Is My Car or Van Ready for Clean Air Zones?

Low emissions sign next to red London bus

Vehicle emissions are a hot topic right now, as the UK Government takes steps to encourage drivers to use cars and vans with the lowest levels of pollution. However, there’s no need to panic - the chances are that the car or van you’re driving is already within the new Clean Air Zone limits (Euro 6 for diesel and Euro 4 for petrol). Here’s the lowdown on the rules, where they’ll be imposed and how you can make sure that you don’t fall foul of charges and fines.

You’ve no doubt heard about, or read about, the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) or Clean Air Zone that was recently introduced in London in an attempt to further reduce the harmful gases that are a product of vehicle use. Motorists in the region have been preparing to be ULEZ ready for a couple of years. From 8th April 2019, the drivers of vehicles not meeting the required emissions standards for the Clean Air Zone have had to pay a daily fee (midnight to midnight) on top of the existing Congestion Charge throughout central London.  

Cars or Light Goods Vehicles (LGVs) weighing 3.5 tonnes or less and not meeting the Clean Air Zone standards must pay an additional £12.50 per day to enter the Low Emissions Zone. Failure to pay will result in a fine of up to £160 per day. Heavier vehicles must pay an additional £100 per day or face a fine of up to £1,000. The Clean Air Zone scheme operates 24-hours a day, every day of the year and currently covers the same area as the Congestion Charge zone but will be expanded in the near future to include the entire region within the North Circular (A406) and South Circular (A205), as well as other cities in the UK.

What Has Being ULEZ Ready Got to Do With Me?

Alt text: Queuing city traffic.

Photo by Nabeel Syed on Unsplash

Those of us living a distance from London might think that these new Clean Air Zone charges won’t affect us and we won’t need to worry about being ULEZ ready. Wrong! The same regulations are planned to hit other areas of the UK as soon as next year. If you drive in Leeds, Sheffield, Greater Manchester, Bath or Southampton, you can expect similar measures to be introduced in your local city centre with Liverpool, Derby, Coventry and others due to follow shortly afterwards. Some of these cities are just a hop skip and jump away from our Cumbria and Lancashire showrooms.

Making sure that your car or van is ready for the new Clean Air Zone rules will prevent additional expense when you travel to most UK cities. And if you regularly visit traffic-heavy areas, ensuring that your vehicle is within the emissions limits is a ‘must’ where your bank balance is concerned.

This kind of regulation is not a new phenomenon, with Low Emission Zones first appearing in Sweden in 1996. They are now common in many major cities in countries such as Germany, Denmark and Italy, so if you’re thinking of venturing abroad with your car or van, it’s a good idea to check the emission rules there before you go.

Of course, if you’re sure that you won’t be driving through one of these zones, you needn’t worry about your vehicle being Clean Air Zone or ULEZ ready. 

Why Do We Need Clean Air Zones?

Alt text: Five children sat on a bench under a grey sky.

Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

Thousands of people in the UK die every year from conditions that can be related to poor air quality. The rates of these deaths are higher in city areas where traffic is heavy. In particular, school children in city regions are suffering from poor lung growth which has been attributed to excessive levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from the Nitrous Oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) commonly found in exhaust fumes.

While motor engines have come a long way towards having reduced emissions in recent years, the sheer volume of vehicles used throughout the UK means that air quality - and consequently the health of those exposed to this poor air - has suffered. It’s hoped that the introduction of Clean Air Zones will prompt drivers to think about moving towards cleaner forms of transport.

What are the ULEZ Emission Standards?

Alt text: Exhaust of a silver car blowing out smoke.

Unless your vehicle meets the required ULEZ standards or is exempt - by reason of being owned by a local resident*, carrying a disabled passenger** or licensed as a London Taxi - you must pay the relevant Clean Air Zone charges by midnight of the day following your entrance into the ULEZ, the boundary of which is clearly signposted on all routes. 

The required standards are:

  • - Euro 3 for motorcycles, mopeds, motorised tricycles and quadricycles (L category)
  • - Euro 4 (NOx) for petrol cars, vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles
  • - Euro 6 (NOx and PM) for diesel cars, vans and minibuses and other specialist vehicles
  • - Euro VI (NOx and PM) for lorries, buses and coaches and other specialist heavy vehicles (NOx and PM)

Legally, manufacturers have had to meet these ULEZ standards since 2006 for newly registered motorbikes; 2005 for new petrol cars; 2006 for new petrol light vans; 2015 for diesel cars and diesel light vans; and 2016 for new diesel medium vans, up to 3.5 tonnes. Anyone driving a vehicle of this age or newer can be fairly certain that it complies to the regulations and you won’t have to pay Clean Air Zone charges. Good news!

ULEZs in other parts of the UK are likely to follow the same emission standards so these criteria are a good guideline, wherever you live and travel. You can check whether your car or van is Euro 6 or Euro 4 compliant, here by entering your vehicle licence plate and country of registration. Remember that just because your car or van has passed its MOT doesn’t mean that it is ready for the Clean Air Zones.

If it looks like your car or van falls below the ULEZ standards, you won’t have to buy a brand new car to ensure free passage through the designated areas. As you can see from above, petrol cars as old as 2005 will likely be ready for Clean Air Zones, and the quality used cars and vans at Autostore are all well under that age. In fact, we’re fairly certain that all of the hundreds of cars and vans that we have in stock will beat the requirements of the new ULEZ - although you’ll still have to pay the Congestion Charge, whatever vehicle you’re driving. 

Still worried about your car or van being redady for the Clean Air Zones? Simply pop along to your nearest Autostore showroom in Lancaster or Penrith for advice or browse our range online to find your perfect ULEZ-busting vehicle.


* Until 24 October 2021 and only when registered with the ULEZ scheme for a resident’s discount 
**Until 26 October 2025 and only when registered with the DVLA as disabled or carrying a disabled passenger. 



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