Ultra Low Emissions Zones

By now, you’re probably at least passingly familiar with the concept of London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone, but if you need a quick recap, it’s essentially a designated area in London where a fee is charged for driving the most polluting vehicles. These tend to be older cars and vans, whose engines won’t have been made to the environmental standard the industry expects today.  The overall aim is to improve air quality in the city, which has been a serious (and growing) problem for London for years.

Various cities have their own Low Emissions Zones, but as the name suggests, London’s remains the most ambitious by far. So if you’re thinking about buying a second-hand car from one of our online car auctions here at RAW2K, or indeed from any other sources, it’s worth staying up to speed on what’s next for the scheme!

The next stage of expansion for the ULEZ

One of the most central (and controversial) principles of the ULEZ is the daily charge; anyone who drives a vehicle in London that doesn’t meet the emissions standards will have to pay £12.50 a day to drive it.

As things stand, Transport for London has estimated that on an average day, about 160,000 cars and about 42,000 vans that use London’s roads would be liable for the fee. (It’s worth noting though that drivers aren’t charged if they’re parked up – the cameras have to catch them in motion.)

Right now, the scheme is limited to all areas within the North and South Circular roads, but it’s due to expand on August 29th to cover the whole of London. Preparations are already underway – about 2570 automatic number plate recognition cameras are being installed across London, with 300 already in place at the time of writing.

If the plans do end up going ahead, then that would mean the ULEZ covers the same area as the current (slightly less stringent) Low Emissions Zone, which runs up to the Kent border and into Essex. However, that’s not necessarily guaranteed, as the plans remain highly controversial in several areas. 

What are the challenges to the ULEZ?

To be honest, quite a few. It’s unpopular with drivers for obvious reasons – the long-term goal is to make it uneconomical to own older and more polluting cars, therefore encouraging driver to upgrade to newer and cleaner ones. But not everyone is in a position to immediately do that, which means that lots of drivers have to endure mounting costs in the meantime. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there have been several large scale protests against the ULEZ already.

There are administrative objections, too. Five councils have won the first stage of a legal challenge against the plans, including Bexley, Bromley, Harrow, Hillingdon and Surrey County Council. They’re arguing the case on five separate points – three of these have already been thrown out, but two stand. They’re alleging that there was a failure to follow statutory procedures and a failure to consider the potential for inclusion of non-Londoners in the project's £110m scrappage scheme. The court date is scheduled for July.

There’s even been pressure from the Prime Minister, who has called on Sadiq Khan to scrap the plans after strong objections from Conservative MPs. In the meantime, some of the cameras that have already been installed have been vandalised, with pictures circulating on social media showing that the wires of some cameras in Masons Hill have been cut.

Mr Khan appears to be standing firm though, and has described the legal challenges as a waste of taxpayer money – so it remains to be seen whether or not the plans will go ahead.

If you’re planning to drive in London at any point in 2023, then, it’s best to check beforehand whether your vehicle will be charged – especially if you’ve bought it second-hand from one of our online car auctions. Don’t let that put you off buying though – there are plenty of great deals to be had, and no shortage of newer accident-damaged vehicles that only need minor repairs before they can be put back on the roads (Low Emission ones or otherwise).

We’ve got a huge range of salvage cars to choose from in our online car auctions, including many from world-famous brands like Mercedes, Citroen, and Peugeot. Our auctions are refreshed on a daily and weekly basis, so there are always bargains to be found. Why not take a look around, and see what you can find?