February 4, 2019

Tightening of Congestion Charge Standards

Cleaner Vehicle Discount to Replace Ultra Low Emission Discount

From April 8th 2019, there will be significant changes to the permitted emissions standards in London.  The Ultra-Low Emission Discount will be replaced by the tighter Cleaner Vehicle Discount in the central London Congestion Charge zone.

This could impact significantly on owners of vehicles which don’t meet the Euro 6 emissions standards.

Alongside these measures, exemptions currently applied to private hire vehicles in the zone will be removed.


The Congestion Charge was introduced 15 years ago, in an attempt to combat the rising levels of vehicle volume and pollution on London’s inner-city streets.

The problems of jammed roads and toxic air go hand in hand, so an initiative like the Congestion Zone was seen as a good way to tackle both issues in one fell swoop.

Since that launch, the government body Transport for London (TfL) reports that the numbers of vehicles going into the zone each day has decreased by some 30%.

The changes

New standards

Current ULED legislation allows those vehicles which meet the Euro 5 standard to be exempt from congestion charges, avoiding an £11.50 per day fee.

This will change from April 2019, with the upgrading of standards to meet the Cleaner Vehicle Discount level. Only vehicles meeting the Euro 6 standard will be eligible for the exemption.

To qualify for Cleaner Vehicle Discount, vehicles must:

  • Conform to the Euro 6 emission standard
  • Emit no more than 75g CO2 per km
  • Have a minimum 20-mile zero emission-capable range

This means that owners of non-plugin hybrids will now not be exempt from charges.

The standards will be further tightened from October 2021, when even plug-in hybrids will no longer be exempt and only purely-electric vehicles will qualify.

Exemptions for hire vehicles

However, the numbers of private hire vehicles entering the zone has ‘rocketed’, according to TfL’s Director of City Planning, Alex Williams.

The transport body’s figures claim that numbers of private hire vehicles have increased from around 4,000 per day to a staggering 18,000, often circling repeatedly within the zone. This is having significant impact on air quality and pollution levels.

Alex Williams also acknowledges that the standard and availability of low-emission vehicles have seen great advances, so the time is right to adjust the Congestion Charge parameters accordingly.

TFL proposes to remove the current Congestion Charge exemption from most private hire vehicles completely. However, it is intended to retain the exemption for wheelchair accessible hire vehicles, supporting TfL’s commitment to make the capital accessible for everyone.

Research carried out on behalf of TfL suggests that these Congestion Charge changes could reduce hire vehicle numbers in the zone by up to 45%, reducing congestion and pollution, while improving journey times for users of public transport.

Only the cleanest vehicles

The implementation of the Cleaner Vehicle Discount standard aims to encourage only the cleanest vehicles in central London. It is hoped it will significantly reduce the pollution which London Mayor, Sadiq Khan says is:

‘A major public health crisis that is stunting the lung development of our children and leads to thousands of premature deaths and increases the risk of asthma and dementia.’

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