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Everything you need to know about Ultra Low Emission Zones

Driving in London, Birmingham, Bath or Glasgow? Don’t get caught out; check out our guide to Ultra Low Emission Zones in the UK

Written by Verity Hogan
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Where are Ultra Low Emission Zones in the UK?

Several cities across the UK have already introduced Ultra Low Emission Zones to try and combat urban pollution and improve public health.


The capital currently has a Low Emission Zone, which covers most of the city, and an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which covers a similar area to the Congestion Charge.

However, from autumn 2021, London’s ULEZ is set to be expanded.


Birmingham recently introduced a clean air zone as part of an ambitious plan to ban all private car journeys in the city centre by 2031.


Glasgow introduced its low emission zone on 31st December 2018. Its first phase covered local buses but its second phase – launching in 2023 – will mean that all vehicles will need to meet stricter emissions standards to enter the zone.


Bath’s new clean air zone currently applies to taxis, HGVs and other commercial vehicles that don’t meet the required emission standards.

Ultra Low Emission Zone Extension in London

From 25th October 2021, the Ultra Low Emission Zone in London will expand to include a significantly larger area of the city. The zone’s outer boundary will fall just outside the North and South Circular and will be marked by signs rather than toll booths or barriers.

It’s hoped that the extended Ultra Low Emission Zone will deliver essential air quality improvements and reduce the number of premature deaths attributed to pollution in the capital.

Research indicates that London’s pollution is linked to thousands of deaths each year

In January 2021, Imperial College London looked at the impact of air pollution in 2019 as well as the Mayor’s air quality polices up to 2050.

The report suggested that these policies – and other improvements to air quality in London – could add six months to the average life expectancy of children born in the city. It also estimated that up to 4100 deaths were caused by air pollution.

Further research from Queen Mary University London revealed that COVID-19 deaths during the spring of 2020 were 70% higher in areas with the worst air pollution.

How to check whether your vehicle is compliant

You can visit the Transport for London website to check whether your vehicle meets the emissions standards required in the ULEZ.

In London, if your vehicle doesn’t meet those standards, you’ll need to pay £12.50 a day to drive within the zone. This applies for 24 hours a day, every day of the week, except for Christmas Day.

What are the emissions criteria?

This is a little more complicated as each city (and country) can choose their own emissions standards. Generally, vehicles that emit more pollution will be targeted, and this will often include older cars, vans, motorbikes, and other high-emitting vehicles.

The emissions criteria for London’s ULEZ 

In London, diesel-powered vehicles will need to meet Euro 6 standards (introduced in 2015) to be exempt from the charge and petrol-powered vehicles must meet the Euro 4 standards (in effect since 2005).

Other UK cities have set their own criteria, so it’s important that you check in advance if you’re planning to travel to any of these areas.

What are the penalties for not paying the ULEZ charge?

If your vehicle is non-compliant (doesn't meet the emissions standards), you’ll have to pay the daily charge if you enter a ULEZ. If you don't pay, you’ll usually face a fine of £160, which will be reduced to £80 if you pay within 14 days.

If you think you’ve been fined incorrectly, you can challenge it. 

Expect more cities to adopt Ultra Low Emissions Zone in the near future

The UK is set to ban the sale of petrol and diesel powered cars by 2030. This has created a powerful incentive for businesses and local authorities to incentivise lower-carbon options like electric and hybrid vehicles. So it’s fair to say that we can expect to see many more UK cities and towns to introduce Ultra Low Emission Zones in the next few years.

Verity Hogan

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