Will London’s drivers go electric now the ULEZ has expanded?

Firstly, what is ULEZ and when did it expand?

London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone is an area in London where the most polluting vehicles are charged for using the roads. Designed to improve air quality, it was first introduced back in 2019 to cover the same geographical area as the London Congestion Zone.

But on October 25th 2021 this zone expanded. It is now 18 times larger, covering the entire area of London within the North and South Circular roads. That’s everywhere between Ealing and East Ham (West to East); and Tottenham and Dulwich (North to South).

Who does this impact?

If you own a pre-2005 petrol or pre-2016 diesel vehicle then your car will likely not meet emissions standards. This means that every time you cross the new boundary, you’ll have to pay a daily charge of £12.50. Motorists that fail to pay will be hit with a £160 fine.

Use TfL’s number-plate checker to see if your vehicle is liable.

Let’s put this new charge into perspective…

If you own a non-compliant car and drive it once a week into the zone, it will cost you £650 a year; and if you drive it four times a week, £2,600 a year. Ouch.

(Caura, a vehicle management app, predicts that ULEZ expansion fines could top £864m in the first six months as a result.)

How many drivers are affected? 

Out of 2.6m London-based cars, 565,000 are non-compliant, according to Caura. It will therefore affect one in every 4.6 London cars.

How will motorists respond?

Well, there will be some who barely use their car so will be happy to pay every now and then. Others may simply scrap their vehicle altogether in favour of public transport. While others might look to switch their car to an electric or a compliant petrol / diesel.

Could the ULEZ expansion accelerate EV adoption?

The UK government deliberately telegraphed October 25th as the expansion date years ago to give Londoners plenty of time to consider their options.

The government clearly wants to use the expansion as a springboard to encourage more people to make the switch to an EV. That is why they have installed more than 2,000 new charging points over the last year. (There are now more than 7,000 charging points within the M25 boundary in total, including a new “rapid” charging hub that opened in Woolwich last month.)

And, over the past year, demand for electric cars has increased by more than 30% according to the London Evening Standard, which suggests the expansion is influencing EV uptake.

But what about those still on the fence?

For those still unsure about whether to go electric or not, if they can afford the higher upfront cost of an EV (but cheaper running costs), the prospect of incurring a daily charge might just tip them over the electric edge.

But so far, the data doesn’t support this, and several problems remain for EVs to go mainstream.

First, as you don’t need to own a hybrid or electric vehicle to comply with the ULEZ emission rules, many will opt for the cheaper upfront cost of a second-hand compliant petrol or diesel car. Auto Trader data shows that there is high demand in the used car market right now with compliant ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars all continuing to increase in price.

Second, it seems that comparatively high upfront cost of an electric continues to prove a massive barrier for the less wealthy. Auto Trader found that interest in EVs is coming, almost exclusively, from wealthier postcodes. For lower income earners then, a compliant ICE is a more likely choice than switching to an EV.

Third, following the disruption of manufacturer supply chains by the global semiconductor shortage, drivers who do decide to make the switch to electric are currently faced with waiting lists of up to a year on desirable models of EV. So, for motorists who want to switch now, to avoid the daily £12.50 ULEZ charge, an EV might not even be possible.

Is there a solution?

Clearly, mass-adoption of EVs is a complex issue and will not (unfortunately) be solved overnight. At elmo, we’re trying to do our bit to help. We believe that new technology should benefit everyone. That’s why we make it easy for people to switch to an electric car by offering it on a monthly subscription. You can have the car for as long as you need, with no deposit and no long contractual commitment. Insurance, maintenance & servicing, breakdown cover and more are all organised for you and included in the monthly payment.

Try our Suitability Tool to see which electric cars could fit your lifestyle and then check out our available subscription cars. 

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