What is ULEZ compliance? Find out if your car meets the standards
It’s never been more important to make positive changes for the environment, and the way you travel is no exception. Let’s see what major UK cities are doing to encourage drivers to do their bit.
What are ultra-low emission zones?
Ultra-low emission zones (ULEZ) are areas of London where vehicles that don’t conform to certain emissions standards have to pay an extra charge to drive. This is to encourage less frequent use of these vehicles and improve air quality in the capital.
As of October 2021, most drivers of regular cars, vans, and motorbikes can expect to pay £12.50 for every day they drive in the ULEZ. Bigger, heavier vehicles like lorries and buses could pay as much as £100 per day.
Note that these charges apply for every 24-hour period you’re driving in the ULEZ. If you drive past midnight, you’ll have to pay a second day’s charge. The government expects ULEZ charges to affect millions of vehicles per year and make a significant improvement to air quality in the capital.
Where is the ULEZ?
The ULEZ in London covers the area inside the A406 and the A205, the North and South Circular Roads. The roads themselves aren’t part of the ULEZ, but any non-compliant vehicles who cross over them into Central London are liable for charges.
The ULEZ used to only cover the area around the Cities of London and Westminster, as well as parts of Southwark, Camden, and Lambeth. It expanded to its current size on 25 October 2021.
Are the ULEZ and the LEZ the same thing?
No. The low-emissions zone (LEZ) covers a wider distance than the ULEZ, including most of Greater London. The ULEZ expanded in October 2021, but it still only applies to most of Central London.
The LEZ operates all day every day (including Christmas Day, unlike the ULEZ). It applies to larger specialist vehicles rather than regular cars, including:
• Lorries, vans, or heavy vehicles over 3.5 tonnes
• Buses, minibuses, or coaches over 5 tonnes
You can find out more about the LEZ, including specific emissions standards and charges, on the Transport for London site.
ULEZ vs congestion charge: what’s the difference?
The ULEZ and congestion charge zone (CCZ) are two different things, applying two different charges. The CCZ covers the Cities of Westminster and London, along with some of Camden, Lambeth, and Southwark. Until 25 October 2021, its area was the same as the ULEZ, which has since expanded to cover a wider area.
If you drive in the CCZ from 07:00-22:00 on any day except Christmas Day, you’ve got to pay the congestion charge. If your vehicle isn’t ULEZ compliant, you’ll also have to pay the ULEZ charge on top of the congestion charge.
The Transport for London site will have more details about congestion charges. These include exemptions, penalty charges, and what to do if you live inside the CCZ.
Is it only London that has ULEZ?
The LEZ and ULEZ programmes only apply to London, but other cities have their own versions. Clean air zones (CAZ) are being established in cities across the UK to tackle emissions. As of October 2021, cities with CAZ include:
The following cities plan to establish CAZ in the very near future:
It’s very likely that these zones will become commonplace in most urban areas within the next few years. Check to see if your local authority has any charges in place, along with when and where they apply.
What are the ULEZ penalty charges?
If you drive a non-compliant vehicle in London’s ULEZ at any time without paying the right charge, you’ll get hit with a penalty. The size of that penalty charge depends on how quickly you pay it. For most drivers, the penalty is £160. This drops to £80 if you pay within two weeks.
The size of the penalty charge may vary depending on the type of vehicle you drive. The Transport for London site will have the latest on penalties and bonuses for paying early. Remember, there are a number of different situations where you might be liable, like:
• Driving a non-compliant vehicle in the ULEZ without exemption or registration for a 100% discount
• Failing to pay your ULEZ charge before midnight on the day you arrive
• Not registering your vehicle
• Providing incorrect information when you register
• Paying by post without leaving 10 days for the payment to clear before you arrive
Is my vehicle ULEZ compliant?
The Transport for London site lets you check your vehicle for ULEZ compliance. With so many makes and models of cars from all over the world in operation today, it’s impossible to provide a comprehensive list here. The vehicle checker is kept updated and will let you know if you’ll have to pay the extra charge to drive in London.
If your car was sold brand new before September 2016, it’s likely to have been produced before the current ULEZ standards were set. Even if your car was produced after this date, it’s still a good idea to double-check.
Starting in 1992, European standards for vehicle emissions began to appear, limiting the amount of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) engines can produce. As of September 2016, vehicles are ULEZ compliant if they satisfy Euro 6 standards for maximum NOx and PM:
• 80mg/km of NOx for diesel cars
• 60mg/km of NOx for petrol cars
The vast majority of new cars sold nowadays are Euro 6 compliant. As testing methods evolved, a new Euro 6d standard was introduced. From the start of 2022, new models will be tested using this stricter method.
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