Low Emission Zones have been a part of London life since 2019 and the area it covers is on the verge of a significant expansion as we type. Other UK cities have launched low emission zones, or are considering doing so, prompting Windrush’s classic car storage team to investigate where ULEZ is heading next.
The roots of ULEZ
Low emission zones were introduced to discourage drivers of polluting vehicles driving into cities and towns by way of a charge. Non-qualifying cars are not banned from entering, they just have to pay for the privilege, and some say, as a result, it is more of a tax on lower income individuals than it is environmental saviour. Regardless, it seems ULEZ is here to stay.
It all started when studies confirmed exhaust fumes from older diesel cars are particularly harmful to human health. Nitrogen oxides and particulate matter have been linked to a range of illnesses from heart disease to asthma and are prevalent in untreated diesel exhaust fumes. Whatever your view on the introduction of low emission zones, we can probably all agree that preserving the health of inner-city residents and pedestrians is something we have to take seriously.
Rules and regulations
Diesel cars manufactured since 2016 must, by law, have a diesel particulate filter and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) fitted in order to meet Euro 6 emission standards. Subsequently, this has become the standard used to determine if a vehicle incurs a fee for entering a low-emission/clean-air zone. Petrol cars emit little-to-no particulate matter, and much less nitrogen oxide, so the lower Euro 4 standards are used as the barrier to entry for petrol-powered cars.
If you have investigated the eligibility of cars allowed to enter the ULEZ zone without charge you will be aware of the surprising results. A relatively modern Mercedes-Benz diesel will need to pay the ULEZ charge, but its petrol-powered stablemate is able to drive in unchallenged. Take your classic car in and it’s happy days. Drive an ’80s V12 Ferrari? Drive straight in, no charge. There may be method behind the madness, but it’s a hard one to work out and the Windrush long term storage team suggests you check your own vehicle’s eligibility well in advance of your planned trip to ULEZ-participating cities.
Redrawing the boundaries
London’s Ultra-Low Emissions Zone covers an area up to the North and South Circular roads within the capital and is set to expand to cover most areas within the M25 orbital motorway by August 2023. The charge for non-compliant vehicles is currently £12.50 for cars, motorcycles, and vans, and £100 for heavier vehicles. London also has a Low Emission Zone, or LEZ which covers most of greater London and applies only to HGVs, buses, and coaches.
And it’s not just London, as other cities look to follow the lead set by the capital.
Birmingham has a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) that launched in 2021 and covers all roads within the Middleway Ring Road. Pre Euro 4 petrol vehicles and pre Euro 6 diesels are charged £8 to drive in the zone and charges are in force 24 hours a day.
Bristol also has a CAZ which came into force in November 2022, covering a section of the city centre. Once again the cut off is pre-Euro 4 petrol cars and pre-Euro 6 diesels, both of which have to pay £9 to enter the zone.
Oxford has introduced a Zero Emission Zone that covers selected streets at the heart of the city centre. Here all private cars, EVs aside, have to pay £2-£10 to enter. The usual suspects (pre-Euro 6 diesel and Euro 4 petrol cars) must pay the higher charge of £10.
Glasgow’s city centre LEZ is harsher than most. All vehicles must meet Euro 4 and 6 emissions to enter, and there’s no option to vehicles that do not comply with the exception of a £60 penalty for those who break the rules. Do it again and the charge continues to double, even if the original fine is paid, until it reaches a cap at £480 per fine. Be warned!
A Clean Air Zone in Bath came into effect in 2021 but applies only to business-use vehicles who pay a fee should they not meet required emissions standards. Similarly, Bradford, Sheffield, Newcastle, and Portsmouth’s Clean Air Zones don’t apply to cars, only commercial vehicles.
Avoiding the fine
In all zones, the only alert given to a driver entering a ULEZ, LEZ or CAZ is in the form of roadside signs that can be easy to miss, particularly if you are new to the city and concentrating on the road ahead. Miss the opportunity to pay, usually up to a few days after the visit, and a fine will be issued by post. Regular city drivers should consider submitting their payment details to the relevant authority to enable auto-debiting, avoiding the possibility of unwanted fines.
While the expansion of ULEZ, CAZ and LEZ across the UK may seem like bad news for car enthusiasts, it’s worth remembering that many interesting modern and classic cars remain exempt. Similarly, drivers who enter cities infrequently may see the charges as a price worth paying for the convenience of driving in the city. One thing is for certain, the freedom of the open road remains for us all, so why not head out of the city and enjoy the roads on offer beyond city limits completely free of charge.
Classic, modern and EV storage in central London and the Cotswolds
At Windrush, we welcome all vehicles, whether you enlist us for supercar, EV, modern or classic car storage. From the sector’s most thorough induction process to ongoing maintenance tailored to your vehicle, we’ve made our reputation through always going beyond. Whether you visit our advanced classic car storage in London or the Cotswolds, you won’t find a better home from home for your vehicle.
From a secure home for your supercar to the UK’s best EV storage, contact the Windrush team today on email@example.com