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All you need to know about London's Ultra Low Emission Zone

If you live in London, or regularly commute to and from the city, you may have already heard about the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).

Busy London street with traffic.

Launched in April 2019, the zone will cover the centre of the capital, with new rules applying to most vehicles including cars, vans and motorbikes. Will it affect your journeys? Read our handy guide to find out.

What exactly is it?

As the Transport for London (TfL) website explains, the majority of vehicles will have to meet new, tighter exhaust emission standards (ULEZ standards), or pay a daily fee to travel within the area.

From 25th October 2021, the ULEZ will expand to include the inner London region bounded by the North and South Circular Roads.

The Guardian notes that generally speaking, pre-2015 diesels and pre-2006 petrol cars will fall foul of the new rules. To see if your vehicle's one of them, use the TfL's Check your vehicle feature on its website.

Why is the ULEZ being introduced?

Air pollution is one of the greatest challenges facing London and affects everyone living in the city, writes TfL, adding road transport is the largest source of emissions damaging health.

TfL explains how children are especially vulnerable to the low air quality, with pollutants from emissions known to damage lung development. Currently, at least 360 primary schools are in areas exceeding legal pollution levels.

TfL hopes the ULEZ will help to limit the most harmful emissions generated by traffic in the centre of London and across the entire capital.

What are the charges?

Cars, vans and motorbikes which don't meet the stricter exhaust emissions standards will be charged £12.50 for each day they enter the ULEZ. This is on top of the congestion charge if they go into the centre of London between 7am and 6pm Monday to Friday. Don't pay and you'll face a fine of £160.

The charge is much higher for lorries, at £100, with £1,000 fines for drivers who fail to pay on time.

How will the new zone be marked?

When the ULEZ comes into force, there won't be any barriers or toll booths indicating you're entering the area. Instead, cameras will pick up number plates to check if the vehicle meets the standards, and there'll be lots of signs notifying drivers they're entering the charge zone so look out for these.

What are the actual emissions standards?

ULEZ charges will be set based on declared emissions of vehicles, rather than their age – even though the rule of thumb is they will apply to diesels made pre-2015 and petrol cars before 2006.

Petrol cars must meet Euro 4 emissions standards, while diesels will have to meet Euro 6. Meanwhile, motorbikes and mopeds will have to comply with the Euro 3 standard.

For diesel vehicles, the Euro 6 standard carries a maximum NOx emission of 80mg/km, far less than the 180mg/km level for cars meeting the former Euro 5 emissions standard. This means many diesels, even relatively new models, will fail the ULEZ standards.

Are disabled drivers exempt?

If you're a keeper of a vehicle registered with a 'disabled' or 'disabled passenger vehicle' tax class, you can take advantage of the 'sunset period' once the ULEZ begins. This means you won't need to pay the new charges until 26th October 2025.