London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) has been championing the government’s fight against climate change since its launch in April 2019. While air quality is improving by the day, motorists driving within the zone can face a daily charge of £12.50 or more to enter the capital.
As of the 25th October 2021, ULEZ will grow to 18 times its original size. With it, a whopping 350,000 drivers are estimated to be impacted. Thousands of pounds are expected to rack up against non-compliant vehicles entering the zone, and the push for upgrading to a pure electric or ULEZ compliant vehicle will reach its peak.
Here, we’ve rounded up the important ULEZ changes coming in 2021 and shed a spotlight on what London motorists have to say:
While some of the facts may surprise you, it’s clear that ULEZ is affecting the capital beyond the boundaries of the zone.
Read on to find out more:
What is the ULEZ?
At its core, ULEZ was an initiative proposed by Boris Johnson back in 2014 to combat the increasing levels of harmful CO2 and NO2 polluting the capital’s air.
Finally launched on the 19th April 2019, motorists entering the Greater London area could face a daily fee of £12.50 (or £100 a day for buses, lorries and coaches) if they don’t meet the strict EU emissions standards.
But, the required standards are not a one size fits all kind of deal and are dependant on the type of vehicle you are using:
- Petrol cars & vans: must meet Euro 4 standards (vehicles registered before 2005 typically don’t)
- Diesel cars & vans: must meet Euro 6 standards (most vehicles registered before 2006 don’t)
- Motorbikes: must meet Euro 3 standards (generally most pre-2007 bikes don’t)
- Buses, coaches & lorries: must meet Euro 6 standards
While there are exceptions to every rule, such as owning a vintage vehicle built prior to January 1981, anything that doesn’t meet the strict rules will face a charge, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, except Christmas Day.
A positive change
Within six months of ULEZ’s launch, TfL announced that nitrogen dioxide levels in the city were down 36%. With reduced congestion (a reduction of 13,500 cars on the roads) throughout Central London and the ongoing health benefits for London’s residents, the payoff of ULEZ is already coming to fruition.
But with the aim to improve air quality at its core, the most significant impact has been on “cleaning up our lethal air,” according to London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
According to TfL data, almost 300,000 Londoners have been ‘saved from diseases attributable to air pollution, such as coronary heart disease, lung cancer, and dementia. This is a reduction of around one in every four air pollution-related diseases.’
What’s more, these figures are a testament to the cost-saving impacts on London’s NHS and social care system, with over £5bn saved and fewer air-pollution-related admissions to the capital’s hospitals.
In recognition of ULEZ’s success, it’s no surprise that the boundaries are set to expand on the 25th of October 2021. Covering an area 18 times larger than the current central London ULEZ, the boundary will reach up to the North and South Circular Roads.
But what does this mean for Londoners?
When we asked London residents what they thought of the changes to come, responses were mixed. Out of 1,620 entries, although 88% of people are aware that ULEZ is changing, few were keen to switch their vehicle to pure electric at only 8.8%.
With nearly half (48.8%) of entries opting to stick to a ULEZ compliant petrol vehicle followed by almost a quarter (23.8%) hybrid and 18.8% diesel, it’s clear that a traditional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) is favored above zero-emission electric vehicles.
Although owning a compliant vehicle doesn’t seem to be much of an issue across the board, with most residents willing to make the switch, it’s estimated that 100,000 cars, 35,000 vans, and 3,000 lorries could be affected by the tighter restrictions and expanded zone.
However, according to Edmund King, president of the AA, poorer households and families are likely to be the hardest hit by these changes. He commented:
A family of five living within the North or South Circular may have bought a diesel people-carrier in 2014 in good faith. They are likely to lose a vehicle essential for shopping and family trips, even though they do the lowest mileage of drivers in the UK.
The “most radical anti-pollution policy in the world”
Described as “one of the most radical anti-pollution policies in the world” by the Guardian, ULEZ means a lot of different things to the outsiders looking in compared to Londoners living within the zone itself.
According to our research, 56.6% of the capitals residents aren’t in favour of the scheme. But even so, millions of Londoners will now need to adopt an emission compliant vehicle as time is no longer in their favour.
While before, there was a resident-only 100% discount available to make you exempt from additional charges, come the 24th October, these will no longer be in place.
Despite the government’s best efforts to encourage motorists to ditch petrol and diesel altogether within the city, our survey revealed that over half would only upgrade to a petrol compliant vehicle other than any of the alternatives.
But having the funds to switch up your vehicle is all part of the problem. When we asked London motorists how they would purchase their new vehicle, a staggering 56.1% opted for car finance, 32.9% leasing, and 11% would buy outright.
Combined with the Plug-In Grant (£2,500 for electric vehicles up to £30k), car financing is the most logical solution. It makes buying a new car more affordable with smaller monthly payments.
What support is there for people on low incomes?
While car financing is the most popular way to buy a new vehicle, people on a lower income may struggle to replace their current car regardless.
However, if you receive universal credit, working tax credits, pension credit, or child tax credit, you can apply for a £2,000 grant to help you make the switch. Among the many requirements involved, you must live within one of the 32 affected London boroughs to qualify.
There is also a range of schemes, including the scrappage scheme, in place via TfL to support charities, micro-businesses, and sole traders to replace vans and minibusses.
More changes to note
TfL is installing another 750 number plate recognition cameras throughout the expanded area to enforce the strict emissions standards to cope with the expansion. What’s more, if you fail to register your vehicle and pay the daily ULEZ charge if your car is non-compliant, you will face a £160 daily fine for every day you drive within the zone.
With the 100% resident discount ending on the 24th of October 2021, simply driving a mile down the road in your non-compliant vehicle will score you the £12.50 daily charge. So even if your car is six years old and has only 24,000 miles on the clock, you may have to sell it at a significant loss.
Not unlike the original ULEZ zone, the expanded area will apply 24 hours a day, every day of the year bar Christmas Day. While classic cars aged 40 years and up will remain exempt, as well as disabled drivers until October 2025, the owners of older motorhomes will face a £100 a day penalty to drive in the zone.
While there has been much speculation surrounding the Congestion Charge expanding alongside ULEZ, Sadiq Khan has said that he has “succeeded in killing off” the proposal.
However, the cost of the coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on the city, meaning that the temporary changes made to the Congestion Chargeback in June 2021 could be made permanent – the raised price of £15 per day and the expanded hours to 10 pm.
Other low emission zones
ULEZ’s success has been staggering. Combined with the government’s drive for a “net zero emissions” goal by 2050, other areas throughout the UK are adopting similar schemes. Named Clean Air Zones (CAZ), non-compliant vehicles are expected to pay £8 a day to enter each zone.
With Birmingham launching their CAZ back in June 2021, other areas are expected to follow suit in years to come, such as Leeds, Nottingham, Liverpool, and Portsmouth.
While the effectiveness of ULEZ remains up for debate, it’s fair to assume that in time, we’ll be seeing fewer older vehicles in our towns and cities.
With more and more pressure to switch to pure electric, and of course, the imminent 2030 new sales of petrol and diesel ban en route, the shape of Britains roads is set to change.
Love it or hate it, London’s ULEZ is expanding. With the capital’s streets becoming home to over 750 new registration plate recognition cameras and 350,000 London motorists affected, what will you do to beat the curve? If you’re thinking of making the switch today, see how much you can apply for today with our handy car finance calculator!