London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) has been controversial from the start. First introduced in April 2019, it initially only focused on the most central places of the capital.
It then expanded in October 2021 to include all areas within the North and South Circular roads, including places like Tottenham, Stratford and Kensington.
But on August 29, ULEZ will expand again to include all of London’s boroughs in the most controversial expansion yet. It means it goes as far out as the M25 in some places and will cover areas such as Croydon, Enfield and Dagenham, as well as popular destinations such as Heathrow, Wembley and Twickenham.
Let’s look at what ULEZ is, how much it costs and importantly the cars that it will kill off in these parts. You can check if your vehicle is compliant with clean air zones around the UK here.
What is ULEZ and why was it introduced?
London’s ULEZ zone was launched by Mayor Sadiq Khan with the aim of cleaning up the city’s air and improving the health of Londoners impacted by pollution caused by road transport.
This was done by introducing standards that cars have to meet to be able to enter areas within the zone, or if not face paying daily charges and penalties.
When is ULEZ operational?
Unlike London’s separate Congestion Charge, ULEZ is operational 24 hours a day for every day of the year, with the exception of Christmas Day.
It applies to residents as well as visitors, though you don’t need to pay the daily ULEZ charge if your car is parked within the zone and isn’t driven.
What is the ULEZ daily charge and fine?
The daily ULEZ charge for non-compliant cars is £12.50. If this is not paid, drivers risk steep fines of £180, reduced to £90 if paid within 14 days.
What are the ULEZ requirements?
For your car to be compliant, it needs to:
- Meet the Euro 4 emissions standards on a petrol car. Generally, most petrol cars since 2005 are compliant.
- Meet the Euro 6 emissions standards on a diesel car. Generally, most diesel cars since September 2015 are compliant.
Even if your petrol or diesel car was registered before those dates, it might still be compliant if it met those emissions standards early. You can check if your car is compliant with the ULEZ requirements, as well as other clean air zones (in areas such as Birmingham, Bristol and Portsmouth) by entering your registration plate here.
What cars will ULEZ kill off?
As we’ve mentioned petrol cars will need to be almost 20 years old to not be compliant, so it is mainly newer diesel cars that will be driven out of these areas, or face steep daily charges. Here are five cars that ULEZ is set to kill off around London.
Before crossovers became as popular as they are today, it was cars like the Volkswagen Golf that were the default family cars. This hatchback was a best-seller for many years, and remains in plentiful supply on the used market.
However, many Golfs sold in the 2000s and early 2010s were diesel-powered, which are not compliant with ULEZ requirements. On many versions, the Euro 6 requirements were only adopted last minute, meaning 15-plate diesel Golfs are often not compliant.
In a similar vein to the Volkswagen Golf, Ford’s Focus was another big seller and was one of the most popular cars in the UK for two decades. If we go back a few years, it was often a diesel engine that was favoured too.
But as Ford adopted the Euro 6 emissions regulations as close as possible to September 2015, when they became mandatory, it means many used diesel Focus models are not ULEZ compliant, and are likely to disappear from London.
The Nissan Qashqai will be remembered as the car that kickstarted the trend towards crossovers – arriving as the first model of this type in 2007. It was an instant hit too. Though Nissan might no longer sell a new Qashqai with a diesel engine under the bonnet, for a time it was diesel power favoured by many buyers of this SUV.
It means owners of diesel Qashqais right up until September 2015 face having to pay the ULEZ charge to drive in London, with many of these Nissans likely to end up in other areas of the country as a result.
Audi’s SQ5 was an especially innovative model at its launch in 2013 – a time when diesel was very popular. Audi was even racing with diesel-powered sports cars at the time. The SQ5 was the German firm’s first diesel ‘S’ performance model, yet it returned good fuel economy owing to its various efficiency measures.
But despite launching just a decade ago, diesel has quickly become seen as a ‘bad’ fuel by lawmakers, and it doesn’t help that SQ5s registered right up until September 2015 are not ULEZ exempt.
The Ceed was the car that really helped to get Kia noticed, and helped to transform it from a budget brand to a mainstream player. But diesel Ceeds registered before September 2015 are another victim of the expanded ULEZ zone, with these models not being compliant.
It’s a shame as diesel Ceeds are impressively economical to run, with Kia claiming they can return more than 70mpg, while many versions are even free to tax because of their low CO2 emissions.
Check if your car is ULEZ compliant here.