This month, London has become the first UK city to establish an ‘Ultra-Low Emission Zone’ (ULEZ), which is a form of ‘Clean Air Zone’ (CAZ).
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Non-compliant cars and vans in the capital will have to pay £12.50 a day to drive within the ULEZ, while buses, coaches and HGVs that do not meet the emission standards will face a £100 a day fee.
This is part of a long-term strategy to encourage people to drive cleaner cars or use other modes of transport in the hope of improving air quality.
This zone will be operational from the 8th April 2019, and up to 60,000 vehicles will be affected by the new low emission charge for entering the designated area; all on top of the existing congestion charge.
Because it’s the first of its kind, there is a lot of confusion from drivers and businesses on how this will impact them. But, it’s not only London that will be impacted.
The Government has ordered over 60 local authorities to draw up and implement their own clean air plans in the next few years. Councils in Birmingham, Leeds, Derby and Southampton are all in the process of either finalising or introducing their own measures.
So, to help confused motorists, LeasePlan UK dispels some of the commonly held myths surrounding Clean Air Zones.
Myth: All diesel cars will be charged to enter the Clean Air Zone
Fact: In London, only drivers of older diesel cars will be affected. If your diesel car was registered after 2015 and meets the Euro 6 vehicle emission rules, then it will be exempt from any additional charges.
For petrol cars, the minimum emission standard is Euro 4.
If you’re not sure if your vehicle meets these specifications, you can always check your registration on the Transport for London ULEZ checker.
However, rules vary depending on the city. Some are introducing non-charging zones, whereas others, such as Birmingham, will charge non-compliant cars, taxis and vans £8 per day to enter its CAZ.
Myth: The London Ultra-Low Emission Zone replaces the congestion charge
Fact: Whilst the zone will initially cover the same area as the congestion charge, both charges will need to be paid. From 2021, though, the Clean Air Zone will be expanded to include the area within the North Circular and South Circular ring roads. To find out more information about which parts of London will be impacted, visit the TFL website.
Myth: The zone only applies at certain times
Fact: For London, the ULEZ will be operational 24/7 (this is likely to be standard across all CAZs). There will be a daily charge of £12.50 for vehicles entering the zone that will be reset at midnight.
The ULEZ uses the same payment system as London’s Congestion Charge, so you can pay online in advance, on the day that you drive, or the following day. Payment can also be made by phone.
Myth: It’s cheaper to pay the daily charge than upgrade your vehicle
Fact: Driving through the CAZ will cost you an extra £12.50 per day, on top of the existing £11.50 daily congestion charge.
So, assuming you’re driving through the zone Monday to Friday each week of the year and your vehicle doesn’t meet Euro 6 diesel or Euro 4 petrol rules, it could set you back an annual cost of £6,240, so the charges multiply very quickly.
Bear in mind that driving an EV can also save an additional £1000 per year in fuel costs, so it’s worth taking this into consideration when looking to upgrade your vehicle.
Myth: Clean Air Zones will be in every city
Fact: Back in 2015, the Government ordered directed cities to implement a CAZ by 2020: Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton. However, two of these cities – Derby and Nottingham – have pursued other clean air measures.
When CAZs are introduced in the remaining three cities, each will have its own rules and fee structure. For example, Southampton has confirmed its intention to introduce a non-charging CAZ. Meanwhile, Leeds’ CAZ will impose charges on dirtier vehicles – but private cars will be entirely exempt.
Various other local authorities have been told to draw up their own clean air plans, which may or may not include CAZs. As these plans start to be ratified and funded, it’s certain that more CAZs will pop up across the country.
Myth: Clean Air Zones are going to spring up suddenly
Fact: According to the government framework, it’s vital for local councils to give the public sufficient time to allow drivers and businesses to make the right choice for them on how to react to a CAZ. Details of any developing zones are to be announced as far in advance as possible and publicised widely so everyone can prepare.
Myth: There won't be any exemptions to the charge
Fact: This depends on each individual council. For example, Birmingham City Council is planning on offering additional support to those who could find it difficult to make the change away from polluting vehicles, such as taxi drivers, people on a lower income who live or work in a CAZ, and patients and visitors of some hospitals.
In London, some drivers and vehicles will also qualify for a discount, whereas others will be entirely exempt from paying any charges. For more information, the TFL website has a handy guide to help you identify if you could benefit from any discounts or exceptions.
Myth: This will affect all businesses with fleets
Fact: Currently, only businesses with vehicles that fall below the minimum emission standard and are required to drive within the very centre will be affected by the new legislation and fees.
If your fleet is made up of older traditionally fueled vehicles or you’re looking to future proof your fleet, then it might be worth considering the switch to electric vehicles.
With a growing focus on air pollution and diesel emissions, it seems likely that we will start to see many more CAZ proposals and schemes across the country, so it’s best to keep an eye on the news in your local area, especially if you’re regularly driving through your city centre.