As part of its drive to lower emissions and improve air quality, the UK has introduced the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) initiatives.
Low-emission zones are designated inner-city zones where efforts focus on improving air quality and creating clean air zones. This is achieved by reducing vehicle emissions, leading to less air pollution, a cleaner environment and healthier citizens.
In this article, we’ll look at the LEZ and ULEZ zones, what their aims are, in which UK cities they are in effect and how to ensure that your fleet is compliant with these emissions standards.
What Are LEZ and ULEZ Zones?
The LEZ and ULEZ zones are designated zones or areas where the government is aiming to reduce emissions, thereby reducing air pollution and improving the quality of air in urban areas.
These zones work by discouraging polluting vehicles – those that do not meet particular emissions standards – from operating in these so-called ‘clean air’ zones. These zones also aim to encourage residents to use more environmentally friendly public transport alternatives.
Vehicle owners that drive or operate non-compliant diesel cars and vehicles in these low-emission zones will be liable to pay a LEZ or ULEZ charge.
LEZ zones were first introduced in the UK in 2008 and are applicable to certain diesel cars and vehicles. LEZs are in effect in many major UK cities, including Bath, Bristol and Portsmouth.
The ULEZ zone – introduced in London in 2019 – has even stricter regulations. This ultra-low emission zone is applicable to a range of diesel and petrol cars and was originally in effect in certain inner-city London boroughs. The zone’s boundaries were expanded in 2021 to include all urban areas within the city’s North Circular and South Circular Roads.
LEZ vs ULEZ
The UK’s LEZs cover urban areas of Greater London and other major cities. These clean air zones are in effect 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (including bank holidays and weekends). Currently, LEZ zones are in effect in, among others, major UK cities such as Oxford and Glasgow.
The UK’s only ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) is currently in operation in London boroughs and covers the same area as the Congestion Charge Zone. The Ultra Low Emission Zone Initiative is in effect 24 hours a day, 364 days of the year (every day except for Christmas Day).
Why Were LEZ & ULEZ Zones Created?
Improving Air Quality
One of the most important objectives of implementing the LEZ and ULEZ zones is to reduce air pollution and improve air quality in London and other UK cities.
Studies have shown that exhaust emissions lead to respiratory problems and cardiovascular diseases, such as lung disease and heart disease. By reducing exhaust gases – which contain nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter – in a clean air zone, authorities hope to enhance air quality.
Implementing LEZ and ULEZ zones also aims to reduce emissions.
Non-LEZ and ULEZ-compliant petrol cars and diesel cars significantly add to the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere. By discouraging these non-compliant vehicles from operating in a clean air zone, exhaust emissions are significantly reduced.
Furthermore, by encouraging drivers to buy and use more environmentally friendly vehicles, citizens can help reduce exhaust gases and CO2 emissions. These efforts help the UK reach its climate change goals.
Where Are The LEZ & ULEZ Zones in The UK?
As mentioned LEZs are active in major UK cities, including Bradford and Greater Manchester. The latest addition to this list is Sheffield’s Clean Air Zone, which went live in February 2023.
Additionally, ULEZ is in effect in inner urban areas of London, including Lambeth, Southwark, Greenwich and Newham.
Scotland’s low-emission zones also include major Scottish cities, including Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Navigating LEZ & ULEZ Regulations
Evaluating Vehicles for LEZ & ULEZ Compliance
To be LEZ and ULEZ compliant, vehicles must adhere to set Euro standards. These Euro standards set maximum allowable limits for exhaust emissions and safety standards. They range from Euro 1 to Euro 6.
LEZ charges for diesel vehicles – depending on the Euro standards rating – are as follows:
- Vehicles meeting Euro 6 standards: no LEZ
- Vehicles meeting Euro 4 and Euro 5 standards: £100.00 daily
- Vehicles below Euro 4 standards: £300.00 daily
Owners of non-compliant vehicles pay a daily charge of £12.50 when driving in London’s ULEZ.
You are able to check the compliance status of your vehicle and whether or not your vehicle would be subjected to a ULEZ charge on Transport for London’s website. Most newer cars will generally be classified as compliant.
Identifying Exempt Vehicles
The following vehicles are exempt from LEZ and ULEZ charges:
- Electric vehicles (EVs)
- Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles
- Hybrid models that meet the set emission criteria.
Additionally, diesel and petrol vehicles that qualify for the historic vehicle tax class (classified as classic cars) are ULEZ-exempt. Classic vehicles that are used for commercial purposes do not qualify for ULEZ exemption.
Alternative Fuel Options
Vehicles that use alternative fuels can contribute to meeting the nationwide LEZ and ULEZ standards. These vehicles do not emit any harmful exhaust gases, contribute to mitigating climate change and, therefore, meet LEZ and ULEZ standards.
Additionally, vehicles using hydrogen-cell fuel technology and compressed natural gas (CNG) have proven to emit fewer exhaust gases than older, non-compliant polluting vehicles.
Financial Impact Assessment
When deciding to make your fleet compliant with LEZ and ULEZ regulations, consider the financial implications your business would face. Converting the engines of fleet vehicles to be LEZ and ULEZ-compliant can be costly.
Therefore, consider taking advantage of government incentives to gradually replace older, non-compliant fleet vehicles with LEZ-compliant cars.
Fleet managers should also calculate the expected financial impacts on their fleet operations, should daily routes run through these clean air zones. Consider how often your business’s vehicle drives through the LEZs and what this may cost your company. You might choose to plan routes to avoid these zones using geofencing.
The UK’s drive to minimise air pollution and reduce harmful vehicle emissions has been significantly boosted with the introduction of LEZ and ULEZ zones.
Large, medium and small businesses must take the necessary steps to upgrade their fleets to low-emission and electric vehicles to avoid LEZ and ULEZ charges. Not only can this ensure your fleet is LEZ and ULEZ compliant, but it can also help save money by helping you avoid penalties.
To take advantage of the range of financial and environmental benefits LEZ and ULEZ compliance bring, contact Crystal Ball to discuss their range of vehicle tracking solutions. Also, enquire about our Direct Vision Standard solution to further boost your fleet’s compliance in line with other regulations in place in London.
Be sure to request a demo of our cutting-edge telematics solutions to see how we can assist you in navigating these regulations and, ultimately, do your part for the environment.