.
What is the ULEZ?
The Ultra Low Emissions Zone is an area of London where the most polluting vehicles must pay a levy in order to use the roads. The ULEZ charge initially replaced the previous T-Charge.
While at first the ULEZ covered the same area as the Congestion Charge Zone in central London, it’s now expanding and from Monday 25 October 2021 it will cover all areas inside the North and South Circular roads.
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The charge, which must be paid on top of the £15 daily Congestion Charge, is set at a standard rate of £12.50 – although this varies depending on the vehicle – and is in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The ULEZ charge and the Congestion Charge in combination bring the total cost for some vehicles entering London between 7am and 10pm on weekdays up to £27.50.
Which vehicles are affected by the ULEZ?
Generally speaking, the ULEZ affects pre-Euro 6 diesels – those built before around 2016 – and pre-Euro 4 petrols – roughly built prior to 2006. Some petrol models that meet the Euro 4 standards were available from 2001 onwards, however. In cases where a car is compliant but not recognised as such by Transport for London (TfL), the onus is on its owner to provide paperwork documenting its Euro standard in order for the car to be given an individual exemption from the charge.
As well as non-Euro 6 diesel cars and vans, and non-Euro 4 petrols, non-Euro 3 motorbikes are targeted. Historic vehicles – those built before 1979 – are exempt from the ULEZ, as long as they have been awarded historic vehicle tax status.
You can use the TfL checker tool to determine your vehicle’s emission standard status. Affected drivers who forget to pay the ULEZ will be fined £160, reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days.
Euro VI lorries, buses and coaches – essentially vehicles made before 2013 or 2014 – are also affected by the ULEZ. They need to pay £100 to enter the zone, with drivers fined £1,000 – reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days – for failing to pay.
How to pay the ULEZ charge
There are various ways of paying the ULEZ charge. If you drive into the zone regularly in a vehicle that isn’t exempt, you can register for the Auto Pay system for an annual fee of £10. This covers the congestion charge but will be expanded to cover the ULEZ, too. Click here for the Auto Pay website.
You can make individual payments online via the TFL website or through the TFL phone app. Finally, you can pay the ULEZ over the phone by calling 0343 222 2222.
The map below shows the outgoing ULEZ zone that mirrors the current Congestion Charge zone in orange and the expanded ULEZ zone due to take effect from 25 October 2021 in yellow.
Click the image for a full size version…
What will the result of the ULEZ be?
The latest estimates from TfL suggest that 100,000 cars, 35,000 vans and 3,000 lorries will pay the ULEZ charge each day once the zone expands, but has previously claimed that most of them will be “infrequent” visitors who only enter the zone about once a year.
TfL says ULEZ is especially beneficial to the young, older people and those who have respiratory problems, as well as residents of high pollution areas. Previous data from TfL suggested roughly 70 per cent of vehicles entering the zone were compliant.
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