Do electric cars pay congestion charge?

 

Summary

In the UK, there are various ‘zones’ across the UK all aimed at reducing traffic and improving air quality. These include Clean Air Zones, Low Emission Zones, Ultra-Low Emission Zones and Congestion Charge Zones. Here’s how each zone differs from the other:

  • Clean Air Zone – an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality. When a vehicle enters or moves through a clean air zone, the charge depends on the type of vehicle.
  • Low Emission Zone – a defined area where access by some polluting vehicles is restricted or deterred to improve air quality. Favours electric, hybrid, hydrogen, and low or non-polluting vehicles.
  • Ultra-Low Emission Zone – an area in London where a fee is charged for driving the most polluting vehicles. It covers all parts of the city within the North and South circular roads.
  • Congestion Charge – a fee charged on most cars and motor vehicles driven into the congestion charge zone in Central London between 7 AM and 10 PM, 7 days a week. The area is roughly equivalent to Zone 1 on the tube map. The congestion charge costs £15 a day if you drive within the zone on any day, except Christmas Day.

Currently, electric vehicles that produce zero emissions are exempt from congestion charges across the capital. So you won’t need to pay the fee if you drive into a congestion zone in an electric car.

However, it’s important to note that EVs aren’t automatically exempt and you’ll still need to register your vehicle to receive the discount. EV drivers will need to pay the congestion charge until their application is approved. If you’re driving an EV on an elmo subscription, we’ll take care of the paperwork so you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Read on to find out more about the London Congestion Charge and other Clean Air Zones around the UK. 

What is the London Congestion Charge?

The London Congestion Charge is a fee for driving in central London at certain times of the day. The aim of the London Congestion Charge is to reduce traffic congestion and as a result, air pollution.

The Congestion Charge Zone approximately covers the area between Kings Cross to Vauxhall, and Paddington to Whitechapel. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras are used on all roads around the perimeter of the zone. You can view an interactive version of the map here.

Other cities in the UK also enforce Low Emission Zones, currently Glasgow, Birmingham and Bath. Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff, Aberdeen, Dundee, Newcastle, and Sheffield Councils are looking to introduce Zones in the near future.

London Congestion Charge Zone Map

How much is the Congestion Charge?

The London Congestion Charge is currently £15/day.

When does the Congestion Charge apply?

The charge applies seven days a week between 7:00 am and 18:00 pm Monday to Friday; and 12:00 to 18:00 Saturday to Sunday (and bank holidays).

There is no charge between 18:00 and 7:00 Monday to Friday, and 18:00 to 12:00 Saturday to Sunday (and bank holidays). There is also no charge on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day.

Who needs to pay the Congestion Charge?

You’ll need to pay the Congestion Charge if you drive a car in London with emission standards of during the times specified above:

  • Petrol: Euro 4 (NOx)
  • Diesel: Euro 6 (NOx and PM)

This will include most cars on the road, apart from electric, hydrogen and some plug-in hybrid models. If you’re driving a foreign-registered car, you’ll also need to pay the Congestion Charge or you could be fined. You can read in more detail about the emission standards here.

Excluding alternatively-fuelled vehicles, the following groups of people and vehicles are fully exempt from the Congestion Charge or eligible for a discount:

  • Residents of the Congestion Charge zone (90 per cent discount)
  • Blue Badge holders (fully exempt)
  • Accredited breakdown vehicles (fully exempt)
  • Vehicles with nine or more seats (fully exempt)
  • Motor tricycles less than one metre in width and two metres in length (fully exempt)
  • Roadside recovery vehicles (fully exempt)

Why are electric cars exempt?

As of January 2022, all fully electric vehicles are entirely exempt from congestion charge.

However, this may not always be the case since the Congestion Charge is constantly being revised to raise the standards. For example on 25th October 2021, hybrid vehicles – even plug-in hybrids able to run only on electric power for some distance – were no longer exempt. As from 25th December 2025, the entire Cleaner Vehicle Discount will be removed, so everyone will need to pay the charge — even electric vehicle drivers.

After 2025, the only vehicles still granted exemption from the charge will be accredited breakdown motors, motorbikes, mopeds, buses, vehicles of disabled drivers, and emergency vehicles.

Image showing congestion charge zone and ULEZ signs

The Cleaner Vehicle Discount: How to apply and when does it end?

Battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are eligible for the cleaner vehicle discount. However, from 25th December 2025, the cleaner vehicle discount will no longer be available. From that date, all vehicle owners will be required to pay to enter the Congestion Charge zone during charging hours (unless exempt).

You can apply for a discount online and you’ll need to supply the documents detailed below:

UK-registered

  • V5C vehicle registration certificate (logbook) issued by the DVLA

Non-UK registered

  • The vehicle registration document issued by your vehicle licensing agency

The document must clearly show that the vehicle is registered as fuel type ‘Battery Electric’ or ‘Hydrogen Fuel Cell’.

You can upload images of these documents as part of your online application, or you can send copies by post or email later on. Click here to find out more.

How much does the cleaner vehicle discount cost?

Each registration will cost £10 and will need to be renewed every year.

How to renew your cleaner vehicle discount

You’ll be notified when your discount is about to expire. You’ll then be able to renew it online once you’ve received the notification.

Please note that eligibility for the discount changed on 25 October 2021. If your vehicle does not meet the new eligibility criteria, then your discount expired on 24 October 2021.

Are there any other congestion charges in the UK?

Clean Air Zones operate in a number of cities around the UK. These were introduced in 2015 when the Government released plans to improve air quality across the UK using various measures, including the implementation of these Clean Air Zones (CAZ).

Any vehicle that does not meet the specified emission standards will need to pay a fee when operating within the boundaries of the CAZ.

In London, the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was introduced in October 2017 (originally as the London T-Charge) and charged drivers with higher-polluting vehicles in central London. ULEZ charges are £12.50 per day for non-compliant cars, motorcycles and vans, and £100 per day for heavier vehicles including lorries. This ULEZ was then extended to be 18 times larger than the original zone, including London boroughs from the South to North Circular roads. You can read about ULEZ exemptions here.

The London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) is in place to encourage cleaner driving in the larger London area. You can read more about LEZ charges here.

Some cities are also considering going one step further, with the introduction of Low Emission Zones or Zero Emission Zones which would see a complete ban of non-compliant vehicles.

How do Clean Air Zones work?

Clean Air Zones run 7 days a week, 24 hours a day and enforced using Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras. You can pay any required charges using the Government’s online portal.

Clean Air Zones also have discounts and exemptions (some permanent and others temporary) in place for some vehicle types. You’ll be able to find further information on these and any financial support available on your local authority site.

You can use the Government’s online portal to check whether you’ll need to pay any CAZ charges for your vehicle.

You can view an interactive map of Clean Air Zones in the UK from the BVRLA below:

Congestion charges and elmo subscribers

With an EV from elmo there’s no need to worry about the congestion charge, we’ll take care of everything. Of our London subscribers, the 60% who travel within a congestion charge zone are saving on average £270 a year on congestion charge fees. 

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