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Clean Air Zones

On 8th April, the Mayor of London introduced the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) to help improve the health of Londoners by cleaning up the City’s toxic air.

Air quality has always been an issue in major cities, but in recent years has risen up the agenda in the UK because of our poor performance in this area.

Thousands of people die in the UK each year from diseases related to breathing in toxic air, because of this, local authorities are taking action to reduce pollution from our roads. This comes in the form of ‘clean air zones’.

What is a clean air zone?

A local authority which has exceeded legal limits of air pollution will use a clean air zone. These are demarcated areas within a city boundary in which a local authority must improve air quality. They do not always involve daily charges, but can include other methods such as excluding certain vehicles.

Which vehicles are currently exempt?

Whilst there will be some flexibility on which vehicles will be subject to clean air charges, national and European regulations are clear on what are the current ‘cleanest’ vehicles. All clean air zones are expected to comply with government guidelines which make the most modern and cleanest vehicles exempt from CAZ charges. These vehicles comply with recent emission standards known as Euro 4, 5 and 6. These include:

  • Petrol cars meeting the Euro 4 standard or later (including virtually every car sold since January 2006)
  • Diesel cars that meet the tougher Euro 6 standard (including virtually every car sold since September 2015).
  • Electric cars

Quick comparison

Below is a short example using one a comparison between a standard small van and an electric model. Comparisons for grey fleet are not always straightforward as elements such as range are measured in mpg (or km/l) for diesel vehicles and an absolute mile or kilometre figure for electric vans.

Vehicle data

ElementDiesel (Renault Kangoo)Electric (Renault Kangoo ZE)
CO₂ emissions112 mg/CO₂/km (lowest)0mg
NOₓ52mg0mg
Range (km)27 km/litre120-280km per charge
Capacity625-797kg625kg
Fuelling5-10 minutes8 hours (slow charge)
60 minutes (fast charge)
20-30 minutes (rapid charge)
SubsidyNoYes (up to £8k)

In use comparison – grey fleet (cars used for business travel but are not owned by the company)

ElementDiesel (Renault Kangoo)Electric (Renault Kangoo ZE)
Fuel cost per year7.5p/km2.8p/km
Vehicle Excise Duty - Percentage of list price to be taxed (from 2020 in brackets)28% (29%)16% (2%)
Maintenance Cost (over four years)Up to £1000 saving for an electric vehicle
Ultra low emissions zone (London) per day cost£12.50/day£0
Fuel VAT20%5%

Clean air zones

Most new cars and all electric vehicles will be exempt from the majority of clean air zones. However, it is only a matter of time before clean air zones (especially London’s) are expanded beyond central areas and standards become stricter. Converting fleets to newer, hybrid or electric vehicles will be a step in the right direction for all organisations who run grey fleets or company cars.

Bevan Jones, Environment and Sustainability Manager

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