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ULEZ - Are you going to be zoned out?

Published on Thursday 28 March 2019 in Van News

ULEZ - Are you going to be zoned out?

Changes are happening right now in central London that will affect thousands of van users. Vanarama's Van Expert Tim Cattlin takes a look at the implications of the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), and how it's possible to avoid the charge altogether for, well, not very much expense at all…

Did you know?

  • On 8/4/19, something called an 'Ultra Low Emission Zone' (ULEZ) was introduced in central London?

What does that mean?

  • It means if your van doesn't comply with the latest Euro 6 emission regulations, you'll have to pay a daily charge to enter the zone.

What area does the zone cover?

  • The area of central London currently falling into the congestion charge scheme (still payable, separately) forms the ULEZ. From 2021, the ULEZ will extend to an area surrounded by the North and South Circular roads.

How do I know if my van is Euro 6?

How much will it cost me?

  • The daily charge is £12.50. If you need to drive in the zone every working day, that's around £275 per month. If you forget to pay, the fine is £160… per day!

Is there a cost effective solution? My van is seven years old and I can't afford this together with the maintenance costs of running an old van.

  • Yes. Read on…


CAZ – ULEZ – LEZ – T charge. So many acronyms (see the little glossary below) *, it's understandable that we can get confused when trying to understand just what is going on in our cities. One thing is for sure, in central London at least, things are changing – and fast. Anyone who uses a van here really needs to be aware of just what is going on and, pretty sharpish.


The back story: It's no secret that the air quality in our cities could be a lot better. Polluted air has an impact on our health, and the Government has committed to tackle the sources of pollution as part of the Air Quality Plan. Cars, vans, coaches and trucks are considered to be serial offenders, and, in an effort to get to grips with these 'dirtier' vehicles, the Department for Transport (DfT) has supported the introduction of Clean Air Zones in inner city areas. They define these areas 'where targeted action is taken to improve air quality' with a view to 'shape the urban environment in a way that delivers improved health benefits and supports economic growth' (in other words, getting rid of the most polluting vehicles, but somehow at the same time stimulating trade…) Local authorities are given responsibility for implementing these zones, and, importantly to us as vehicle users, the option to charge for zone entry and / or the banning of 'dirtier' vehicles altogether., Some pretty brutal penalty charges can be given to drivers who aren't aware of the restrictions, or who decide to ignore them.


What's happening in London? On 8/4/19, a ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone) was introduced in Central London. Diesel powered vans which do not conform to Euro 6 emission regulations now have to pay a daily charge of £12.50 (in addition to the Congestion Charge, which isn't going away and applies in the same area). It's going to be really important to remember to pay this in advance, the zone is being monitored by ANPR (Automated Number Plate Recognition) cameras and keepers of a non Euro 6 vehicle which enters the area  and who haven't paid the charge will receive a really unwelcome and nasty surprise in the post in the form of a £160 fine.

Just how big of an issue is this? All new diesel vans registered since September 2016 should comply to Euro 6 regulations. At the time of writing that's only 2 and a half years ago.  A study by auction company Manheim estimates that 80% of vans on the road pre-date Euro 6, and, as there are an estimated 4.3 million vans on the road and 'only' around 360,000 new ones registered each year, it will be some time before most of them are 'ULEZ compliant'. Indeed, nearly 1 in 3 vans are more than 10 years old.


The cost to a typical business. All businesses are different. The number of vans operated, how old the vehicles are and how often they venture into the capital varies massively. Manheim's study gave a couple of really good examples. A business where just 1 Euro 5 van ventured into the ULEZ twice a week would pay £1300 per year in charges, whereas an operator with 5 non-compliant vans which were all driven in the zone every working day would end up paying fees totalling more than £15,000. There's always a risk of forgetting to pay the charge in advance too, incurring that colossal £160 fine per van, per day.


The future: It looks like this is just the start. Already, plans have been confirmed which will see the boundary of the London ULEZ extend all the way to the North and South Circular roads from October 2021, making ULEZ an issue for thousands more van drivers and operators.

Not only this, but there are now plenty of local authorities who are seriously considering similar schemes to the one in London. The map below shows the towns and cities taking a good look at their own options (image credit airqualitynews.com ).

After considering ways of improving air quality in towns and cities, it probably comes as little surprise to hear that in March 2019 Public Health England advised all councils to consider introducing their own clean air zones.  These could take many forms and there may not be the same penalties for older vehicles as there is in the new London ULEZ, but, as we head towards the governments 'Road to Zero' goal of at least 50% of new cars and 40% of vans to be ultra-low emission by 2030, it's safe to assume that older vehicles will be literally driven off the road.


Futureproofing. In this instance there's not a great deal a van operator can do to eliminate all future costs based on the emissions produced by their vehicle. Zero emission vans (ie, 100% electric) are still few and far between, and for many businesses the costs and practicalities still don't quite stack up. He or she can easily avoid a charge like that being imposed in London by changing their van for a new Euro 6 model. In our first example, the van owner incurring a £1300 charge for his twice weekly trips into the city is spending £108 per month. That's almost enough to pay for a lease on a Mercedes-Benz Citan, or, more than half the payment for a Transit Custom. Not only will they enjoy a 'charge free' journey into the zone, they'll also reap the benefits of a vehicle which, in most circumstances is quieter and more economical than its predecessor. In addition, 3 years of not having to worry about MOTs and the peace of mind that a full manufacturer's warranty offers.



CAZ: Clean Air Zone. An area where target action is being taken to improve air quality. It can be a city, just part of a city or even a street.

LEZ: Low Emission Zone. An area designated where vehicles need to meet certain emission regulations, or which will incur a charge to enter

ULEZ: Ultra Low Emission Zone As being introduced in London and described above – a more stringent version of a LEZ

T-Charge: A surcharge on the London congestion charge, only payable by drivers of older vehicles. The T-charge is being replaced by the ULEZ.