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Which Cars Are Exempt From Congestion Charge? 

Jul 21, 2023

For anyone who frequently navigates the bustling heart of London, the congestion charge might seem like an unavoidable aspect of city driving. But did you know that some vehicles are actually exempt from this charge? The burning question then is, which cars are exempt from congestion charge?

This article aims to provide a thorough, detailed analysis of the congestion charge and its exemptions. We will take a deep dive into the various types of vehicles that are excluded from this fee and explain how choosing the right car can significantly impact your daily commute expenses.

Understanding the Congestion Charge

The congestion charge is a daily levy imposed on most vehicles driving within the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) in central London. Established in 2003, this charge aims to regulate heavy traffic and mitigate pollution levels in the city centre, while also generating revenue for improving London’s transport infrastructure. The charge is £15 per day—a hefty amount for frequent city commuters.

Congestion Charge Exemption: The Key Factors

The main determinant for the congestion charge exemption is the amount of emissions a vehicle produces. The UK government, in a bid to promote eco-friendly vehicles, rewards low emission cars with this incentive.

Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs)

Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles or ULEVs sit at the top of the exemption hierarchy. These are vehicles that emit less than 75g/km of CO2 and have a substantial zero-emission range. The ULEV category includes a vast majority of electric vehicles (EVs) and a number of high-efficiency hybrid vehicles.

Electric Vehicles (EVs)

Electric Vehicles, with their zero tailpipe emissions, are the prime candidates for congestion charge exemptions. These range from the premium models like Tesla to more budget-friendly options such as the Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoe. If avoiding congestion charge is your main goal, choosing an electric vehicle would be the most effective choice.

Certain Hybrid Vehicles

The exemption is not extended to all hybrid vehicles, but only to those with a significant zero-emission range. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) fall under this category. Examples of PHEVs include the Toyota Prius Plug-in, Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in, and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

Motorcycles, Mopeds, and Bicycles

Vehicles with two wheels, namely motorcycles, mopeds, and bicycles, are also exempt from the congestion charge. They contribute to less congestion and lower CO2 emissions, and in the case of bicycles, they produce no emissions at all.

Changes to the Clean Vehicle Discount

While addressing the question of “which cars are exempt from congestion charge?” it is crucial to acknowledge changes to the Clean Vehicle Discount (CVD). The CVD, previously granting congestion charge exemptions to a wide variety of low-emission cars, has been restructured. As of 2021, only vehicles that meet the stricter ULEV definition qualify for the discount.

In Conclusion

If you’re a regular driver in central London, or any other UK city contemplating a congestion charge, choosing an eco-friendly vehicle could lead to substantial savings. However, the underlying objective is not just about cost-cutting. It’s about contributing to a greener, healthier environment for our urban landscapes.

As we address “which cars are exempt from congestion charge?” we realise it’s the vehicles that lean towards a sustainable future. Transitioning to these vehicles can be a challenging task, but the benefits to both your personal finances and our collective environment make the endeavour worthwhile.

Frequently Asked Questions

To further help understand the concept, here are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the congestion charge and its exemptions.

1. What is the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ)?
The Congestion Charge Zone is an area in Central London where vehicles are charged for driving, aiming to reduce traffic and pollution.

2. How can I check if a car is exempt from the congestion charge?
Use the online vehicle checker on the Transport for London website to check if a car is exempt from the charge.

3. Are all electric vehicles (EVs) exempt from the congestion charge?
Yes, all fully electric vehicles are exempt from the charge as they emit zero tailpipe emissions.

4. Are all hybrid vehicles exempt from the congestion charge?
No, only plug-in hybrid vehicles with a significant zero-emission range qualify for the exemption.

5. What is the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)?
The ULEZ is an area in London where most vehicles must meet stricter emission standards or pay a daily charge to travel. ULEZ operates 24/7, unlike the congestion charge.

6. Is the Congestion Charge applicable on weekends?
Yes, the Congestion Charge applies seven days a week from 07:00 to 22:00, excluding Christmas Day.

7. Does owning a congestion charge-exempt vehicle mean I am automatically registered for the discount?
No, you must register with Transport for London and pay a £10 registration fee to get the 100% discount, even if your vehicle is eligible.

8. What changes were made to the Clean Vehicle Discount in 2021?
The criteria became stricter. Now only vehicles that meet the tougher definition of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) are eligible for the discount.

9. Are motorcycles and mopeds exempt from the congestion charge?
Yes, motorcycles, mopeds, and bicycles are all exempt from the congestion charge.

10. Are there any plans to extend the Congestion Charge Zone?
Changes or expansions to the CCZ would be announced by Transport for London.


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