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Low Emission Zones & Ultra Low Emission Zones explained

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 1 year ago

3 min read

  • Advice
  • tips

WhoCanFixMyCar discusses LEZs, explaining how they work and how they might affect you as a driver

Pollution and global warming are high up on the political agenda at the moment, so by now you’ve probably heard terms like “Low Emission Zone” and “Ultra Low Emission Zone” at least a few times. However, many drivers still don’t quite know how - or if - these zones affect them. In this guide, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about LEZs. 


What is meant by low emission?

What is a Low Emission Zone?

What area is the Low Emission Zone?

London Low Emission Zone

Can I drive in a Low Emission Zone?

Do you have to pay in a Low Emission Zone?

What is the Ultra Low Emission Zone?

What is meant by low emission?

Emissions are the gases and by-products that are emitted from your car’s exhaust, most of which are harmful because they contribute to pollution. 

A low emission vehicle, therefore, is one which doesn’t produce much pollution and is better for the environment as a result. 

What is a low emission zone?

Low Emission Zones, also known as Clean Air Zones, usually exist within big cities where pollution levels are high. They work by restricting access for high-emissions vehicles which have to pay a charge to travel through the zone (or face heavy financial penalties!).

What area is the low emission zone?

There are several LEZs throughout the UK, but London’s Low Emission Zone affects the largest number of vehicles. 

Areas containing LEZs are:

  • London

  • Norwich

  • Oxford

  • Brighton

  • Nottingham 

  • Glasgow

  • Leeds

  • Birmingham

  • Bath

London Low Emission Zone

London’s LEZ was implemented in late 2008 and includes most of Greater London, as well as parts of the M1 and M4. The M25 is unaffected.

Whereas the city’s congestion charge only applies at certain times during the day, the Low Emission Zone operates 24 hours a day. 

The zone is enforced through number plate recognition cameras, but it is well marked by regular signs, so it’s unlikely you’d ever enter it without knowing. There are also signs which offer alternative routes if you’d like to avoid the zone.

To find out if your vehicle is affected by London’s LEZ charges, you can visit the Transport for London website and enter your registration number.

How much does it cost to enter the London Low Emission Zone?

This varies depending on the type of vehicle you’re driving and how much it weighs.

Buses/coachesOver 5 tonnes£200
Mini buses5 tonnes or less£100
Lorries, goods vehicles, horse boxes, caravansMore than 3.5 tonnes£200
Larger vans, horse boxes, pick ups, 4x4s1.205 tonnes or more£100

Can I drive in a low emission zone?

There are different classes of Low Emission Zones throughout the UK. The particular class of an LEZ determines which vehicles are affected by it.

Bath, for example, has a Class C LEZ, while Birmingham’s zone is Class D.

Class A 

Buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles are affected. 

Class B

Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles

Class C

Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles,vans, minibuses

Class D

Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, vans, minibuses, cars. The local authority can decide whether to include motorcycles.

Do you have to pay in a Low Emission Zone?

Low Emission Zones operate by discouraging vehicles with high emissions from entering them by imposing a daily charge, so whether you need to pay will depend on the class of LEZ you’re driving through as well as what type of vehicle you’re in. 

The rules and charges will vary from one LEZ to the next, so always check before you set off.


What is the Ultra Low Emission Zone?

The Low Emission Zone and Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) are two separate schemes operated by the government to combat rising emissions within the city. 

Unlike the LEZ, which primarily affects larger vehicles, the Ultra Low Emission Zone affects all vehicles that fail to meet Euro 4 and Euro 6 standards for petrol and diesel fuelled cars.

Vehicles within the ULEZ that fail to meet these standards must pay a daily fee of £12.50.

What happens if you live in the ULEZ?

From the 8th April 2019 to the 24th October 2021, residents who lived within the Ultra Low Emission Zone were able to claim a 100% discount on the charge. However, residents must now either pay the full charge or switch to a compliant car.

How do I know if I need to pay ULEZ?

If you enter the ULEZ and your car doesn’t comply with the following standards, you need to pay the charge:

  • Motorbikes, mopeds, motorised tricycles and quadricycles - Standard 3

  • Petrol cars, minibuses, specialist vehicles - Standard 4 (NOx)

  • Diesel cars, vans/mini buses, specialist vehicles - Standard 6 (NOx & PM)

  • Lorries, coaches, buses and other heavy vehicles - Standard VI (NOx & PM)

ULEZ compliant cars

Petrol cars need to meet Euro 4 emissions standards to be compliant; almost all petrol cars registered since January 2006 meet these standards.

Diesel cars need to meet Euro 6 standards to be compliant. Most diesels registered since September 2015 meet these standards.

Likewise, petrol or diesel hybrids must meet the same standards as their traditional counterparts. 

All electric cars are ULEZ compliant, so if you’re looking for a new car and you regularly enter London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone, the best thing you can do is go all-electric.

Don't forget, if you're looking for reliable car repairs that won't break the bank, WhoCanFixMyCar is here to help you find the best garages in your area.

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