Are EVs exempt from congestion charges?

 

Most EVs are exempt from city centre congestion charges, but it’s worth checking before
you buy whether local regulations include your vehicle or not. 

 

There are various ‘zones’ across the UK all aimed at reducing traffic and improving air quality. These include Congestion Charge Zones, Ultra-Low and low Emission Zones, and Clean Air Zones.

 

Congestion Charge Zones

When petrol drivers enter London’s congestion charge zone, they must pay the £15 daily fee within three days. This does not apply to EV drivers.

But it’s important to note that EVs aren’t automatically exempt.

Currently, EVs can avoid the congestion charge by joining the Cleaner Vehicle Discount Scheme (it costs just £10 per year to join), but this is being scrapped from December 2025.

No new incentives will replace it but exemptions exist for certain categories of driver including those with disabilities and those who live within the congestion zone.

 

Ultra-Low Emission Zones

London’s ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) has recently been extended to include all eight London boroughs.

The ULEZ charge is £12.50 per day for non-exempt vehicles.

Fortunately, all fully electric cars are exempt from ULEZ charges since they produce zero tailpipe emissions.

If you drive a hybrid EV, you can check if your car is compliant using Motorway's ULEZ free compliance checker.

Clean Air Zones

The UK government has instituted clean air zones across the country.   Since these zones are relatively new arrangements, petrol and EV drivers should double check if charges apply before entering.  

  • England’s clean air zones (CAZ) include Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Newcastle, and Gateshead. (Greater Manchester has a CAZ but it is currently under review.) In these cities, all zero tailpipe emission EVs are exempt from related payments. 
  • Scotland has similar low emission zones running in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. Glasgow plans to introduce charges for non-compliant models from 2024. Battery-only EVs will be exempt. However, hybrid owners will need to check low emissions zones in Scotland to see if a charge is due.
  • In Wales, road traffic has been identified as a significant source of air pollutants. Therefore a Welsh CAZ will be built around traffic access restrictions either by the imposition of a complete ban on older, dirtier vehicles or by still allowing all vehicles to enter a CAZ but charging the drivers of all but the cleanest vehicles.
  • Most of the air quality monitoring sites in Northern Ireland measure one or two pollutants, but there are two multi-pollutant sites: one of these is in Belfast’s Lombard Street, while the other is in Derry/Londonderry’s Brooke Park.

 

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