LONDON will this year become the first city in the world to establish a dedicated “ultra low emission zone” (ULEZ) — and it may mean you’re charged a daily fee to enter.
When it comes into force on April 8, 2019, up to 60,000 vehicles per day will face the £12.50 charge (or £100 for lorries, buses and coaches), according to the London Assembly. That’s on top of the £11.50 London Congestion Charge, which currently applies to most cars.
The charges are designed to encourage people to drive less polluting cars or use other methods of transport, such as walking, cycling or public transport. In turn, this is expected to substantially improve the air quality in the area.
Is my car exempt from ULEZ?
Drivers of older, more polluting petrol and diesel cars are affected.
Drivers of petrol cars with engines that are compliant with “Euro 4” emissions regulations, which were introduced in 2006, will escape the ULEZ charge.
However, drivers of diesel-powered cars will only be exempt if the engine complies with the Euro 6 vehicle emission rules, which came into force in September 2015; if your diesel car is older than that, it’s possible it will be subject to the ULEZ charge.
However, some cars complied with these emissions standards prior to the rules being enforced, which means some older cars may still escape the charge.
The best way to check whether or not your vehicle is exempt from the ULEZ charge is to enter its registration number (numberplate) into the ULEZ vehicle checker at the Transport for London website.
How big is the ULEZ?
Initially, the ULEZ will cover 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.
From October 25, 2021, the ULEZ area will be expanded to the North Circular and South Circular ring roads.
In addition, a zero emissions zone is set to come into force in central London from 2025.
On what days and between what hours will ULEZ operate?
Unlike the Congestion Charge, which is in force between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday, the ULEZ will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year.
This £12.50 fee daily rate resets at midnight, so if you enter at 11.59pm and exit two minutes later, you’ll be charged for two days (£25).
What’s the penalty for not paying the ULEZ charge?
If your car isn’t exempt and you don’t pay your ultra-low emissions zone charge on time, you will be subject to a £160 penalty. This will be halved to £80 if you pay for the fine within 14 days.
Are any vehicles exempt?
Though Transport for London “would prefer you use a vehicle that meets the new emissions standards”, some older, more polluting cars will be exempt from the ULEZ charges under very specific circumstances.
For example, the ULEZ charges won’t apply to any road vehicle that was registered before January 1, 1973. At time of writing, most cars registered before January 1, 1978 also won’t be subject to the fees – although “commercial use” vehicles, such as street food vans, built between 1973 and 1978 will still have to pay.
Likewise, all taxis registered for use in London won’t be hit by the ULEZ penalty. In order to be licensed as a London taxi, the vehicle can’t be more than 15 years old, and all new licensed cabs “must be capable of producing zero emissions”. Last year a new plug-in black cab went on sale — read our road test here.
In addition to the permanent exemptions, some vehicles will also be temporarily excluded from the penalties. Upon registering with Transport for London, all ULEZ area residents won’t have to pay the fees until October 25, 2021, and “designated wheelchair-accessible private hire vehicles” will also be exempt from the ULEZ penalties until October 26, 2025.