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EVs in ULEZ and Clean Air Zones

Everything you need to know about Ultra Low Emission and Clean Air Zones, and where electric cars fit in

EVs in ULEZ and Clean Air Zones

Electric vehicles (EVs) offer a great many benefits to those that buy or lease them. A smoother and easier driving experience, clever technology, zero local pollution and lower running costs are just some of the upsides. 

But did you know that EVs are also exempt from Congestion Charges, Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and Clean Air Zone (CAZ) charges? 

Let us explain these emissions and traffic-reducing urban zones, how they work and how much they cost to enter.  

Clean Air Zones (CAZ) 

Clean Air Zones (CAZ) are primarily designed to improve air quality in urban environments. By charging more polluting vehicles that enter the zone, the hope is that it reduces the volume of cars doing so, while incentivising motorists to switch to cleaner forms of transport.  

Why is this needed? Well, despite schemes such as Park and Ride and other efforts to remove combustion vehicles from cities, air quality is still a serious issue.  

Health professionals estimate that pollution leads to up to 36,000 deaths a year, while annual costs amount to more than £20 billion. After cancer, heart disease and obesity, air pollution is fourth biggest threat to public health in the UK. 

Excluding London, which operates a larger Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), there are eight UK cities operating Clean Air Zones as of summer 2023. They are:  

  • Bath (Class C) 
  • Birmingham (Class D)  
  • Bradford (Class C) 
  • Bristol (Class D) 
  • Portsmouth (Class B) 
  • Sheffield (Class C) 
  • Newcastle and Gateshead (Class C) 
  • Oxford – Zero Emission Zone charging all petrol and diesel vehicles 

While Class A and B focuses on public transport and private hire vehicles (with B adding HGVs), Class C also includes private vans and minibuses. Class D adds private cars, while the local authority can also include motorcycles.  

CAZs are proposed or under review at a further 11 towns and cities, with more likely to follow: 

  • Basildon 
  • Cambridge 
  • Leeds 
  • Liverpool 
  • Manchester 
  • Sefton 
  • Southampton 
  • St Albans 
  • Warrington 
  • Wokingham 
  • York  

What type of cars will be charged in a CAZ? 

To avoid a charge in a Clean Air Zone, petrol and diesel cars must comply with the following Euro engine standards: 

Petrol cars, vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles have to comply with Euro 4 for NOx. These will mostly have been registered with the DVLA after 2005, but some cars meeting the standard have been available since 2001. 

Diesel cars must be Euro 6, to meet NOx and particulate matter (PM) standards. These are mostly cars that have been registered with the DVLA after September 2015. 

Diesel vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles also have to meet Euro 6. All new diesel vans sold from September 2016 should meet this standard. 

Older diesel cars are the main target of the measures, but we expect the regulations to tighten up in the coming years as climate and pollution issues become more acute. 

How much will it cost to enter a Clean Air Zone? 

Clean Air Zone charges vary depending on the city, and are outlined below: 

  • Bath: £9 for non-compliant vans and taxis, £100 for HGVs and buses 
  • Birmingham: £8 for non-compliant vans and taxis, £50 for HGVs and buses 
  • Bradford: £9 for non-compliant vans, £7 for taxis and private hire vehicles, £100 for HGVs and buses 
  • Bristol:  
  • Portsmouth: £10 for non-compliant taxis and private hire vehicles, £50 for HGVs and buses 
  • Sheffield: £10 for non-compliant vans and taxis, £50 for HGVs and buses 
  • Newcastle and Gateshead: £12.50 for non-compliant vans and taxis, £50 for HGVs and buses 
  • Oxford: £2 a day for Ultra Low Emission vehicles (under 75g/km CO2), £4 for Euro 4 petrols and Euro 6 diesels, £10 for all non-compliant vehicles 

The charge for London's Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), which covers all of central London between the North and South Circular roads, is £12.50 a day. Every day of the year. Because pollution doesn’t take a day off. The zone is also due to expand later in 2023 to cover Greater London boroughs 

What’s the best way to avoid CAZ charges? 

If you have a relatively new petrol or diesel car, you don’t need to worry about being charged for driving into a CAZ. Yet. 

But public pressure on improving air quality could speed up the pace of changing regulations and the strong probability is that more and more petrol and diesel cars will no longer comply with new emissions or air quality rules. 

The best way to keep ahead of these tightening regulations is to drive an EV. With no tailpipe emissions, an EV doesn’t contribute to air pollution, so it will always be unaffected by new air quality rules. 

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