With poor air quality becoming a key issue, the UK government is hard at work to address these environmental issues. The low emission zones (LEZ) exist in many areas of the UK, and in Europe overall, to tackle harmful emissions caused by vehicles in certain regions. Together with LEZ, the UK government has also introduced ultra-low emission zones (ULEZ) to central London. So, should you worry about entering the ULEZ? Today, we’ll tell whether your car is compliant to enter ULEZ using the ULEZ checker and everything you need to know regarding these zones.
What is the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)?
The ULEZ applies in the same way in Central London as the Congestion Charge to promote a healthier and safer environment. The zone operates 24 hours a day and all days throughout the year except for Christmas.
Your vehicle should meet certain emission standards to drive within the ULEZ. If it does not follow these standards, you have to pay a certain fee to operate in the zone.
Why do we need the ULEZ?
Air pollution is playing havoc in today’s world, leading to many diseases such as asthma, heart, and lung diseases. The contamination is even more dangerous for children subjected to lung diseases from a younger age.
The introduction of ULEZ helps to reduce Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Particulate Matter (PM) emissions. Around half of the NOx emission comes from transport that later gives rise to PM. By restricting the vehicles that contribute the most to these dangerous emissions, ULEZ plays a vital role to safeguard the environment.
As the vehicles entering ULEZ would come from outside of central London, the zone’s effect trickles down to other areas surrounding London. Moreover, ULEZ encourages other travelling methods such as cycling and walking. It also inspires the use of public transport as every bus inside the zone meets its emission standards.
How to find out if you have to pay?
If your vehicle does not meet the emission standards set by ULEZ, you need to pay a charge to enter and drive in the zone. The ULEZ charge currently stands at £12.5 for cars, motorcycles, and vans up to 3.5 tonnes. For larger vehicles such as coaches and buses over 5 tonnes and lorries over 3.5 tonnes, the fee is £100.
The best way to check ULEZ compliance is to head over to the Transport for London website and use the ULEZ Checker. Enter your vehicle’s registration number and the country of registration into the ULEZ checker to see if you have to pay the charge.
To ensure your vehicle is fully compliant with the standards, CarAnalytics recommends not solely relying on the ULEZ checker. You should also consult your manufacturer or vehicle’s handbook for confirmation.
A specific criterion may exempt vehicles and drivers from the ULEZ charge either temporarily or permanently. To find out if you can enjoy an exemption or discount from the ULEZ charge, follow this link.
Changes to the ULEZ in 2021
Effective from 25th October 2021, the ULEZ will expand to create a larger pollution-free zone. ULEZ currently exists in central London but will enlarge to include areas up to North Circular Road (A406) and Circular Road (A205). These roads themselves are not a part of the ULEZ.
The expanded ULEZ would continue to operate like normal. The ULEZ will be applicable 24 hours a day and every day of the year except for Christmas. The zone would require vehicles to meet the emission standards or pay a daily fee to drive in the area.
The ULEZ standards that apply to both – the existing and expanded ULEZ – are as follows:
- Euro 3 (NOx) for mopeds, motorised tricycles, quadricycles, and motorcycles
- Euro 4 (NOx) specialist vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes, petrol cars and minibuses up to 5 tonnes.
- Euro 6 (NOx and PM) for specialist vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes, diesel cars, and minibuses up to 5 tonnes.
Refer to TFL’s ULEZ checker to see if your vehicle comes under the expanded ULEZ’s restrictions.
Is it Free or Paid?
The expanded ULEZ will follow the same rules regarding charges. If your car does not meet the Ultra-low Emission Zones standard, you are liable to pay a daily amount of £12.5 to drive in the zone. Make sure you refer to the TFL’s ULEZ checker to find if you have to pay to enter the area.
Drivers can pay the charge either on the spot or in advance. If you enter the zone without paying or forgot to pay, you have up to three days to avoid a fine and pay the charge. We strongly advise meeting the standards related to emissions of the vehicle instead of paying daily bills.
TFL also offers an AutoPay service that automatically charges you for the number of days you have entered the ultra-low emission zone or any other driving area. Registering your vehicle with AutoPay might be a good option to avoid hassle related to paying charges and dodge any fines. However, the service comes with a £10 annual fee to register a vehicle.
Why is ULEZ expanding?
ULEZ is expanding to account for the increasing health risk of Londoners. Despite controlling air pollution through LEZs and the existing ULEZ, air contamination and poor environmental health remain at-large. Greenhouse gases target children the most and lead to chronic lung and heart diseases that put our lives at risk. Traffic emissions are the major cause of poor air quality. Even areas outside central London have witnessed toxic waste exceeding the designed limits.
If we look at statistics, Central London implemented the world’s first Ultra-low Emission Zones back in April 2019. Before its introduction, vehicles’ percentage that met the emission standards was 39. However, after enforcing ULEZ, this percentage rose to over 80. Such an increase in compliance with the emission standards has resulted in a 44% reduction in nitrogen oxide, contributing to a safer environment.
These statistics provide even more reasons for the UK government to impose Ultra-low Emission Zones in more areas in London. The ultimate goal behind the ULEZ expansion is to include as many zones as possible in London to make the capital safer to breathe and limit the harmful traffic emissions that cause countless diseases.