Government plan to improve air quality through Low Emission Zones

Low Emission Zones or Clean Air Zones were first introduced back in 2008 and have continuously developed over the years.

They are one of the many initiatives introduced by the Government to lower pollution levels, improve air quality and make driving an all-round greener experience that won't damage public health.

What is a low emission zone and why do they exist?

A Low Emission Zone is a designated area within a city or town that has been targeted to improve pollution and air quality.

There are two types of Clean Air Zones, charging and non-charging. While you may not be charged for entering some Clean Air Zones, there might be extra traffic flow systems in place to improve air quality in the area.

All vehicles are permitted to enter a Low Emission Zone, but crucially, some will be charged for the luxury depending on their emission rate. They are in operation 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. 

Vehicles will be met with a daily charge, depending on the standard of their car and failure to pay these charges can result in hefty penalty fees. The charges – which can rise to £2000 - take into consideration the vehicle type, fuel type and the zone in which you’re travelling.

The charges and specific requirements for your vehicle can change depending on the city that you’re travelling within, so it would be a good idea to check with the local council of your desired destination before you set off on your journeys. 

What cities have low emission zones?

There are several Low Emission Zones dotted around both the United Kingdom and wider European cities.

The following cities within the UK have or are considering Low Emission Zones or Clean Air Zones;

  • London
  • Brighton
  • Norwich
  • Nottingham
  • Oxford
  • Leeds
  • Birmingham
  • Bath*
  • Bristol*
  • Aberdeen*
  • Dundee*
  • Edinburgh*
  • Glasgow*

*Due to open/expand in 2021 and 2022

Cities within Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden all have variations of Low Emission Zones in operation.

How to check if you’re driving through a Low Emission Zone

If you’re driving through a Low Emission Zone, then you might want to check your vehicle ahead of your travels. 

The criteria for deciding the suitability of your vehicle will take into account factors like gross vehicle weight and Euro emission standards. For drivers in a petrol car, Euro 4 emission is the limit, while it is Euro 6 for diesel. 

If you are travelling in London, you should refer to the Transport for London (TfL) website and follow their guidance.

Outside of London, you can refer to the Government website to check your vehicle or the relevant local council within your area of travel for more information.

Drivers in Scotland can check their vehicle suitability using this online vehicle checker.

Zero emission graphic

What is an Ultra-Low Emission Zone?

Within London, there are also Ultra-Low Emission Zones, as the Government looks to tackle the rising concerns surrounding air pollution in the worst affected areas.

The plans for Ultra-Low Emission Zones were first confirmed back in 2017 and they are due to be expanded throughout 2021.

Ultra-Low Emission Zones aim to improve public health by decreasing nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels.

They differ slightly from standard Low Emission Zones as they are not in operation on Christmas day, but are active for every other day of the year.

Charges can range from £12.50 for cars and motorbikes or up to £100 for heavier vehicles like vans, lorries and coaches.

This could force businesses to consider opting for electric vans as they put together their next fleet of company vehicles. If you or your business are searching for your next electric van, you could consider some of our latest electric van lease deals.

As part of the initiative, the Government are working to create cleaner taxi services and Low Emission Bus Zones. All the London buses now meet the necessary emission standards, while they will also be pushing for electric buses going forward.

What to do if your vehicle doesn’t meet the requirements?

The initiatives are designed to limit the travelling of specific vehicles between these areas. If you know that your vehicle is unlikely to match the criteria set out by the Government and you will be travelling through a Low Emission Zone regularly, you are only really left with two choices.

You could consider changing your car to one that does fit the necessary standards. Browse our latest top electric car lease offers to see some of our best deals.

Your second option is to simply pay the fines, but given the hefty fees, this could soon add up if you’re travelling within these areas frequently.

If you do need to pay for a charge from a Low Emission Zone within London, you can do so up to 90 days after your day of travel via the TfL website

Outside of London, you should refer to the Government website if you're travelling through Bath or Birmingham or check with local council websites for more information. 

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