London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) Explained

London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is a groundbreaking initiative designed to combat London’s pollution.

Our ULEZ guide helps you understand the specifics of the ULEZ, its costs, rules and its stringent emission standards. We look at the specific European Union’s Euro standards, and the vehicles they apply to.

Let’s explore how London’s approach to sustainability sets a precedent for other world cities to follow.

London skyline from tower bridge

What is the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)?

The London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) operates 24/7, covering all boroughs and the City of London, excluding the M25. Vehicles must meet specified emission standards to avoid a £12.50 daily charge. Larger vehicles may be subject to the LEZ charge. Non-UK registered vehicles must also meet these standards or pay.

Where is the ULEZ zone in London?

The Ultra Low Emission Zone, commonly known as ULEZ, is in place in a significant portion of London, providing a dedicated space aimed at reducing vehicular emissions and improving air quality. Specifically:

  • The ULEZ covers all London boroughs and the City of London.
  • The M25 is not a part of the ULEZ zone.
  • Certain postcodes may straddle the ULEZ boundary. As such, for those on the edge of the zone, it’s recommended to use the official ULEZ map search or keep an eye out for ULEZ boundary signs on streets when driving.

If there’s any uncertainty about whether a particular part of london is inside the zone, users can enter a postcode on the official ULEZ site to check. The website offers a postcode and map search feature to clearly determine whether a location is inside or outside of the charging zones.

London ULEZ map

ULEZ operates across all London boroughs and the City of London, excluding the M25:

Map showing Londons Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) boundary 2023
London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) boundary

TFL provide an interactive London ULEZ map to determine the exact boundaries and areas covered by the ULEZ.

Users can use the “Postcode and map search” feature on the official website to check if a specific location falls within the zone. A detailed map, along with a text description of the ULEZ boundary, can be downloaded here.

How does the London ULEZ work?

The ULEZ works on vehicle emissions. It’s similar to the Clean Air Zones (CAZ) found in other UK cities, but it has its own rules and regulations. Only vehicles that meet specific emission standards can drive within this zone without incurring a charge. Here’s how it works:

  • Operating hours
    The ULEZ operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, excluding Christmas Day.

  • How you are charged
    If a vehicle doesn’t meet the ULEZ emissions standards, the owner is required to pay a daily charge to drive within the zone. This applies even if the trip is short. However, if a vehicle is parked within the zone and isn’t driven on a particular day, no charge is applicable for that day.

  • Which vehicles have to pay
    Vehicles are categorized based on their type and emissions, ranging from cars and motorcycles to larger vehicles like lorries and buses. Each category has its own emission standards that the vehicle needs to meet to avoid the ULEZ charge.

  • Checking Vehicle Compliance
    For convenience, the official ULEZ site offers a vehicle checker where users can enter their vehicle’s details to see if it complies with the ULEZ emissions standards.

How much is London’s ULEZ charge?

The charge for driving a vehicle in London’s ULEZ zone that doesn’t meet the zone emissions standards is as follows:

  • The daily charge for most vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, vans, and specialist vehicles up to and including 3.5 tonnes, as well as minibuses up to and including 5 tonnes, is £12.50.
  • Lorries, vans, or specialist heavy vehicles that are over 3.5 tonnes, along with buses, minibuses, or coaches over 5 tonnes, are exempt from the ULEZ charge. However, if they don’t meet the LEZ (Low Emission Zone) standards, they might be subject to a LEZ charge.
  • For vehicles registered outside the UK, the same £12.50 daily charge applies if they do not meet the required emission standards.

How to pay the ULEZ charge in London?

Here are the steps to pay the ULEZ charge for London:

  1. Visit the official TFL pay to drive in London page.
  2. Enter your vehicle details or use the “Check your vehicle” option to determine if a charge is due.
  3. If a charge is applicable, follow the online prompts to make the payment.

If you drive within the ULEZ area across two days, for example before midnight and after midnight, you’ll need to pay two daily charges.

London ULEZ exemptions

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London imposes charges on vehicles that do not meet the required emissions standards. However, certain drivers and vehicles qualify for exemptions or 100% discounts.

Vehicles for Disabled People
Blue Badge Holders: They must pay unless the vehicle meets ULEZ standards or is registered for a grace period. There are three main grace periods:

‘Disabled’ and ‘Disabled Passenger Vehicle’ Tax Class: Exempts them from ULEZ until 24 October 2027.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAV) Grace Period: For vehicles converted by mobility experts. Grace period until 25 October 2027.

Disabled Benefits Grace Period: For recipients of specific disability benefits. Grace period until 25 October 2027.

NHS Patient Reimbursement
Reimbursement for ULEZ charges may be available if you’re too ill to travel via public transport for a hospital appointment.

London-licensed taxis are ULEZ-exempt. Age restrictions apply, and all newly licensed taxis must be now zero-emission capable, meaning London cabbies have to adapt to new ways of fueling their taxis and take out specific electric taxi insurance.

Business and Charity Short-term Grace Period
For small businesses, micro-businesses, charities, and sole traders located in the London area. Exemption is possible if a ULEZ-compliant vehicle is ordered or retrofitting was booked before 29 November 2023.

Minibuses for Community Transport
Not-for-profit organisations operating minibuses for community benefits can receive a 100% ULEZ discount until 26 October 2025.

Wheelchair Accessible Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs)
Granted a grace period until 24 October 2027 when used for a private hire booking. Exemptions apply only during bookings.

Historic Vehicles
Vehicles built before 1 January 1973 OR Vehicles over 40 years old registered for a historic vehicle tax class.

If you don’t qualify for any exemption, it’s essential to find ways to meet the ULEZ emission standards to avoid charges.

What are the emission ULEZ standards?

The emission standards for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) are:

  • Minimum emission standard: Euro 3 Petrol cars, vans, minibuses, and other specialist vehicles:
  • Minimum emission standard: Euro 4 (NOx) Diesel cars, vans, minibuses, and other specialist vehicles:
  • Minimum emission standard: Euro 6 (NOx and PM) Larger vehicles over certain weights, like lorries and buses, are subject to the LEZ emissions standards instead of ULEZ.

What are the Euro emission standards?

The Euro emission standards are a series of emissions controls set by the European Union to limit the amount of pollutants that come from the exhausts of vehicles.

These standards apply to new vehicles and set maximum permissible levels for pollutants such as Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Particulate Matter (PM). Over the years, these standards have become stricter to ensure cleaner vehicles.

Euro 3
This standard became mandatory for all new motorcycles in 2007. It was an earlier emission standard, meaning vehicles under this category might emit more pollutants than those under later Euro standards.

Euro 4
Introduced for all new cars in 2005 and light vans in 2006. It requires vehicles, especially those running on petrol, to produce fewer NOx emissions than Euro 3 vehicles.

Euro 6
This is the latest and most stringent of the Euro standards It became mandatory for Heavy-duty engines for goods vehicles and buses in January 2014, Cars and light vans in September 2015, and larger vans up to and including 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight in September 2016.

Euro 6 significantly reduces allowable NOx emissions, especially for diesel engines.

Higher Euro numbers correspond to stricter emission controls, resulting in fewer pollutants coming from those vehicles. The ULEZ in London uses the European Union emission standards to regulate the zone.

The final word on the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)

London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is a significant step towards improving pollution and quality of life in our capital.

The ULEZ imposes restrictions on gas-guzzling vehicles that don’t meet specific emission standards. These standards are benchmarked against the European Union’s Euro standards, with smaller vehicles like motorcycles needing to meet the Euro 3 standard, petrol-driven cars and vans adhering to the Euro 4 standards and diesel vehicles complying with the Euro 6 standards. 

By significantly reducing air pollution levels, the initiative is expected to improve the air quality AND reduce the burden on the public health system. This means that London’s ULEZ is a pioneering model in the UK, it offers invaluable insights for other cities across the world that might be trying to deal with similar levels of pollution and congestion.

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