If you regularly drive into the outer London Boroughs, the news of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expanding will no doubt have a huge impact on your journeys if your vehicle is not compliant.

In April 2019, ULEZ was introduced, and the area covered equalled that of the congestion charge zone. Fast forward to October 2021, ULEZ was expanded to a larger area of London reaching out as far as, but not including both the North Circular and South Circular Roads. The objective of this is to improve air quality and protect the health of over 4 million Londoners. The expansion set to begin on 29th August 2023 expects to protect a further 5 million people from the risks associated with poor air quality.

There is currently a huge backlash against the expansion, with several outer London Boroughs now considering legal action following the Mayor and TFL’s plan. The six London boroughs opposing the expansion are Harrow, Hillingdon, Havering, Bexley, Bromley and Croydon.

Although some councils agree that older or more polluting vehicles are causing serious air quality problems, leading to health risks for people in highly congested areas, the issue they have with the zone being expanded this year is the cost of living crisis that is hurting everyone. They argue that it is the lower income population which includes carers, nurses and really most people with unsociable shift patterns, meaning they can’t use public transport, that will suffer. Buying a newer vehicle is often not an option when money is so very tight.

Companies with diesel vans that were registered before 2016 have pointed out that after the business effects of Covid 19, Brexit problems and the current cost of living crisis, they will be unable to afford to replace these older vehicles. Passing ULEZ charge costs onto customers is not always possible.

What are the ULEZ standards:

Euro 3 – Motorcycles, mopeds and motorised tricycles.
Euro 4 – (NOx) petrol cars, vans, minibuses and other specialised vehicles.
Euro 6 – (NOx & PM) diesel cars, vans and minibuses of other specialised vehicles.

The standards are not always based on the age of your vehicle but on the emissions, which can be found in your log book.

As a rule of thumb, most petrol vehicles under 16 years old or diesel vehicles under 6 years old already meet the required standard.

What is the ULEZ charge?

A £12.50 daily charge runs from midnight to midnight. Therefore if you travelled within the zone at 10PM one day and returned after midnight, say 1AM you would have to pay 2 x £12.50.

Do I have to pay both the ULEZ and Congestion Charge?

If you drive into the Congestion Charge zone you will be required to pay both the ULEZ charge of £12.50 and the Congestion charge of £15. A substantial cost indeed.

What happens if I don’t pay the ULEZ charge?

If you drive into the zone you will have to pay the charge by midnight on the third day after the journey. Failure to do so will result in a fine of £180 (£90 if paid within 14 days).

If I am a resident in the ULEZ zone, do I have to pay?

If you live within the zone you will have to pay to drive your vehicle in the zone, if you are parked and do not move the vehicle you will not have to pay the charge.

How can I avoid accidentally driving into a ULEZ zone?

You can use mobile sat nav applications such as Waze or Google Maps to plan your journey and select “avoid tolls and ULEZ”. This will then plan your route to avoid accidentally crossing the zone.

Will DPF cleaning or replacement make my older van or car ULEZ-compliant?

Unfortunately having a clean diesel particulate filter (DPF) will not make your vehicle ULEZ compliant, it will make your diesel van or car more fuel efficient and will reduce some of the harmful emissions however.

Is there a scrappage scheme for cars or vans?

Cars & motorcycles – If you live within one of the 32 boroughs, have a car or motorcycle that is not ULEZ compliant and receive certain benefits you may be entitled to a grant of £2000 for scrapping a car and £1000 for scrapping a motorcycle.

Vans & minibuses – The ULEZ van and minibus scrappage scheme is open to small businesses (10 or fewer employees), charities and sole traders. Your company or organisation must operate within the 32 London Boroughs. You can apply for a grant payment of £5000-£9500 to scrap a vehicle which does not conform to the ULEZ standard.

More details on the ULEZ scrappage scheme can be found online at TFL.gov.uk.