Guide to Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ)
With London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) now expanded, this guide explains how the zone works and the fees you’ll need to pay.
Last updated: Nov 16, 2021 • 6 min read
Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) are a concept to tackle urban air quality challenges in the United Kingdom.
Originally covering the same area as the London Congestion Charge zone, ULEZ expanded on 25 October 2021 to include the area up to (but not including) the North Circular and South Circular roads.
Financial charges are used to disincentivise drivers of the most polluting vehicles from driving within the zone.
These financial charges under the London ULEZ are in addition to the Congestion Charge, and failure to pay can result in penalty fees.
The London ULEZ is distinct from the Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) which covers a wider area and mainly affects commercial vehicles.
What is an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)
Vehicle transport is the primary source of air pollutants such as oxides of Nitrogen (NOx), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Carbon Monoxide (CO) and exhaust particulate matter.
A ULEZ is predominantly about improving the air quality within the zone by discouraging those vehicles that produce more harmful emissions through an additional financial charge.
These zones will typically be established in areas of high population density, high traffic congestion and resultant poor air quality.
Authorities will typically use ANPR cameras to establish which vehicles have entered the zone and are therefore required to pay the ULEZ charge.
That charge will typically have a daily fee attached, while regular users can set up automatic payments.
There are penalty fees for those who fail to pay the charge correctly.
Initially, only the cleanest petrol or diesel cars will make the cut, though it is likely that rules will be tightened over time to push motorists towards zero emission options.
Tip: While some charges relate to discouraging car use in an urban centre to ease congestion, ULEZs aim to improve air quality. And as such, they are likely to remain in force 24/7, rather than just during traditionally busy periods.
The London ULEZ
The first ULEZ came into force on 8th April 2019 in London and was expanded on October 25th 2021. Here are the key details.
The ULEZ operates in Central London, including the area up to the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205).
Hours of Operation
The ULEZ is permanent.
Operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year except Christmas Day (25th December).
Conversely, the “Congestion Charge” is only in effect from 07:00-22:00 on weekdays, excluding Christmas Day.
Minimum Emission Standards
- Petrol: Euro 4
- Diesel: Euro 6
These standards are more stringent for diesel (due to higher air quality impact), but they are both met by all plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) and, of course, all full battery electric vehicles (BEVs).
Tip: A nice feature for low emission vehicle drivers of the ULEZ is there is no need to pre-register and pay an annual fee to claim your exemption - unlike the Congestion Charge system. The ULEZ portal simply calculates what fee is owed per day from your vehicle registration number.
Discounts and Exemptions
The following can claim some form of discount or exemption:
Vehicles for disabled users
Wheelchair accessible private hire vehicles
Historic vehicles (built more than 40 years ago)
Agricultural, military, non-road going vehicles than can use the highway (e.g. excavators), some mobile cranes
Vehicles used for shows or performance
Heavier vehicles, including lorries (over 3.5 tonnes) and buses/coaches (over 5 tonnes)
Rules for each vary from blanket exemption to time-limited 100% exemption to partial discount. If these are relevant to your vehicle we recommend reading more about discounts and exemptions.
- £12.50 for most vehicle types, including cars, motorcycles and vans (up to and including 3.5 tonnes)
Payment must be made by midnight on the third day following the journey.
The following payment methods are accepted:
Pay via the payment portal that calculates what is due based on the day of access to the ULEZ and your vehicle’s registration number.
You can pay over the phone with lines open Monday to Friday: 08:00-20:00 (excluding bank holidays).
UK: 0343 222 2222 (TfL call charges)
International: +44 343 222 2222
Textphone: 020 7649 9123 (if you have impaired hearing)
Auto Pay bills you automatically every month for any Congestion Charges and ULEZ charges you may owe. Set up Auto Pay.
TfL Pay to drive in London app
TfL’s free app helps you pay your Congestion Charge, ULEZ and Low Emission Zone (LEZ) charges and manages the whole process.
Whilst it can appear confusing which charges are owed for your trip, we strongly recommend using the online payment portal which calculates what is due based on the day of access to the ULEZ and your vehicle’s registration number.
The best way to set up Auto Pay for up to 5 vehicles and manage your details is through the app or by setting up a “London Road User Charging account” through the website.
Penalties and Enforcement
If you fail to pay (or make an error on your number plate or date of travel), you will be liable for the following penalty fees.
|Vehicle||Gross Vehicle Weight||Penalty charge||If paid within 14 days|
|Cars, vans, motorcycles, motor tricycles and mopeds||3.5 tonnes or less||£160||£80|
|Motor caravans, ambulances||
2.5 - 3.5 tonnes
|Minibuses (more than 8 passenger seats)||5 tonnes or less||£160||£80|
Tip: Paying the charge is much less painful than paying the penalty!
Better yet, drive an EV and forget all about it!
London ULEZ vs LEZ vs Congestion Charge
This section explains the difference between London’s three different traffic charging schemes.
Low Emission Zone (LEZ)
The LEZ covers a wider area and affects commercial vehicles from large HGVs to small vans, pickup trucks and utility 4x4s. It is also permanently in effect. Full details about the Low Emission Zone are here.
Congestion Charge Zone
Introduced in February 2003, the Congestion Charge Zone requires drivers to pay a fee for entering the centre of London between the hours of 07:00 and 22:00 each working day. Full battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars are exempt from the Congestion Charge Zone, though vehicles must pre-register each year to claim the exemption, and there are other exemptions.
Tip: Whilst it can appear confusing which charges are due for your trip, we strongly recommend using this portal which calculates what is due based on the day of access to the ULEZ and your vehicle's registration number.