Whether it is called a Low Emission Zone (LEZ), Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), Clean Air Zone (CAZ) or Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ), there are a growing number of urban areas in the United Kingdom where vehicle use is restricted. Indeed, as the criteria for exemption tightens and the area boundaries increase in size, the vehicles that qualify for exemption have altered over the years.
Have you ever wondered whether your Toyota meets or exceeds the minimum emissions standards for use in these areas? Similarly, have you ever wondered whether you are required to pay an additional fee for driving in a city, such as that associated with the London Congestion Charge or expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone?
If so, the following is a straightforward guide to the key charge zones that are operational within the UK. We will also explain how these relate to you as a Toyota owner.
What is the Ultra Low Emission Zone?
The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is a large area that encompasses every London borough and requires vehicles entering it to meet minimum emissions standards. The purpose of this zone is to reduce pollution in the capital and improve air quality.
Passenger cars that do not meet these standards are required to pay a £12.50 daily surcharge. This fee applies 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except Christmas day.
The boundaries of the ULEZ are set and monitored by Transport for London (TfL), and are clearly indicated by road signs and carriageway markings. Since 29 August 2023, the boundaries were extended to include all London boroughs as well as the City of London (see image below). A small number of postcodes cross the zone boundary, so we recommend using TfL’s postcode checking tool to see if your destination is within the charging zone. Please note that the zone does not include the M25.
Approximately 80% of the vehicles on UK roads already meet minimum ULEZ emissions standards: Euro 4 for petrol (from January 2006) and the tougher Euro 6 for diesel (from September 2015).
This means that every petrol or petrol-electric hybrid Toyota produced since January 2006 is ULEZ compliant and therefore exempt from paying this surcharge.
Check if your older Toyota model is ULEZ compliant by using TfL’s vehicle checking tool.
What is the London Congestion Charge?
The London Congestion Charge is an additional daily fee for driving a vehicle through the very centre of the capital. The aim of this charge is to further reduce traffic and pollution levels within the heart of the Ultra Low Emission Zone during the busiest times of the day.
The boundaries of the London Congestion Charge zone are also set and monitored by TfL and clearly indicated by road signs and carriageway markings. The precise area can be seen in the map below.
The £15.00 daily charge for passenger cars applies between 07:00 and 18:00 Monday to Friday, and between 12:00 and 18:00 weekends and bank holidays. No charges are applied in the eight days between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
TfL does allow certain discounts and exceptions for driving through London’s Congestion Charge zone. Among these, the Cleaner Vehicle Discount allows free travel for zero emission battery electric vehicles like the Toyota bZ4X, Toyota Proace Electric and Toyota Proace City Electric, as well as the hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Mirai. You have to pay an annual fee of £10 to register each vehicle for this discount.
Clean air zones: What about other UK cities?
To improve air quality in line with UK government mandates, the following cities in England and Scotland contain zones where daily emissions charges are levied for certain vehicles.
- England: Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Oxford, Portsmouth, Sheffield and Tyneside
- Scotland: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow
Currently, the cities of Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow and Oxford are the only ones enforcing charges for car drivers. Oxford is the first city in the UK to create a zero emission zone, which means that only zero emission Toyota models like the bZ4X, Proace Electric, Proace City Electric and hydrogen fuel cell Mirai are granted free access. The remaining cities charge a fee for cars that do not meet the minimum nationwide emission standard: Euro 4 for petrol (from January 2006) and the tougher Euro 6 for diesel (from September 2015).
This means that every petrol or petrol-electric hybrid Toyota produced since January 2006, as well as every zero emission Toyota model, is compliant with the published standards and therefore exempt from paying these surcharges.
Check the emissions status of older Toyota models for potential use in Clean Air Zones (England) and Low Emission Zones (Scotland) by typing the vehicle registration number into the DVLA database or the website of the respective local authority.