What you need to know about ultra-low emission zones

Online Editor

On 8th April 2019, central London’s congestion charge zone evolved into an ultra-low emission zone, the first of its kind. With plans to expand the area further in 2021, the UK will soon be operating the largest emission charging zone worldwide.

Why was the ULEZ implemented?

The level of air pollution in London is increasing the risk of asthma and heart and lung disease. The most significant source of air pollution in the capital city stems from road transport.

The emissions from vehicles account for approximately half of the nitrogen oxides (NOx) being released. These emissions are contributing to the levels of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide (NOZ), which shortens life expectancy, damages lung development and worsens chronic illnesses.

When the World Health Organisation confirmed that the capital city was exceeding their air quality guidelines, Sadiq Khan (the then Mayor of London) implemented the ULEZ.

What is the ultra-low emission zone?

The ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) is a zone covering the original central London congestion charge area. Vehicles that travel within it that do not meet the Euro emission standards are charged a daily rate. The zone is currently in operation 24/7, every day of the year (with the exception of Christmas day).

What are the euro standards?

The Euro standards came into fruition in 1992, setting the limit on air pollution from particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), generally released from road vehicles.

The standards are shown in Figure 1.

Where is the ULEZ zone?

The zone currently covers the majority of central London. Transport for London provides a tool that shows which areas are included within the zone, searchable by postcode.

Will ULEZ be extended?

There are plans to extend the ultra-low emission zone from 25th October 2021 to include the North and South circular roads.

In addition to this, there will be strict emission standards for coaches, buses and lorries spanning the entirety of London from 26th October 2020.

Ultra-low emission charge (now and in the future)

Vehicles that enter the ULEZ who don’t meet the Euro standards will have to pay a daily charge. The hope is that rather than continue paying the ULEZ charges; drivers will choose to upgrade to a car that does meet the standards, making London and the surrounding areas cleaner and greener.

That daily charges are on top of the daily congestion charge and are currently:

  • £12.50 for diesel vehicles registered prior to 2015
  • £12.50 for Petrol cars and vans registered prior to 2006
  • £12.50 for mopeds and motorbikes registered prior to 2007
  • £1,000 for coaches, buses and lorries that do not meet the Euro 6 standards

If payment is not made, a penalty charge notice will be served. The penalty is £160; however, you will only have to pay £80 if you make the payment within 14 days.

What does this mean for the automotive industry

With the ULEZ expansion plans coming into force in the near future, there will be a further incentive for the automotive industry to move towards ultra-low emission vehicles, including electrification particularly in London.

There are currently no plans to extend the ultra-low emission zones outside of London; however, a Clean Air Zone has recently been implemented in Birmingham.

If similar plans are implemented, we may see a much heavier demand, not just on the automotive industry, but on industries making technological advances towards cleaner driving.

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