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A guide to ULEZ

April 27, 2023

A guide to ULEZ

What is ULEZ and why was it introduced?

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is a traffic management scheme that was introduced in London in 2019. Its aim was to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions. It’s a restricted area within central London where most vehicles must meet strict emissions standards or pay a daily charge to enter.

The ULEZ is currently in force 24 hours a day, seven days a week within the same area as the previous Congestion Charge zone, which covers central London. This includes areas such as the City of London, Westminster, and parts of Camden, Lambeth, and Southwark.

In 2021, the ULEZ expanded to cover a larger area bounded by the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205). The scheme will expand to all London boroughs on 29 August 2023.

The scheme is intended to help reduce harmful levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter in the air, which are known to have negative health impacts on vulnerable groups like children, the elderly, and those with respiratory conditions.

By encouraging the use of cleaner vehicles, the ULEZ aims to improve air quality and public health, as well as to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions - which contribute to climate change.

The introduction of the ULEZ and its expansion is expected to have a significant impact on air quality in London. Estimates suggest the scheme could reduce harmful nitrogen dioxide levels by almost 50%.

It may also have financial implications for drivers, as those who fail to meet the emissions standards will have to pay a daily charge to enter the zone. However, just six months after the launch of the ULEZ expansion, almost 94% of vehicles driving in the zone meet the strict emission standards on an average day.

How ULEZ works and who needs to pay

The ULEZ scheme encourages drivers to use vehicles with lower emissions to reduce air pollution in the city.

The current daily charge for most vehicles is £12.50, which applies 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Heavy vehicles such as lorries and buses pay a higher daily charge of £100. The charge is in addition to any other charges such as the Congestion Charge, which may also apply in the same area.

Four out of five vehicles seen in outer London already meet the ULEZ standards. Most petrol and diesel vehicles that do not meet certain emissions standards are subject to the ULEZ charge, while hybrid and electric vehicles are currently exempt. Only drivers of the highest polluting vehicles will be affected by ULEZ.

Vehicles that meet the required emissions standards are exempt from the ULEZ charge. For example, petrol cars must meet at least Euro 4 emissions standards, while diesel cars must meet at least Euro 6 standards. Some vehicles (like motorcycles and mopeds), have lower emissions standards and are therefore exempt from the charge.

There are some exemptions to the ULEZ charge, such as for disabled tax class vehicles and certain specialist vehicles - such as fire engines and ambulances. ULEZ exemptions will also be in place until 2025 for community transport vehicles, and until 2027 for people receiving certain disability benefits and vehicles for people with disabilities.

The ULEZ charge is enforced using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras, which are installed at various points throughout the ULEZ area.

The cameras capture the number plate of each vehicle that enters the zone and check it against a database to determine if the vehicle meets the emissions standards or if a charge is due.

If a charge is due, the owner of the vehicle will receive a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) in the post, which must be paid within a certain time frame. Failure to pay the charge may result in a fine and further action.

It is important for drivers to be aware of the ULEZ charge and whether their vehicle is affected.

You can check their vehicle's emissions standards using the Transport for London (TfL) online vehicle checker or by contacting their vehicle manufacturer. The charge can also be paid online or set up automatic payments to avoid receiving PCNs in the post.

How to avoid ULEZ charges

To avoid the London ULEZ charges, the first thing to think about is buying a compliant vehicle. Switching to a vehicle that meets the emissions standards like an electric or hybrid car will fix it. These types of vehicles also benefit from lower fuel costs and reduced environmental impact compared to older, high-emissions vehicles.

Of course, you must consider the potential high expense of an electric or hybrid vehicle. Offered in a more limited range than traditional vehicles, you also need charging infrastructure in place. You may also struggle to find availability of compliant vehicles in certain categories - such as larger commercial vehicles.

You can also consider using London public transport or active travel solutions. London has an extensive network of buses, trains, and the underground, making it easy to get around without a car. Walking and cycling are also good options for short trips, and they have the added benefit of aiding your fitness levels.

Using public transport is cost-effective, convenient, environmentally-friendly, and avoids ULEZ charges altogether. However, weigh up the limited flexibility and potential delays for some modes of transport, together with higher costs for occasional or long-distance journeys. You’ve got potential to be exposed to air pollution on busy public transport routes.

Planning your routes in advance can help to avoid ULEZ charges. This option negates the need for a compliant vehicle or the daily charge and can be a good choice for occasional use or trips to areas outside the ULEZ zone. Reducing your overall vehicle use is also good for minimising your environmental impact.

Considerations for planning your routes are not always feasible for some types of trips or schedules, and bear in mind the potential for unexpected delays or changes that require entering the ULEZ zone.

If you decide to pay the ULEZ charge, you obviously don’t have to pay out for a new compliant vehicle, and you can enjoy the flexibility of using your own vehicle for work or essential trips. The daily charge can be paid as required without committing to a long-term solution.

Paying the ULEZ charge is a relatively simple process that can be done online, by phone, or by setting up an automatic payment. There are no restrictions on the type of vehicle that can be used, so drivers have the flexibility to choose the vehicle that best suits their needs.

But… if you need to enter the ULEZ zone on a daily basis, the charges add up quickly. And while paying the ULEZ charge may allow drivers to continue using their personal vehicle, it does not reduce the environmental impact of their vehicle use.

Switching to a ULEZ-compliant vehicle in London can result in potential savings for drivers, including:

  • Reduced or eliminated ULEZ charges
  • Lower fuel costs
  • Congestion charge exemption
  • Potential tax incentives (the UK government offers reduced Vehicle Excise Duty and exemption from the London T-charge)

It’s important to weigh the potential savings against the initial investment and ongoing costs when deciding whether to switch to a compliant vehicle.

Impact of ULEZ on the environment and public health

ULEZ has had a positive impact on air quality and public health since its introduction.

Here are some of the key ways in which the ULEZ has had a positive impact:

Reduced air pollution: The ULEZ has led to a significant reduction in air pollution in central London, with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels decreasing by an average of 44% in the first year of operation. This has improved the air quality in the city, making it safer and healthier for residents and visitors.

Improved public health: The reduction in air pollution has had a direct impact on public health, reducing the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. According to a study by King's College London, the ULEZ could result in up to 300 premature deaths being prevented each year due to improvements in air quality.

Encourages cleaner transportation: The ULEZ has incentivized the use of cleaner transportation options, including electric and hybrid vehicles, as well as public transport and active travel. This has helped to reduce the number of high-emissions vehicles on the road, which has further improved air quality and public health.

Economic benefits: The improved air quality and public health benefits of the ULEZ have also resulted in economic benefits, including reducing healthcare costs, and improving productivity due to fewer sick days.

The success of the ULEZ has also encouraged other cities around the world to implement similar measures to improve air quality and public health.

ULEZ schemes can help to reduce carbon emissions - which contribute to climate change. This could help cities to meet their climate targets and reduce their environmental impact.

Expanding ULEZ zones or introducing similar schemes in other cities could also encourage innovation in the transportation industry, including the development of new technologies and infrastructure for cleaner transportation options.

Another aspect of introducing schemes like ULEZ is reducing traffic congestion. Fewer vehicles on the road equal shorter travel times, improved road safety, and a more efficient transportation system.

Moreover, similar schemes in other cities can help to promote social equity by reducing air pollution in areas that are most affected by it. These areas are often lower-income neighbourhoods - where residents may experience higher rates of respiratory diseases and other health problems. Improving quality of life is directly impacted by reducing air and noise pollution - leading to a more pleasant and livable environment, and improved mental health.

We can all play our parts in contributing to reducing air pollution and improving public health. By choosing cleaner transportation and active travel options, we can work together to reduce emissions.

Encouraging the use of public transportation by using it yourself, advocating for better and more accessible public transportation options, and supporting policies that prioritise public transportation can help to reduce air pollution and improve public health.

By making small changes in daily life, we can help to create a cleaner and healthier environment for everyone.

Get ULEZ compliant with a Drive Fuze car subscription

Complying with ULEZ regulations and using cleaner transportation options whenever possible is what we can all do to improve public health - and create a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.

Drive Fuze offers a car subscription service for a range of ULEZ-compliant vehicles - your solution to sustainable and convenient transport. The fleet offered includes electric and hybrid vehicles that meet the strict emissions standards required by the ULEZ, making them an ideal option for drivers seeking to reduce their environmental impact and avoid the ULEZ charge.

By subscribing to Drive Fuze, you can enjoy the convenience of having access to a car without the hassle of ownership. Taking care of all the maintenance and insurance, tyres, and even breakdown cover - you can switch to a different car or cancel your subscription at any time.

This flexibility makes Drive Fuze a convenient option for those who want to try out different ULEZ-compliant vehicles or who only need a car for a short period. Feel the freedom to enjoy life without ULEZ charges in a new ULEZ-compliant vehicle with a Drive Fuze car subscription.