Motorists are being ‘suffocated’ by the emergence of inner-city clean air zones, such as London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), because they are struggling to understand their different rules, according to a new study.
More than one in five drivers don’t know what Euro emission standard their own car is, despite compliancy for most of the 13 zones across the country defined by this measure of a vehicle’s pollution levels.
The poll of 3,000 UK-based drivers – conducted by YouGov – also found that only 56 per cent know what the ULEZ is, while fewer than one in five understood the rules for Oxford’s more stringent Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ).
British drivers are being ‘suffocated’ by variety of clean air zones rules across Britain: A new study has said motorists are being bamboozled by the different requirements to enter 13 emission zones in the country
The survey, on behalf of car management app, Caura, was conducted the week preceding the expansion of London’s ULEZ on 29 August by Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Yet, with the boundary of the emissions-related charging zone increasing four times its previous area to cover all 32 London boroughs, only 56 per cent of respondents said they knew what the requirements for a vehicle to enter the ULEZ for free.
This is despite those who fail to meet the required standards facing £12.50-a-day charges to drive in the zone.
Since ULEZ was first introduced in 2019 – and subsequently a raft of other clean air zones have been setup in other major towns and cities – Euro emission standards commonly dictate if a motorist need to pay to enter or not.
For the ULEZ and Birmingham CAZ, for instance, the requirement is for petrols to be at least Euro 4 standards, while diesel vehicles need to adhere to the latest Euro 6 emissions.
Yet 81 per cent of the 3,000 drivers polled said they had no clue which Euro standard their car meets.
Despite the YouGov poll being carried out the week ahead of last month’s ULEZ extension, only 56% of respondents said they knew the rules around which cars can enter for free
Is your car CAZ, LEZ, ULEZ and ZEZ compliant?
Knowing your car’s Euro emissions rating is more important than ever, given the increasing number of low-emission zones being introduced.
Most zones demand petrol cars are at least Euro 4 compliant, while for diesels Euro 6 is the requirement.
It’s worth using the ULEZ checker online (or via your car’s V5/V5C logbook at the bottom of Page 2 in the section entitled ‘Exhaust Emissions’) to see which category your models falls into, though it roughly will be designated by when it was first registered, as listed:
Euro 1 – from 31 December 1992
Euro 2 – from 1 January 1997
Euro 3 – from 1 January 2001
Euro 4 – from 1 January 2006 (common minimum standard for petrol cars)
Euro 5 – from 1 January 2011
Euro 6 – from 1 September 2015 (common minimum standard for diesel cars
Looking further afield outside the capital, just 19 per cent of drivers polled knew the requirements to enter Oxford ZEZ by car, which sees charges for all but non-electric vehicles – including hybrids – with varying costs depending on how green the car is.
Furthermore, just 29 per cent of those polled knew what the emissions requirements are for driving in a CAZ, of which there are currently seven – Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Portsmouth, Newcastle and Gateshead, and Sheffield – though not all of them impose charges on passenger cars.
Scotland’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) has also recently been introduced in Glasgow and will arrive in Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh in 2024.
Again, it is very different to other zones in Britain in terms of who gets stung.
While it uses the same emission standard requirement as ULEZ, owners of non-compliant vehicles are fined for entering instead of facing daily charges.
The initial penalty charge for all non-compliant vehicles is set at £60, reduced by 50 per cent if it is paid within a fortnight.
However, a surcharge will be incurrent for any subsequent breach of the same LEZ within a 90 day window. This will see the penalty amount doubled with each rule break.
The maximum daily penalty charge for car and van drivers capped at an eye-watering £480.
Only after 90 days of last breaching the rules is the surcharge rate reset to £60.
Caura says the varying rules and stipulations around all the different zones is a huge concern looking ahead, especially following the ‘chaos that ensured’ at the end of August when ULEZ was expanded and with more councils looking to adopt clean air zone models in the future.
It also comes in the wake of Bath introducing ULEZ-style rules with variable pricing to use council-run car parks last week.
Despite Bath having a Euro emission standard based system for its CAZ, the cost to use car parks in the city centre is based on vehicle excise duty bands, which only adds to the confusion.
Newcastle and Gateshead is just one of seven Clean Air Zones in place in Britain today, though there are different levels of CAZ, meaning not all passenger cars are charged
Caura believes some authorities are failing motorists when it comes to supplying information about emission-related zones and rules and more needs to be done regarding education and standardisation of requirements.
For instance, on the day of the ULEZ expanded and saw it encompass the UK’s largest airport, London Heathrow, it sought out information from the Transport for London website about the zone, only to be met by server errors and queues to get to the homepage.
However, as the YouGov poll shows, it is because drivers do not have the knowledge or enough tools available to them to be clued up.
Dr Sai Lakshmi, CEO and founder of Caura, who described the findings from the survey as ‘shocking’, said: ‘On 29 August, the day the [ULEZ] expansion came into effect, TfL experienced a wave of hurdles after its website struggled to manage overwhelming traffic, leaving motorists stranded and unable to verify their vehicle’s eligibility for the latest set of regulations.
‘Incidents like these highlights exactly why drivers in the UK require a streamlined and capable platform, that takes the stress out of maintaining and owning a car, which has already proved difficult with increasing environmental pressures.’
Clean Air Zone – the four different types and which vehicles are charged
CAZ A – Buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs)
CAZ B – Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs)
CAZ C – Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs and light goods vehicles (LGVs)
CAZ D – Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs LGVs and cars
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.