What is the ULEZ?
In April 2019, London implemented the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) as part of its commitment to enhancing air quality in central London by reducing the presence of older, more polluting vehicles on the city’s roads. The ULEZ levy stands at £12.50 for cars, motorcycles, and vans.
Initially, the ULEZ encompassed the same compact central region as the London Congestion Charge zone. However, in October 2021, it underwent significant expansion, extending its coverage to include all areas within the North and South Circular ring roads.
Effective from 29 August 2023, the ULEZ will further expand to encompass nearly all areas within the M25 boundary, encompassing a vast expanse with a population of millions.
Vehicles running on petrol that fail to meet Euro 4 emission standards and diesel vehicles not meeting Euro 6 regulations (see below for additional information on this) will incur a daily charge of £12.50 when entering the ULEZ. As a general guideline, petrol cars manufactured before 2005 and diesel vehicles built before 2015 are subject to this charge, which is in effect around the clock.
The Current ULEZ Map 2023
You’re probably used to seeing the ULEZ map split into three parts:
- Congestion Charge (CC):
- Proposed ULEZ
However, things changed on 29 August 2023 when the proposed ULEZ became part of the official ULEZ. This was called the ULEZ expansion. Now the ULEZ map is split into just two section as depicted below:
Congestion Charge (CC): Operates 07:00-18:00 Monday-Friday, 12:00-18:00 Saturday-Sunday and bank holidays. No charge between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day bank holiday (inclusive).
ULEZ: Operates 24 hours a day, midnight to midnight, every day of the year, except Christmas Day (25 December).
LEZ: Operates 24 hours a day, midnight to midnight, every day of the year.
Direct Vision Standard (DVS) and HGV Safety Permit: Operates at all times for lorries over 12 tonnes gross vehicle weight.
ULEZ Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between LEZ and ULEZ?
Heavy goods vehicles, vans, and trucks exceeding 3.5 tonnes, as well as buses, minibuses, and coaches exceeding five tonnes, are exempt from ULEZ charges. However, they are obligated to pay the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) fee. It’s important to distinguish between the LEZ and the ULEZ, as the LEZ does not pertain to cars and vans under 3.5 tonnes. The LEZ encompasses the majority of Greater London and carries a daily charge of £100. Unless you are operating a lorry, bus, large van, or a specialised vehicle such as a snow plough or concrete mixer, the LEZ need not be a concern for you.
Is the ULEZ identical to the congestion charge?
No, they are not the same. The ULEZ and the Congestion Charge presently apply to distinct areas and have different eligibility requirements. If you enter the Congestion Charge (CC) zone during its operational hours (7 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday, and 12 pm to 6 pm on weekends), you will be required to pay both the CC and the ULEZ charges. However, if you drive into the ULEZ with a non-compliant vehicle but do not enter the CC zone, you will only need to pay the ULEZ fee.
How much does the ULEZ cost?
Vehicles that do not meet ULEZ compliance standards are required to make a payment of £12.50 when entering the ULEZ, in addition to the £15 Congestion Charge. This £12.50 fee grants permission for non-compliant cars to operate within the ULEZ for a 24-hour period, necessitating daily payments while using such vehicles within the zone.
There is an exception for owners of vehicles registered with ‘disabled’ or ‘disabled passenger vehicles’ tax; they will be exempt from ULEZ charges until 26 October 2025.
Additionally, London’s black taxis that are less than 15 years old are also exempt. However, any taxi sold after 1 January 2018 must meet the Zero Emission Capable criteria, which means it must be capable of travelling a minimum of 20 miles solely on electric power and producing CO2 emissions of less than 75g/km.
How can I pay the ULEZ charge?
You have the option to make the payment online, over the phone or via the mobile app. If you frequently drive within the zone, the most convenient method is to establish an Auto Pay account. Through this service, your card will be automatically charged each time you enter the ULEZ area.
Will I be fined for entering the ULEZ without paying?
If your vehicle does not adhere to ULEZ standards, you are obligated to settle the charge. Neglecting to do so will lead to a fine being issued to your address. In the case of cars, this incurs a £160 fee, which can be reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days. If you believe the fine has been unjustly issued, you have the option to appeal it.
When is ULEZ in operation?
ULEZ is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – except for Christmas Day.
How do you know if you entered ULEZ?
As you approach the ULEZ boundary, directional signs indicate the routes that lead you into the zone and those that do not. These signs are positioned at each boundary point to inform you when you are entering the zone. Inside the ULEZ, there are additional signs to serve as reminders that cameras are in operation.
How can you avoid the ULEZ charge?
To guarantee you won’t have to pay, the simplest approach is to ensure that your vehicle complies with the ‘Euro Emissions Standards’. For petrol cars, this means they must meet at least Euro 4 standards, while diesel cars should meet Euro 6 standards or higher.
Is it possible to dispute the ULEZ charge?
You have a 28-day window from the date of receiving the PCN (Penalty Charge Notice) to either pay the penalty or contest the PCN by submitting a representation.
Are London residents exempt from paying the ULEZ?
No, unless your vehicle complies with the ‘Euro Emissions Standards’, there are no special allowances made for local drivers, unfortunately.
Are Blue Badge holders required to make payment for ULEZ?
No, Blue Badge holders are not subject to the charge. You must, however, have a car registered with the DVLA under either the ‘disabled’ or ‘disabled passenger vehicle’ tax class.
Is the ULEZ only in London?
Yes, currently no other towns or cities in the UK offer schemes of such extensive scope as the ULEZ. However, several other cities have implemented Clean Air Zones (CAZ).
Birmingham has established a CAZ that encompasses a limited area within the A4540 Middleway ring road.
Bristol’s Clean Air Zone is now live and operational (as of 28 November 2022).
Bradford, Portsmouth and Bath have introduced Clean Air Zones, but these zones do not apply to private cars or motorcycles. They exclusively affect taxis, vans and buses/HGVs.
Sheffield has a class C chargeable Clean Air Zone for the most polluting heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), light goods vehicles (LGVs), vans, buses, coaches and taxis that drive in the Clean Air Zone.
Greater Manchester’s CAZ is currently ‘under review,’ and they are developing an investment-led Clean Air Plan for the region.