Low Emission Zones mean daily charges for older, more polluting vehicles entering London
Low Emission Zones are being introduced in cities across Europe to help improve local air quality by encouraging owners of the most polluting vehicles to clean up exhaust emissions.
The London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) was introduced in 2008, covers most of Greater London and was initially aimed at owners/operators of large diesel vehicles including buses, lorries and coaches. The scheme was extended in 2012 and now applies to a lot more vehicle types, many of which could be privately owned: vans, minibuses, horseboxes, motor-caravans, utility vehicles and pick-ups.
The London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will come into force in September 2020 and will cover the same area of central London as the Congestion Charge Zone. The ULEZ will apply to cars and motorcycles as well as to all vans, heavy goods vehicles, minibuses, buses and coaches.
Unlike the London Congestion Charge which only applies between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday excluding public and bank holidays, the London LEZ operates 24 hours a day and on every day of the year including weekends and public holidays.
If you have a vehicle affected by the scheme you must pay a daily charge to enter the LEZ unless the vehicle meets minimum exhaust emissions standards. The scheme is enforced by numberplate-reading cameras.
Daily charges are very high – between £100 and £200 depending on vehicle type – so it's clearly very important to find out if you have a vehicle that's covered by the scheme.
Generally, newer vehicles will be OK but older ones may need a filter fitted in the exhaust.
HGVs, buses and coaches have to meet 'Euro IV' emissions limits. This means that vehicles registered before 1 October 2006 may need modification.
Other vehicles affected by the scheme (Vans, minibuses, horseboxes, motorcaravans, utility vehicles and pick-ups) have to meet 'Euro III' emissions limits so vehicles first registered before 1 October 2002 may need modification.
The London ULEZ will start on 7 September 2020 and will operate 24 hours a day on every day of the year including weekends and public holidays.
The emissions standards required in the ULEZ and the daily charges for non-complying vehicles are different to the LEZ.
If you drive within the ULEZ from September 2020 your car, van or minibus must meet the Euro 4 standard if it's petrol or the Euro 6 standard if it's a diesel. If your vehicle doesn't meet the appropriate standard you will have to pay a daily access charge of £12-50.
For cars, the Euro 4 standard was introduced in January 2006 and the Euro 6 standard was introduced in September 2015. This means that by September 2020, the oldest car that you could drive in London without incurring the daily charge would be 5 years old if it's a diesel or 14 years for a petrol.
If you have a motorcycle or moped it will have to meet the Euro 3 standard or you will have to pay the daily charge of £12-50, while HGVs, buses and coaches must meet the Euro VI standard (effective from 2014) or pay a £100 daily charge.
The ULEZ will be enforced by cameras – there'll be no barriers or toll booths – and charges will be additional to any LEZ or Congestion Charge Zone charges that apply.
It's possible that the size and scope of the ULEZ could change even before it has begun.
In May 2016 the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced that he will launch a formal consultation on a major package of measures to tackle air pollution in London. The Mayor's proposals are expected to include:
(updated 17 May 2016)