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ULEZ compliant vans: everything you need to know

Many van drivers will soon have to pay up to £27.50 per day to drive their vehicle in London. Here’s what the ULEZ expansion will mean for you...

Volkswagen ABT eTransporter 6.1 driving

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London will expand again on 29 August 2023 to cover all London boroughs. From that date, drivers of non-compliant vehicles will have to pay a charge to use their vehicle within the zone – which will cover most roads within the M25 motorway.

Here, we explain what the ULEZ is, which areas it covers and what the latest expansion means for van drivers.

What is the ULEZ?

The ULEZ was first implemented in April 2019 to discourage the use of heavily polluting vehicles and improve air quality in London’s Congestion Charge zone. It was expanded in October 2021 to include all roads inside the North and South Circular.

Renault Zoe long-term congestion charge zone

From 29 August 2023, the Zone will expand to cover the same area as the existing Low Emission Zone (LEZ), stretching as far as Enfield, Croydon, Rainham and Uxbridge to the north, south, east and west respectively.

The LEZ, which has been in place since 2008, requires that diesel vans weighing up to 3.5 tonnes entering Greater London meet at least Euro 3 emissions standards and heavier vehicles meet at least Euro 4 – if a vehicle is non-compliant a daily charge of up to £300 must be paid.

When does the ULEZ operate, and how much does it cost?

A daily ULEZ charge of £12.50 applies for non-compliant vehicles 24 hours a day, every day except Christmas Day. The charge applies in addition to the £15 Congestion Charge, which means that if you drive a non-compliant vehicle through central London while the Congestion Charge is in operation, you will have to pay a total of £27.50.

The Congestion Charge operates from 7am to 6pm, Monday to Friday and midday to 6pm on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays, with a break from Christmas Day to the New Year’s Day bank holiday.

A payment of the ULEZ charge covers a 24-hour period, from midnight to midnight. That means that if you’re driving in the zone before and after midnight, you’ll have to pay twice, even if you spend less than 24 hours in it.

Money

If you forget to pay, you will receive a penalty charge of £160, which is reduced to £80 if you pay within 14 days. Once the ULEZ expands, the charge will increase to £180, or £90 if paid within 14 days.

To reduce the chance of being fined, you can set up Auto Pay (the setup process is free of charge from 30 January 2023) which will charge you automatically for journeys within the ULEZ and the Congestion Charge Zone.

How do I know if my van is ULEZ compliant?

Whether you’ve got a small van, large van or anything in between, you may have to pay to drive in the ULEZ, depending on the emissions produced by your vehicle.

A diesel vehicle must meet the Euro 6 exhaust emissions standards, and a petrol vehicle must meet Euro 4 standards. Most diesel vans registered before September 2015 will have to pay the charge, as well as most petrol vans produced before January 2006.

Ford E-Transit 2022 front cornering

All electric vans – including, of course, our reigning Van of the Year, the Ford E-Transit – are ULEZ compliant regardless of age because they do not produce any local emissions.

Discounts and exemptions are also granted for certain non-compliant vehicles, such as:

Vehicles for people with disabilities – certain wheelchair-accessible vans and private-hire vehicles are eligible for a grace period that will last until 24 October 2027

Historic vehicles – all vehicles built before 1 January 1973 are ULEZ exempt, regardless of their use. Additionally, vehicles that are more than 40 years old can be registered as historic vehicles (making them Road Tax and MOT exempt). They don't qualify for ULEZ exemption if they are being used for commercial purposes.

Minibuses used for community transport – not-for-profit organisations that use older minibuses may be eligible for a grace period lasting until 26 October 2025.

Specialist vehicles – certain agricultural, military and construction vehicles are ULEZ exempt, depending on specific circumstances.

If you’re unsure about whether your van meets the requirements, you can use the dedicated TfL vehicle checker.

What about other UK cities?

Birmingham Clean Air Zone

Since the introduction of the ULEZ in 2019, several UK cities, including Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol, have introduced Clean Air Zones (CAZs). The goal of the zones is the same as that of the ULEZ. Some CAZs, such as Birmingham's, operate in a similar way to the ULEZ, charging some drivers of all vehicle types, whereas others specifically charge drivers of non-compliant taxis, vans and/or HGVs.

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