Emissions Zones and How They'll Impact You

5 minutes

Air quality and emissions zones are hot topics at the moment, but what do they mean for you? 

  • More UK cities are introducing Clean Air Zones 
  • Why London is introducing an Ultra-Low Emission Zone
  • More than 220 cities around Europe will have Low Emission Zones

Low Emission Zones (LEZs) and Clean Air Zones (CAZs) are emerging across the UK. Aimed at tackling air pollution in Britain’s towns and cities, LEZs or CAZs may be coming to an area near you soon. 

Here’s everything you need to know about Low Emission and Clean Air Zones – from what and where they are to how they’ll impact you.

What is a Low Emission Zone?

A Low Emission Zone is a defined area where access by some polluting vehicles is restricted to improve air quality. Often, a Low Emission Zone will favour vehicles which produce low or zero emissions, like hybrids and electric carsMore than 220 cities and towns in fourteen countries around Europe already have or are preparing LEZs, including Antwerp, Berlin, Rotterdam and Stockholm.

What is a Clean Air Zone?

Clean Air Zones are set up in areas where air pollution exceeds legal limits. Recent reports show 61 towns and cities in the UK currently exceed national limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2). To combat this, the government has issued mandates to certain cities to improve air quality. 

Five English cities have been ordered to introduce Clean Air Zones by 2020: 

  • Birmingham 
  • Leeds
  • Southampton 
  • Nottingham
  • Derby

Other local councils are also considering introducing Clean Air Zones, including in: 

  • Manchester
  • Liverpool
  • Sheffield
  • Bristol
  • Cardiff
  • Warrington
  • Brighton
  • Middlesbrough 
  • Bath 

Each CAZ should ideally involve measures to encourage the use of ultra-low emission vehicles and deter the use of the most polluting vehicles, though you may not have to pay to use them like a LEZ. 

Meanwhile, plans are being developed for a Zero Emission Zone in Oxford, starting with the most polluted streets in 2020 before expanding to encompass the whole city centre by 2035.

Where are the UK’s Low Emissions Zones? 

There are Low Emission Zones in:

  • London 
  • Brighton
  • Norwich
  • Nottingham
  • Oxford

Aside from in London, where the LEZ impacts diesel-powered commercial vehicles, only buses are affected, so members of the public do not have to pay to enter them at the moment. 
According to the RAC , many believe that as inner-city pollution levels worsen, more cities will introduce LEZs that impact a wider range of vehicles – including cars. 

In Scotland, The Scottish Government will introduce Low Emission Zones to its largest cities - Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee - by 2020.


What is the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ)?

A Low Emission Zone already exists in central London, but the Mayor of London recently announced new measures to help combat the capital’s toxic air crisis. The LEZ in London is not the same as the Congestion Charge, which allows a vehicle to enter its zone out of hours, on weekend and Bank Holidays. The LEZ scheme operates 24/7.

Following the introduction of the £10 T-Charge (which stands for Toxic Air Charge), which will start in October 2019, the Mayor has proposed that this will be replaced by the introduction of the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London from Monday April 8 2019. The ULEZ in 2019 will cover the same area as the existing congestion charging zone. You can see a map of it here

Petrol vehicles that don’t meet Euro 4 standards and diesel vehicles that do not meet Euro 6 standards will have to pay a ULEZ daily fee. Petrol cars more than 13 years old in 2019, and diesel cars more than four years old in 2019, will not meet the new standards. 

The ULEZ will apply to all vehicle types, except black taxis. It is estimated that introducing ULEZ in central London will result in nearly a 50 per cent reduction in road transport NOx emissions in 2020.

How much will the ULEZ cost?

The average daily charge for a car that doesn’t meet new emissions standards is £12.50, in addition to the congestion charge. ULEZ charges are in effect 24/7, 365 days a year.

Most vehicles are subject to the £12.50 rate, including vans, minibuses and motorcycles.

If you fail to pay the ULEZ charge, you will face a penalty of £160 (reduced to £80 if you pay within 14 days).

However, lorries will face a much higher daily ULEZ charge at £100. If this charge is not paid, lorry drivers face a penalty of £1000 (reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days).

Transport for London has a full list of discounts and exemptions here

How do I know if my vehicle is affected by a LEZ?

If you’re driving in London, you can use Transport for London’s online tools to check if your vehicle is affected by the LEZ. 

The LEZs in Brighton, Norwich, Nottingham and Oxford currently only affect buses. 

What can I do to make my vehicle meet the standards?

If your vehicle doesn’t meet the LEZ standards, there are a few things you can do.

1. Convert to gas

You can choose to convert your vehicle to run on pure gas with a spark ignition, using an approved conversion.

2. Fit a filter

Fitting an approved filter to your exhaust could reduce your vehicle's emissions enough to meet the LEZ emissions standards. 

3. Replace your vehicle

You could upgrade to a newer vehicle that meets the standards or an electric vehicle. By upgrading to a new or electric car, you could bypass the LEZ costs altogether. Thinking of going electric? LV= offers insurance tailored especially for electric car drivers.