24 Nov 2023

ULEZ expansion insights: impacts and developments

To help improve air quality in the British capital, the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was expanded across all London boroughs on 29 August 2023.

ULEZ expansion insights: impacts and developments

Vehicles not compliant with the level of emissions required by ULEZ are subject to a daily charge, currently £12.50, to enter the ULEZ area and this charge applies 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 364 days a year (Christmas Day is an exception).

ULEZ standards apply to all types of vehicle (cars, vans, motorbikes, etc) and require compliance with European emission regulations that vary for diesel and petrol engines. The aim is to reduce the level of harmful chemicals in densely populated areas that could be responsible for serious respiratory disease.

Most diesel vehicles produced since September 2015 and petrol engines registered since January 2006 are compliant. The ULEZ charge is payable on top of the congestion charge and Electric cars are exempt.

Recent ULEZ expansion updates

The most recent ULEZ expansion in 2023 aims to reduce emissions for a further 5 million people who live in the Greater London area and has been supported by campaigners for clean air.

Impact on vehicle emissions

According to the London School of Economics and Political Science, “by the third quarter of 2022 nitrogen dioxide levels were 49% lower in central London than would have been the case without the ULEZ”.

Within the first year of the initial ULEZ expansion to the North Circular and South Circular Roads in October 2021, the number of non-compliant vehicles had apparently fallen by almost 60%.

The most consistent positive outcomes of low emission zones on health have been identified by several medical studies focused around cardiovascular disease due to air quality.

How it affects drivers

Owners of old, non-compliant vehicles were offered the opportunity to take part in a car scrappage scheme supported by the automotive manufacturers.

Given that the ULEZ zone now covers every London borough, there are currently no plans to extend it, although there is always the option to tighten the compliance criteria in terms of emissions. However, as the vehicle stock ages, more older vehicles will be naturally reduced until eventually ULEZ zones won’t be necessary.