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Low Emission Zone – ULEZ And LEZ Zones Explained

Today, we will touch upon a very sensitive topic of emission zones in the UK. Poor air quality and environmental health have become a progressively major issue, intensifying the role of a Low Emission Zone (LEZ). An LEZ restricts dangerous emission caused by vehicles in areas specified by the UK government. 
 
The emission zones aim to promote an unpolluted environment by discouraging heavy vehicles from entering specific areas. The LEZ applies in most of Greater London and is applicable every day of the year. The problem is that some people do not know what LEZs mean and how to comply with them.
 
In this article, we will go over everything you need to know about a Low Emission Zone in detail and how to remain on the safe side while you enter one.

Low Emission Zone – What does it mean?

Low Emission Zone is an area that prevents or discourages certain types of vehicles from entering it to mitigate the pollution. Usually, polluting vehicles such as heavy diesel vehicles must pay to enter the zone.
The LEZs promote a healthy environment and good air quality and encourage alternative fuel options such as hybrid and electric cars. 

Types of Low Emission Zones

These include ‘Charging’ and ‘Non-Charging’ areas. 
 
In a Charging Low Emission Zone, the driver must pay a fee to enter and drive. The process is automatic, instead of manually paying through tolls or barriers. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras detect the vehicle upon entering the zone and charge the driver. 
 
In a Non-Charging LEZ, the authorities do not charge the driver to keep the pollution level down. Rather they employ alternative measures such as rerouting traffic around the zone and encouraging installing less polluting parts in the vehicles.

Low Emission Zones in the UK

Currently, we have these zones in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Oxford, Brighton, Nottingham and Norwich. Except for London, the LEZs in all of these cities only apply to local buses. People owning personal vehicles do not have to worry about paying to enter these zones. 
 
As the pollution throughout the UK aggravates, more cities would see a Low Emission Zone implementation. The government is constantly working to make the environment better. It pays keen attention to mitigating roadside nitrogen oxide, which links to cancer and other breathing illnesses. 
 
Other cities working on implementing a Low Emission Zone are Sheffield, Middleton, Cardiff, Hull, Bath, Bristol and Manchester. The authorities also had a plan to implement LEZs in Leeds. However, they are currently on hold due to cleaner vehicles' arrival and acceptance, faster than expected. 

Can you drive in a Low Emission Zone? 

Driving in a Low Emission Zone depends on your use. We have different classes of LEZs, and each class places restrictions accordingly. 
‘Class A’ applies to and charges taxis, coaches, buses, and private-hire vehicles. 
‘Class B’ applies to heavy goods vehicles and all vehicles falling under ‘Class A’. 
‘Class C’ regulates vehicles that fall under class A and B as well as light goods automobiles.
‘Class D’ charges every vehicle above as well as passenger cars.

Is your Vehicle Exempt from LEZ?

Low Emission Zone charges may not apply to you if you drive a military or historical vehicle, or your automobile incorporates Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS) technology. 
 
You also have no liability if you drive a disabled passenger ‘tax-class’ vehicle, or it falls under ultra-low emission classification. 
 
Consult your local authorities for more information, as there might also be a local exemption from low emission zone restrictions.

Low Emission Zone in London 

Introduced in 2008, London’s LEZ encompasses most of Greater London, including some M1 and M4 motorways. It remains functional 24 hours a day. 
 
The zone becomes applicable automatically with ANPR cameras instead of relying upon toll booths. Signs on the road communicate the entry into a low emission zone. In case you do not wish to pass through the sector, you will find signs for alternative routes.  
 
The Low Emission Zone and the London Congestion Charge are two different schemes. Therefore, drivers who have paid to enter a LEZ must pay for the London Congestion Charge too if they wish to enter the central Congestion Charge zone later.

What vehicles can you drive in the London Low Emission Zone?

Currently, only heavy vehicles such as coaches over five tonnes, minibuses, and Lorries over three and a half tonnes registered before October 2006, must pay to enter the London low emission zone. Moreover, pre-January 2002 registered pickup trucks and light 4x4s must pay to enter the area. 
 
The Transport for London guide, accessible here, shows if your vehicle falls under the low emission zone restriction. It also describes how much you must pay upon entering your registration.

What is an Ultra Low Emission Zone?

Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is applicable in the same way in Central London as the Congestion Charge. It operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year except Christmas, to promote a healthier environment. Drivers of most cars and vans must meet certain ULEZ emission standards. Otherwise, they have to pay to drive within the zone. 
 
The fee amounts to £12.5 for cars, motorcycles and vans up to 3.5 tonnes. The rate is more expensive at £100 for larger vehicles such as buses and coaches over 5 tonnes and Lorries over 3.5 tonnes. 
Is Your Vehicle ULEZ compliant?
 
You can identify whether your automobile is compliant with the ultra low emission zone by heading over to the TFL ULEZ Checker and entering your vehicle registration number. 
 
However, I recommend to consult your manufacturer and refer to the handbook for confirmation regarding compliance. Do not solely depend on the website. 

Low Emission Zones in Europe

There are over 200 cities across 15 European countries with Low Emission Zones implemented. The meaning of LEZs across Europe is the same – certain vehicles must not enter the areas marked as a LEZ.
 
Spain, Portugal, Norway, the Czech Republic, France, Belgium, and Greece have LEZs that affect heavy goods vehicles and cars. On the other hand, Denmark, Austria, Finland, and Sweden have LEZs that only apply to heavy goods vehicles. 
 
Italy has implemented LEZs prudently with over 100 zones encompassing various cities. In some cases, a Low emission zone applies to a whole region, such as the entire area of Lombardia.
 
Germany has 75 of such zones, or more commonly called Umweltzone, implemented across major cities and towns.