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London ULEZ: what is the London Ultra Low Emission Zone?

The London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) constantly makes headlines – but what is it and where is it expanding to? We have all the details

Congestion

The London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was introduced in a bid to reduce emissions in the UK's capital. Initially covering a small central zone, a ULEZ expansion meant that as of October 2021, the zone covered an area up to – but not including – the North and South Circular Roads. Another expansion came into effect on 29 August 2023, which means the ULEZ now encompasses all London boroughs.

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According to Transport for London (TfL), half of the nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emitted in the city come from the transport sector. These pollutants are thought to make chronic illnesses worse and shorten life expectancy, with children in particular being vulnerable.

So in order to discourage the most polluting vehicles from entering the centre of the city, TfL introduced a daily £12.50 fee that applies 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This is in addition to the London Congestion Charge – currently set at £15, seven days a week between 7am and 6pm (12pm-6pm weekends) – bringing the total payment up to £27.50 a day for some drivers.

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TfL estimates that as many as 2.5 million drivers are affected by the introduction of the ULEZ, although it believes the majority of these will be infrequent visitors and not regular commuters. Is your car liable for the Ultra Low Emission Zone charge? And where are the ULEZ boundaries? Our ULEZ guide explains all…

Where is the London ULEZ?

Initially, the Ultra Low Emission Zone occupied the same area as the London Congestion Charge Zone, from 8 April 2019 onwards. It was expanded from 25 October 2021 to cover a much wider area between the North and South Circular Roads. However, the ULEZ has since expanded yet again on 29 August 2023 to encompass every single London borough.

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This means affected cars have to pay the £12.50 fee in areas as far out as Croydon, Orpington, Romford, Enfield, Ruislip and Twickenham. TfL’s ULEZ map highlights the initial zone, the 2021 zone, and now the 2023 zone expansion. Visitors to London Heathrow airport will also have to pay the fee.

Is my car affected by the ULEZ?

As a rule of thumb, you have to pay the ULEZ charge if your car or van is a pre-Euro 6 diesel built before September 2015, or a pre-Euro 4 petrol built after 2005. However, some petrol cars that meet Euro 4 standards went on sale in 2000. The best course of action is to use the TfL ULEZ vehicle checker to see if your car is affected.

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The Ultra Low Emission Zone also targets non-Euro 3 motorbikes, as well as Euro 6 lorries, buses and coaches. These larger vehicles must pay £100 to enter the ULEZ. Drivers of cars, vans and motorbikes who fail to pay the ULEZ charge will be fined £160, reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days. Drivers failing to pay for lorries, buses and coaches will be fined £1,000, reduced to £500 if paid within a fortnight.

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Meanwhile, vehicles with historical tax status (those built more than 40 years ago) are completely exempt from ULEZ charges. This is a rolling exemption, so as cars turn 40 years old, they become exempt from the charge.

Am I eligible for the ULEZ scrappage scheme?

Up until recently, the only people eligible for the ULEZ scrappage scheme were those currently receiving child benefits, or certain types of low-income and disability benefits. However, after facing fierce backlash over the extension of ULEZ, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, opened this up to all Londoners with an eligible vehicle. But what does this get you?

Choose to scrap a non-ULEZ-compliant vehicle and you can choose from one of three forms of compensation: a one-off payment of £2,000, £1,600 and an Annual Adult Bus and Tram pass, or £1,200 and two passes of the same nature. Wheelchair accessible vehicles (WACs) can alternatively be scrapped for £10,000, or owners can opt to receive £6,000 towards having their WAC converted to ULEZ-compliant standards. 

To apply for the ULEZ scrappage scheme, one must create a London Road User Account (RUC) and do so online via the Tfl website.

How to pay the ULEZ charge

Drivers can pay the Ultra Low Emission Zone charge on the TfL website. Regular visitors to the ULEZ can sign up for Auto Pay: this allows you to register up to five vehicles for automatic payments, with an annual registration fee of £10 per car. There is no resident's discount for the ULEZ.

This means the charge will be paid via a card or Direct Debit every time you drive into the ULEZ, protecting against penalty charge notices that would arise from forgetting to pay. It'll also pay the London Congestion Charge automatically.

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Hello there, I’m Tom Jervis and I have the pleasure of being the Content Editor here at DrivingElectric. Before joining the team in 2023, I spent my time reviewing cars and offering car buying tips and advice on DrivingElectric’s sister site, Carbuyer. I also continue to occasionally contribute to the AutoExpress magazine – another of DrivingElectric’s partner brands. In a past life, I worked for the BBC as a journalist and broadcast assistant for regional services in the east of England – constantly trying to find stories that related to cars!

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