The introduction of the ultra-low emissions zone, which came into effect on 8 April, means drivers of older, more polluting vehicles face charges of £12.50 a day for driving into the area.
Covering the same area as the congestion charge and applying in addition to it, the ULEZ charge affects vehicles that don’t meet current requirements for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions.
Vans weighing up to 3.5 tonnes, cars, 4x4s, pick-up trucks and minibuses with diesel engines must meet the Euro 6 standards if they are to enter the zone without charge. These standards were introduced for cars in 2015 and vans in 2016. Petrol vehicles must meet the Euro 4 standards, introduced in 2006.
If your van was manufactured after these dates, then you're likely to be fine. If it was made earlier, however, and doesn’t meet the standards, you’ll be charged £12.50 a day. (Check Transport for London’s vehicle checker to be sure, as some earlier vans do still meet the standards.)
Added to the congestion charge, this means a daily charge of £24 – that's £120 a week. Buses, coaches and lorries of more than 3.5 tonnes are even more heavily penalised, with the charge being £100 a day.
The measures might seem punitive, but Transport for London says they are absolutely necessary – and that the goal is not to bash drivers with enormous fines but to persuade them to opt for cleaner vehicles.
“London's air pollution is increasing people's risk of heart and lung disease and asthma. Every child in London breathes toxic air daily, damaging their lung growth,” TfL says on its website.
“Road transport is the biggest source of the emissions damaging health in London. Nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter make chronic illnesses worse and shorten life expectancy.”
The charge applies seven days a week, 24 hours a day and runs from midnight to midnight – so if you come in at 7pm one day and leave at noon the next day, you’ll pay for two days.
You can pay online or over the phone, or set up automatic payment from your card or a direct debit. Anyone who fails to pay the charge will get an £80 fine.
TfL plans to expand the zone in 2021 to cover most of the area within the North and South Circular roads. Its aim is for all transport in the capital to be zero emission by 2050 – Islington and Hackney have already introduced low emissions streets, where only electric and hybrid vehicles are allowed at certain times.
Other UK cities are considering their own low emission zones – Glasgow already has one, although at the moment only buses are penalised, and from December 2022 the council plans to ban the most polluting vehicles from the city centre completely.
See if you can get a good deal on a Euro 6 compliant van from a reputable van trader – some of them have been on sale since 2013. There's a scrappage scheme providing funding for businesses with fewer than ten employees to help them make the switch.
At Vanwise Group, we offer a huge range of great quality used vans, the vast majority of which are new enough to meet Euro 6 standards (around 95 per cent as of May 2019). If you'd like to test drive one of them, just call our Maidstone or Harlow dealerships. We offer a range of used van finance options too.