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Understanding clean air zones

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The main source of air pollution in the UK comes from transport – mostly from cars and trucks burning petrol and diesel to get about. That’s why some cities around the country have introduced clean air zones: to reduce pollution and improve quality of life for the people who live there. It’s all part of the national ambition to reach net zero by 2050. 

Today there are charges for driving older, more polluting cars in Birmingham and London – and we expect the charges to spread to other cities too.

 

Clean air zones

What are clean air zones and low emission zones?

A clean air zone (or CAZ) is part of a city that charges fees to highly polluting vehicles, based on their emissions. That means you might have to pay a set daily charge for driving there. The charge covers a period from midnight to midnight, no matter how many times you drive in and out.

They don’t apply to all cars: a lot concentrate on more heavily polluting cars and trucks. But they apply to all traffic, no matter if you live in the zone or need to drive there for work. 

They’re designed to improve the quality of local air and make it safer to breathe by reducing nasties like carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. And they’re already popping up around Britain.

On-street electric charge point

 

How are clean air zones different from low emission zones?

A clean air zone (CAZ) is the essentially the same as a low emission zone (LEZ), London also has the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) specifically in the city centre.

How does Birmingham’s clean air zone work?

Birmingham’s scheme is Class D, which means it includes cars. If your car isn’t up to scratch, you’ll need to pay an £8 charge (November 2022) if you’re driving inside the A4540 Middleway ring road. Electric cars are, of course, free.

You can check whether your petrol or diesel car is up to scratch and pay online at the drive in a clean air zone page. Diesels need to meet the Euro 6 standard and petrols should be Euro 4 standard. 

It also applies to non-compliant buses, coaches, taxis, trucks, vans, minibuses and others – and it can cost up to £50 a day to drive in the zone.

charging

 

How do London’s low emission zones work? 

There are three different charges you might need to pay if you’re driving in London.

How do you pay to drive in a clean air zone? 

You check if you’re exempt and pay online at the drive in a clean air zone page – or you can pay by phone if you can’t use the online service. You can pay six days before your visit, on the day of your visit or up to six days after. And a ‘day’ is midnight to midnight – not 24 hours from when you enter the zone. So if you drive into the zone at 11pm and out at 1am, you’ll need to pay for two days.

In London, you can pay at the TfL website.

How do you know when you’re in a clean air zone? 

You’ll normally see big unmissable signs that start miles away from the edge of the zone. They give you plenty of warning and often explain how to pay.

Navigation apps sometimes tell you when your route includes a clean air zone too, which can help with planning.

What are the types of clean air zones?

There are four types of clean air zones – Class A to D.  Cars are only included in Class D. 
 
ClassVehicle type
ABuses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles 
BBuses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles 
CBuses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, vans, minibuses 
DBuses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, vans, minibuses, cars and the local authority has the option to include motorcycles

How does Bath’s clean air zone work?

Bath’s clean air zone is a Class C, so it doesn’t apply to cars. Non-compliant vans, taxis and minibuses pay £9 a day, and it’s £100 a day for trucks, lorries, buses and coaches. It covers roads in Bath City Centre and areas including Kingsmead, Bathwick and Walcot.

How does Bradford’s clean air zone work?

Bradford’s clean air zone is a Class C, so again it doesn’t apply to cars. Non-compliant taxis pay £7 a day, vans and minibuses pay £9 a day, and it’s £50 a day for trucks, lorries, buses and coaches. The zone covers the area inside, and including, the Bradford outer ring road and extends along the Aire valley corridor.

How does Portsmouth’s clean air zone work?

Portsmouth’s clean air zone is a Class B, so it doesn’t apply to cars. Non-compliant taxis need to pay £10 a day, and if you’re driving a non-compliant truck, bus or coach you’ll pay £50. The zone is approximately 3 square kilometres and it’s to the south west of Portsmouth.

All charges correct November 2022.

This article contains links to other sites. ElectriX are not responsible for the contents of any of these websites.

 

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