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Blog Post 17 April 2019 Updated 4 November 2020

Clean air zones: alleviating the impact on your business

April 2019 has seen the launch of London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), the latest in a series of Clean Air Zones to come into play in the UK. More Clean Air Zones are currently in the planning stages in local authorities, where air quality is known to be in breach of international standards. Driving a non-compliant vehicle within Clean Air Zones often entails paying a penalty charge, which poses a particular challenge to businesses running fleets with a variety of vehicles.

From retrofitting to replacing older vehicles with newer, greener alternatives, Energy Saving Trust has a range of tools, schemes and advice that can help you reduce your emissions and avoid Clean Air Zone charges.

But first, what is London’s ULEZ and how can it affect your business?

What is London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone?

The Ultra-Low Emission Zone was launched on the 8th of April 2019 and covers the same area as the existing Congestion Charge Zone. The ULEZ, however, is in operation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is also set to widen out, in 2021 to the South Circular and North Circular Roads.

The system uses automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) to check whether the vehicles that come into the zone comply with the new exhaust (emission) standards. Any vehicle that doesn’t meet the standards is subject to the daily charges set out by Transport for London.

ULEZ standards

  • 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)

You can check whether your vehicle is compliant with the TFL registration checker tool.

How much can it affect businesses?

Any business based in zone, or needing to transport goods or people within the ULEZ, needs to consider the impact of daily charges if its vehicles don’t comply with the new standards. How much an individual business will be affected depends on a number of factors, such as how often it enters the Ultra-Low Emission Zone and the size and make up of its fleet. With up to £100 in daily charges per lorry or larger vehicle, businesses that aren’t prepared could face a significant financial penalty.

Support to comply with Clean Air Zones

Whatever the size, scope or purpose of your business, there is support and funding available across the UK to help you comply with Clean Air Zones. While paying penalty charges is an option, a more sustainable long-term solution would be to adapt your fleet to reduce your emissions, which avoids penalties and helps improve air quality.

Energy Saving Trust has a dedicated fleet management toolkit to support you to transition to a greener fleet, with lots more advice and information.

Electric vehicles: benefits and support

The easiest way to green your fleet is replacing non-compliant vehicles with electric cars or vans. This will not only avoid the zone charges, but reduce emissions and fuel costs.

If budget is tight, you could consider investing in second-hand electric vehicles. This market is growing fast and although the newest models are the most efficient, a second-hand pure electric vehicle would still be compliant in the ULEZ.

Clean Vehicles Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS)

Businesses that use larger vehicles and cannot replace these with low emission alternatives, can look at retrofitting older vehicle engines with a greener alternative. Some local authorities that have already, or are implementing clean air zones, have grants available to support this work. Check with your local authority to see if they can support your business with retrofitting vehicles.

Energy Saving Trust has a list of CVRAS approved suppliers, that carry out retrofitting. You will need to use an approved supplier from this list in order to be compliant with Clean Air Zones.

eCargo bikes: a greener last mile delivery

The Department for Transport has recently made £2 million funding available for businesses to buy eCargo bikes to support greener ‘last mile’ deliveries.

eCargo bikes are a green alternative mode of transport to incorporate into your business, which can replace vans and other delivery vehicles. Electric bikes provide extra support for transporting goods, particularly up hills or over slightly longer distances than on a regular bicycle. Funding covers up to 20% of the total cost of an eCargo bike, up to a maximum of £1,000 per bike.

Read more about the eCargo Bike Grant Fund, and find out if you are eligible to apply.

Freight and HGVs

For businesses that own larger vehicles, Energy Saving Trust’s dedicated Freight Portal can point you in the right direction when it comes to schemes, advice, and previous success stories that you can draw upon.

Through vehicle alternatives, fuel choice, and more, we offer practical advice to help you reduce the emissions and costs of your fleet. Browse our directory of 21 fleet support schemes to find out what other organisations are offering to support sustainable freight vehicles and HGVs, including accreditations and schemes, training and advice, and more.

Last updated: 4 November 2020