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On Monday the 25th October 2021, the ULEZ expanded, making it 18 times larger than it was previously. Vehicle drivers in the city will need to pay a charge to drive in the Ultra Low Emission Zone if they do not meet the minimum emissions standards. The ULEZ now includes everything within the North and South Circular roads, and while the Transport for London website offers further information, many drivers still have questions about the zone.

What is the ULEZ?

The ULEZ stands for the Ultra Low Emission Zone in London, which now encompasses everything within the North and South Circular roads, although the North Circular (A406) and the South Circular (A205) are not within the zone. Operating 24 hours a day and every day except for Christmas Day, it has been designed to help clean up London’s air.

 

London has been recognised as one of the most polluted areas in the UK as a result of heavy traffic pollution. The high buildings, dense road network, and size of the city has amplified the air quality, and so Transport for London has expanded the ULEZ in an attempt to improve air quality in the city.

How is the ULEZ different to the Congestion Charge Zone?

Previously, the ULEZ covered the same area as the Congestion Charge Zone. However, as of the 25th October 2021, the area has expanded to include everything within the North and South Circular roads. The map from Transport for London below shows how the area has expanded.

A maps showing the Ultra Low Emission Zone expansion in London
Image source: Transport for London

The Congestion Charge zone has been reintroduced following the suspension of charges during the coronavirus pandemic. Operating between 7 am and 10 pm10pm seven days a week, those travelling within the Congestion Charge zone will have to pay £15 (in advance or on the same day), or a higher fee of £17.50 up to three days after the day of travel. You will have to pay for any of the zones you enter, so if you use both the ULEZ and the Congestion Charge zone, you’ll have to pay both fees.

How does the ULEZ work?

As with the Congestion Charge Zone, there will be road signs at every entry point along the boundary of the ULEZ to tell you that you are crossing into it. This way, you won’t be caught unprepared. The Transport for London website also has a postcode and map search so you can check if your chosen destination will be in the area.

 

Numberplate recognition cameras are being used in the ULEZ. Each vehicle will be checked as they enter and exit the zone to see its emission status and if a fee is needed to be paid. Payment will be required for each day in the ULEZ, so if your vehicle is in the area on both sides of midnight, it counts as two days, and so you’ll need to pay twice.

How much is the charge and what if you don’t pay it?

For any vehicles that do not meet the emissions standards, you’ll need to pay a fee. The daily ULEZ charge is £12.50 per day, which can be paid online, through the TfL pay to drive in London app, or on the phone. There is also an option to set up Auto Pay, where you’ll be billed automatically for the days you drive within the zone.

 

Failure to pay the fee will result in a penalty charge. The penalty charge is £160, which will be reduced to £80 if you pay within 14 days. The fees are in addition to any Congestion Charge or Low Emission Zone charges that apply to your vehicle, so check before travelling to make sure you have paid everything that you need to.

Which vehicles are affected?

All vehicles are subject to the new rules, including cars, motorcycles, vans, and specialist vehicles (up to and including 3.5 tonnes) and minibuses (up to and including 5 tons), but not all will have to pay. Any models that do not meet the emissions standards will have to pay the fee. Petrol vehicles need to meet Euro 4 standards, which is mandatory for all cars registered after January 2006, while diesel vehicles have to meet Euro 6, which became standard for cars registered after September 2015. Euro 0-3 petrol vehicles and Euro 0-5 diesel vehicles will need to pay the fee.

 

Lorries, vans and specialist heavy vehicles (over 3.5 tonnes) and buses, minibuses and coaches (over 5 tonnes) don’t have to pay the ULEZ charge. instead, they’ll have to meet the LEZ emissions standards or pay the LEZ charge.

 

While the general assumption is that older vehicles will be hit with the fee, you may want to use the TFL’s emission standards checker to see if your vehicle is compliant. Some older vehicles were made compliant before the change and so will not have to pay the charge.

What about electric vehicles?

The hope for the ULEZ expansion is that it will encourage people to choose transport with lower or no emissions, such as public transport or electric vehicles. Electric vehicles already receive a 100% reduction on the Congestion Charge, and the expansion of the ULEZ will also benefit them in the same way.

 

Electric cars and Euro-6 compliant hybrids with at least 20 miles of zero-emissions driving range will qualify for the Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED). This discount for cleaner vehicles will be in place until the 25th December 2025, when it will be scrapped.

How much will it cost overall?

£12.50 a day is going to add up. There are 251 working days in 2022, so if you were to work every single one of those days and travel into the ULEZ for each of them, it would amount to £3,137.50 over the year. This does not include the Congestion Charge zone for those entering that too, which would cost an additional £3,765 a year.

 

If you had to pay both the ULEZ and Congestion Charge fees for all 251 working days in 2022, it’d set you back £6,902.50 for the year. This doesn’t include any weekends or bank holidays you might be using the ULEZ and Congestion Charge zone.

At THELMOCO, our electric mopeds start from just £2,295. This is an £842.50 saving on the ULEZ fee over a year, and a huge £4,607.50 saving on both the ULEZ and Congestion Charge zone fees in 2022. They are perfect for commuting and will help you to save money in the long run, making them the smart choice.

The impact on London drivers

Driving in London is already a challenge, but the expansion of the ULEZ means that it is going to cost even more for drivers. With potential costs of up to £6,902.50 a year for London commuters in 2022, it’s time to think smarter and make the switch to an electric vehicle.

 

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