The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, first introduced the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). The scheme aims to cut down on the number of polluting vehicles driven within the city and is in addition to the fees that apply within the Congestion Charge Zone. Yet many motorists are confused, as the programme seems to target some vehicles but not others. Can you use a ULEZ checker to find out if you are affected?
What Vehicles Are Covered by the ULEZ Charge?
Cars have to meet certain minimum emission standards when they travel within the zone. For petrol-engined cars, the standard is Euro 4, while for diesel-engined vehicles it is Euro 6.
Petrol engined cars will typically meet the required standard if the owner registered them after 2005. Diesel engined cars will usually comply with the standards if the owner first registered them after September 2015.
Large or small vans, minibuses and certain other specialist vehicles need to meet Euro 4 standards (petrol) or Euro 6 standards (diesel).
Small vans in this category weigh up to 1.205 tonnes, unladen,
Larger vans, pickups, motorised horseboxes or 4x4 utilities qualify if they are between 1.205 of unladen weight and 3.5 tonnes of gross vehicle weight,
Minibuses will have more than eight passenger seats and must be less than 5 tonnes in weight,
Motor caravans and ambulances weigh between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes.
Diesel-engined vans that registered after September 2016 should comply with the relevant Euro6 standard. Petrol-engined vans registered after January 2006 should meet the Euro 4 standard.
Motorcycles, Mopeds, Motorised Tricycles and Quadricycles (Category L)
All of these vehicles will have to meet Euro 3 emission standards, or they will need to pay the tariff. However, certain vehicles may be exempt if they can provide evidence that they meet the current NOx emission standards. This evidence will need to be supplied by an independent testing facility.
This category includes:
Buses or coaches that have more than 5 tonnes of GVW, or more than eight passenger seats,
Motorised horseboxes, with a GVW greater than 3.5 tonnes,
Rubbish collection vehicles,
Snowploughs or graders,
All the vehicles in this section will have to meet Euro VI standards. It may be possible to fit emissions reduction technology to some vehicles following the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme. However, operators may only fit this technology to coaches, buses or rubbish collection vehicles. To be eligible, they must first add the equipment and get it certified by the Accreditation Scheme regulator. They should then notify Transport for London directly.
In all cases, the programme relates to the actual emissions of the vehicle, rather than its age.
Are Any Vehicles ULEZ Exempt?
While many newer cars will be automatically exempt as they will qualify for the relevant Euro standard, others may be exempt.
If a driver or passenger is disabled and the vehicle qualifies for the relevant tax, then they may be exempt until October 2025.
Vehicles that qualify for a historic tax reduction, or were registered more than 40 years ago may also be exempt, even though they will probably not meet any emissions standards.
Hybrid vehicles will still need to meet the appropriate standard whether petrol or diesel-engined, but electric cars are automatically exempt.
Certain public hire vehicles may also qualify if they are wheelchair accessible, but only until October 26, 2025. However, the vehicle will only be exempt if carrying a private hire booking on behalf of an operator licensed with TfL.
Some other specialist vehicles are also exempt. These may include mobile cranes and certain agricultural machines.
How to Use the ULEZ Checker
If you are affected, you can carry out a ULEZ check in two different ways. To begin with, refer to the vehicle registration document to find the Euro emission standard and NOx emissions. If not, you can use the handy ULEZ checker tool provided by TfL. Here you can enter the vehicle registration mark and its country of registration. The programme will then doublecheck with the DVLA and will determine whether any charge is due for the vehicle in question.
Checking the ULEZ Map
When regulators first introduced the scheme, it covered the same area affected by the Congestion Charge. This area of Central London is broadly between Southwark and Camden, Tower Hamlets and the city of Westminster. As boundaries may not always be obvious, you can use an online tool to check whether you will enter the zone. TfL has a ULEZ checker map here, together with a postcode finder.
In October 2021, however, the government will expand the ULEZ Zone to cover a larger area of London, from the North Circular to the South Circular Road. Some estimate that this expansion may affect more than 350,000 motorists.
How Much Does It Cost?
A single charging period runs from midnight to midnight and ULEZ applies around the clock, seven days per week. Most motorists will need to pay a daily charge of £12.50, with operators of lorries or larger vehicles required to pay £100.
If you do not pay this charge and travel is detected within the zone by a camera or other means, then a penalty charge will apply. This fine is £160, but it can be reduced to £80 if you pay within a fortnight. It's important to remember that these charges are over and above any Congestion Charges that may apply.
You'll need to pay the charge online or by phone, or you can also download an app from TfL. It's possible to set up an automatic debit, subject to a £10 charge, per year, per vehicle.
A significant number of motorists will need to account for ULEZ charges when the government expands the programme in 2021. If you're affected, it may be worth considering a change of vehicle to take advantage of the latest emission standards.