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Electric cars and congestion charges

Congestion charges in London and other cities are an effort by the government to cut emissions. Find out what type of cars are exempt and whether drivers of electric cars might have to start paying the charge in future.

Updated 28 June 2021  | 3 min read

What is the congestion charge?

It’s a charge designed to cut traffic levels and congestion and to improve air quality in central London.

Key points

  • Congestion charges are applied to make the air in urban areas cleaner by discouraging pollution vehicles with charges. Electric vehicles are usually exempt
  • In future, hybrid and full electric vehicles will no longer be exempt
  • London is the most famous - but there are other congestion charges springing up round the country

What area does the Congestion Charge cover?

The Congestion Charge covers an area within the London Inner Ring Road and includes the City of London and the West End. Check before you travel whether or not a postcode you’re driving to falls within the Congestion Charge Zone.

If you drive within the zone between 7am and 10pm, you’ll pay a £15 daily fee that applies every day except Christmas Day - unless you drive an electric car.

There’s an additional charge for cars with high emissions. Four out of five cars already meet the ULEZ emissions standards, but if your car doesn’t, you must also pay the ULEZ charge, which costs an extra £12.50 daily.

From 25 October 2021, to further discourage the use of older polluting vehicles, the ULEZ will expand from central London. A larger, chargeable zone will be created, reaching up to (but not including) the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205).

Are electric cars exempt from the congestion charge?

Yes, fully electric vehicles and most plug-in hybrids are exempt from the charge. They are eligible under The Cleaner Vehicle Discount (formerly known as the Ultra Low Emission Discount). It offers a 100% discount on vehicles that meet Euro 6 emission standards, emit no more than 75g/km of carbon dioxide (CO2) and have a minimum 20 mile electric-only, zero emission capable range.

From 25 October 2021, the rules change. Only fully battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be eligible for the discount - that means hybrid cars will no longer qualify.

From 25 December 2025, the cleaner vehicle discount is being removed entirely - so everyone will pay, even electric car drivers.

Some other types of vehicles are exempt from paying the congestion charge, including disabled vehicles, accredited breakdown vehicles, motorbikes and mopeds, buses and emergency vehicles. They won’t be affected by the removal of the Cleaner Vehicle Discount.

Does my car qualify for the Cleaner Vehicle Discount?

Your vehicle’s V5C registration certificate (logbook) should show its CO2 emissions status, or you can check with your dealership or vehicle manufacturer.

You’ll also qualify for the discount if your V5C shows that your vehicle is registered as fuel type ‘electric’.

How do I apply for Congestion Charge exemption?

You need to apply for the Cleaner Vehicle Discount. If you don’t register your car and apply for the discount, you will be fined if you drive in the congestion charge zone without paying the daily fee.

It costs £10 to register each vehicle you apply for.

You’ll need to upload images on email or send photocopies of the following documents when you apply:

  • Your V5C vehicle registration certificate (logbook), showing that your vehicle meets the Euro 6 emission standard, emits less than or equal to 75g/km of carbon dioxide (CO2) and has a minimum 20 mile electric-only, zero emission capable range or is registered as fuel type ‘electric’.
  • If your vehicle is a hybrid, you’ll need a photocopy of the conformity certificate. This will have been given to you by the vehicle dealership. If the certificate has been lost, you can apply to the manufacturer for a replacement.

You must pay the congestion charge if you drive within the zone before your application has been approved.

The discount must be renewed annually. Transport for London will contact you to let you know when your discount is about to expire.

Popular electric cars that are exempt from the Congestion Charge

One-in-10 cars registered in the UK last year was electric, according to Go Ultra Low, a joint government and industry campaign set up to help drivers make the switch to an electric vehicle (EV).

According to Next Green Car the UK’s best-selling fully electric model in 2020? The Tesla Model 3.

Here are some other popular 100% electric models that won’t pay a congestion charge until the rules change in December 2025:

  • Honda E
  • Hyundai Kona Electric
  • Jaguar I-Pace
  • Kia e-Niro; Kia Soul EV
  • Mini Electric
  • Nissan Leaf e+
  • Peugeot e-208; Peugeot e-2008
  • Renault Zoe
  • Seat Mii Electric
  • Skoda Enyaq iV
  • Smart EQ forfour
  • Tesla Model 3 and Tesla Model S
  • Vauxhall Corsa-e
  • Volkswagen ID.3, Volkswagen e-Up! and Volkswagen e-Golf
  • Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric

Congestion charges outside of London

  • Glasgow city centre introduced a Low Emission Zone to improve air quality on 31 December. It applied to buses. Phase 2 of the project is due to be enforced in June 2023 when all vehicles entering the zone will need to meet exhaust emission standards to avoid a charge.
  • Bath and Birmingham both have a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in operation. Bath’s zone charges apply to taxis, private hire vehicles, vans, light goods vehicles, buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles that do not meet the required emission standards. It does not apply to private cars.
  • Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone went live on 1 June 2021. It charges the same category of vehicles as Bath, but also includes private cars that don’t meet the emissions criteria.
  • Bristol’s CAZ is set to be operational by October 2021 at the earliest and Manchester may implement a CAZ in 2022. Among other UK cities expected to follow suit are Leicester, Bradford, Portsmouth, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
  • Oxford will introduce a pilot zero-emissions zone (ZEZ) in August 2021 where only 100% zero emission vehicles can use the city centre zone free of charge. All other vehicles will incur charges to drive in the zone, with varying prices based on how polluting the vehicle is.
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