A low emissions zone (LEZ) is an area where the residing local government authority has implemented a limit on specific types of vehicles from driving through it to try to cut the level of harmful emissions in the atmosphere that are produced by them. While this is most common in London, more and more cities are introducing the zones to try to reduce environmental impact of petrol and diesel vehicles.
Cities that have a LEZ in place include:
With more following suit, cities that are going to be introducing LEZ in the near future include:
With the LEZ in London, some drivers must pay a charge to drive in the area, which varies, but is based on the type of vehicle, for instance, for larger vans, motorised horseboxes, 4x4 light utility vehicles, pick-ups and other specialist vehicles the cost is £100 a day. However, as the current LEZ mainly effects vans, buses and lorries, London has extended the concept and introduced Ultra Low Emissions Zones (ULEZ), which now has an impact on nearly every vehicle. The ULEZ was expanded on Monday 25th October 2021 to include all areas inside the North and South Circular roads.
Although petrol cars that have been manufactured to meet Euro 4, 5 and 6 emissions standards, which is most, if not all, registered since January 2006, are exempt from paying the charges, the same rule does not apply for diesel vehicles. In order for drivers of diesel cars to avoid paying the charge, the vehicle must meet Euro 6 standards. This means that in reality, almost every diesel car registered since September 2015 meets these standards, though some that date back to 2012 will do too. However, owners of historic vehicles that the Government has defined as being 40 years old or older, are excluded from the new charge and other vehicles such as those in the disabled vehicle category can receive a discount or sometimes exemption.
Vehicles that do not meet ULEZ criteria will have to pay £12.50 per day to enter, as well as the congestion charge that has now been in force in London for many years, which is £11.50 per day. If these fees are not paid, drivers will face a fine of £160 per day.
Transport for London’s website has a handy page where, if a driver puts in the registration number of their vehicle, they’ll be able to check if their vehicle is exempt or not: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/check-your-vehicle/
So, while currently car owners mainly need to be aware of the ULEZ when driving in London, it’s very likely that this will filter throughout the UK and so, drivers need to be aware of this and the impact it will have.