Telematics Guides | Clean air zones and ULEZ guide for businesses

Clean air zones and ULEZ guide for businesses

To control climate change and its impacts, the UK government has introduced clean air zones. It’s to improve air quality standards and make the environment better for everyone.

Want the lowdown on all the details? Our guide covers all the key points your business needs to know. Plus, we’ve got great tips you can use to operate in and around clean air zones and ultra-low emission zones (ULEZ).

(Updated Tue, 5 July 2022)

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What’s a clean air zone?

A clean air zone is an area where you must pay a charge if your car doesn’t fit emission standards. They’ve been introduced to stop harmful impact vehicles affecting the environment, with the goal of protecting air quality and lowering vehicle emissions.

So, this means there are charge-based systems for polluting vehicles in heavily congested areas, creating clean air zones (CAZs). In Scotland these are low emission zones (LEZs).

Why are there clean air zones?

They’re designed to reduce air pollution and tackle the effects of climate change.

Transport is responsible for around 20% of global carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions. CO₂ is the single greatest contributor to global warming, so by introducing low emission zones the aim is to limit the introduction of more CO₂ into the atmosphere.

And, yes, there are only going to be more of these zones in the UK coming up, so your business has to prepare.

So far, the UK government has:

  • Banned the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars by 2030
  • Hybrid cars will follow in 2035
  • There are reduced speed limits to improve air quality

It’s very important you get the knowhow about all of this so your business can keep working. Plus, it’ll help you avoid any fines and help you save money.

You can use the system to avoid charges completely. For example, if you’ve got a fleet of electric vehicles you won’t be charged because you’re not making any emissions.

Where are the clean air zones in the UK?

The cities currently with emission charges are:

  • Bath
  • Birmingham
  • Brighton
  • Norwich
  • Oxford
  • Portsmouth

A bunch more are set to follow, too. These are:

  • Liverpool: No fixed date yet
  • Manchester: Scheduled for 1st July 2022
  • Newcastle: Scheduled for July 2022
  • Sheffield: Expected in late 2022
  • Bristol: From late 2022
  • Greater Manchester: Under review

We’re very likely to see other cities introduce clean air zone charges as well. Expect it to be the norm across the UK over the next 10 years.

Are there clean air zone exemptions?

Yes, some vehicles are exempt from charges. And that includes all electric vehicles!

The good news is you’re automatically exempt if you meet the government’s minimum emission standards. That’s if you’ve got:

  • Ultra-low emission vehicles
  • Disabled passenger tax class vehicles
  • Disabled tax class vehicles
  • Military vehicles
  • Historic vehicles
  • Vehicle retrofitted with the clean vehicle retrofit accreditation scheme (CVRAS)
  • Some farming vehicles

There are local exemptions as well if you’re driving in:

  • Bath
  • Birmingham
  • Bradford
  • Bristol
  • Greater Manchester
  • Portsmouth

You can check your car’s emission status either in your logbook or on the DVLA site.

Are low emission zones (LEZ) different to clean air zones?

Yes. Confusing, right? But there are LEZs in England that regulate some vehicles. Norwich, Brighton and Oxford have LEZs to reduce emissions from buses.

Oxford now also has a zero-emission zone covering every type of polluting vehicle.

Also, to clear up an important point, LEZ is the name for a clean air zone in Scotland. Glasgow has had one in place for their buses since December 2018.

1st June 2023 will see more emissions restrictions for other vehicles.

What are ultra-low emission zones?

Ultra-low emission zones (ULEZ) are areas in London. So, if you’re driving into the capital, there are charges to the worst polluting vehicles. These are enforced 24/7, all day every week. Yes, there’s really no escaping them!

That means it’s very important to remember vehicles must meet emissions standards. That’s if you want to avoid any charges. The standards are based on the Euro emission model.

If you want to stop being charged in London, then you can check your vehicle on TFL.

ULEZ zones were introduced on 4th February 2008. It covered most of Greater London. That was updated in October 2017, which was updated again on 8th April 2019 with the ULEZ charges. The charges work like this:

  • £12.50 for any vehicles that don’t meet emissions standards.
  • £100 for buses, coaches, lorries and specialist vehicles

The London boroughs with ULEZ

The amount of ULEZ in London went up again on 25th October 2021. It now covers a bigger area, one covering the South Circular Road (A205) and North Circular Road (A406).

Basically, the zone covers all areas in the North and South Circular Roads.

The list of new boroughs added at the end of the list year is right here:

  • Barnet
  • Brent
  • Camden
  • Ealing
  • Enfield
  • Greenwich
  • Hackney
  • Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Haringey
  • Hounslow
  • Islington
  • Kensington and Chelsea
  • Lambeth
  • Lewisham
  • Newham
  • Redbridge
  • Richmond Upon Thames
  • Southwark
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Waltham Forest
  • Wandsworth

What vehicles are exempt from ULEZ?

Some drivers and vehicles can get a discount on charges. Here’s a list of things that can qualify:

  • Vehicles for disabled people
  • NHS patient payments (people too ill to attend appointments)
  • Taxis
  • Minibuses for community transport
  • Wheelchair accessible private hire vehicles (PHVs)
  • Historic vehicles
  • Specialist vehicles like farming, military, mobile cranes and excavators

You can check the full list and details, plus make an application, on the discounts and exemptions on TFL.

What do ultra-low emissions zones mean for petrol vehicles?

ULEZ means petrol vehicles have to pay a fee for driving in areas where they don’t meet emission standards.

As London is the only city to have a ULEZ, petrol cars need to meet the petrol Euro 4 requirements from the Euro emission standards.

This means petrol cars, minibuses and vans must meet the following to avoid the £12.50 per day ULEZ charge:

  • THC (total hydrocarbon): 0.10g/km
  • NOx (nitrogen oxides): 0.08g/km
  • CO (carbon monoxide): 1.0g/km***

If your vehicle was newly registered from 1st January 2006 then it will meet the Euro 4 standards.

What do ultra-low emission zones mean for diesel vehicles?

ULEZ means diesel vehicles have to pay a fee for driving in areas where they don’t meet emission standards. Diesel cars, minibuses and vans must meet the Euro 6 requirements.

These are the Euro 6 requirements for diesel vehicles:

  • HC + NOx (hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides): 0.17g/km
  • NOx (nitrogen oxides): 0.08g/km
  • PM (particulate matter): 0.005g/km
  • PN [#/km] (particle number): 6.0×10 ^11/km
  • CO (carbon monoxide): 0.50g/km

If your vehicle was newly registered from 1st September 2015 then it should meet the Euro 6 standards.

There are some exceptions, though. But if you don’t know whether your vehicle meets Euro 6 standards, then check with your manufacturer.

How to prepare your business for clean air zones and ULEZ

Every business will be affected by these laws. Even if it’s not bothering you at the moment, it will eventually.

That means it’s very important to get ready for this now so it doesn’t cause your business problems later. We’re got some tips for you on how to do that, so here they are!

Avoid city centres

If you don’t need to be in the city centre, then avoid the city centre!

That’s not possible for all businesses, of course, but if you’re in a city then you’re going to get hit with charges.

If you have to use city centres, see if you can tweak your business model a bit.

For example, it might be that work in city centres can be outsourced. That way, the charges will be passed on to the company you use.

But then there’s a really big decision you could make. It depends on your fleet…

Future-proof your business with ULEZ compliant vans

If you have an older van, you’ll be paying £3,000 a year to work in the zone.

To get around that, you can think about hiring vans that are ULEZ friendly. You can hire a fleet for a fraction of the cost of buying and get the cost saving benefits thrown in on top of that.

You can check out our guide to ultra-low emission zone vans to help you make a choice. Or compare the market right now for the best deal.

Get some electric vehicles (EVs)

We get it. Electric vehicles aren’t cheap! But they also offer pretty excellent long-term investment, not least because they don’t have to pay any charges for clean air zones or ULEZ.

There’s a great choice of electric cars, motorcycles and vans on the market.

And you can get government grants for electric vehicles, which can help your business with the cost of moving away diesel and petrol vehicles.

One common tactic for businesses is to hire EVs. That way you can use them flexibly for as long as you need, without having to fork out for the full upfront cost.

Then you can use the EVs for as long as you want. All without having to face emissions charges, which sure mount up over each month.

Use money saving telematics

Telematics are a real money saver! You can use them to:

  • Plan different routes for your drivers to avoid clean air zones and ULEZ
  • Re-route them in real-time if they run into traffic
  • Monitor drivers to make sure they’re avoiding charges
  • Track your drivers’ use of petrol or diesel

On that final point, telematics systems have a range of data on driving behaviours, which you can use to reduce fuel consumption.

Telematics helps here because you can’t always avoid emissions charges. But with these systems on your fleet, you can limit them. And all while driving in a more environmentally friendly way. You can check out our business guide to telematics for more info there.

Or compare the market to get yourself decked out with money saving gadgets!

Use the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme

The Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS) is for companies that use big vehicles that can’t be replaced with a low emission alternative.

The scheme refits vehicles with greener engines, making them less harmful to the environment.

Many local authorities with a clean air zone have grants for businesses to help them make their vehicles greener as part of CVRAS. Get in touch with your local authority to see if you can claim one.

Buy eCargo bikes

eCargo bikes are bicycles carry payloads and use an electric motor. Plus, they have no tailpipe emissions. And that’s the big winner right there.

If you’re a delivery company, you can get these for your fleet. Sure, they can’t carry huge payloads, but they’re nippy and very effective around the busy streets of London.

Even better, the Department for Transport (DfT) has made £2 million of funding available to help companies purchase eCargo bikes. So, do some research to see if you can get some.

Get ready for more emissions charges

Whether businesses like it or not, clean air zone and ULEZ charges are here to stay. And they’ll keep on increasing!

The best thing your business can do is be prepared.

You can take up a fair few strategies to limit the charges for your business. One of your best options is to use telematics. You can get a variety to help you avoid, and deal with, charge points.

The good news is they’re at great value, too! Compare the market to bag yourself a bargain. Then you’ll always be in the know about your fleet, charge points and everything in between!

Read more on iCompario

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