Transport for London introducing vehicle scrappage scheme as ULEZ expands this summer

  • The Ultra Low Emission Zone will expand across all London boroughs from 29th August 2023
  • Eligible Londoners can qualify for a new, TfL-backed vehicle scrappage scheme
  • £110m has been set aside for the scheme by London Mayor Sadiq Khan

As part of ongoing efforts to improve air quality and health in the nation’s capital, the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which has been in place since 2019, is expanding this year.

The ULEZ initially covered the same area as the Congestion Charge zone, which was introduced back in 2003 under then-Mayor Ken Livingston.

It was first expanded in October 2021 to reach to the perimeter of the North and South Circular roads, incorporating many inner London boroughs. The planned August 2023 expansion will see the ULEZ cover all London boroughs, an area of almost 600 square miles.

ULEZ expansion map of current and future boundaries
A map of the current and future ULEZ boundaries, from tfl.gov.uk

£110m scrappage scheme

To encourage owners of vehicles that don’t meet the emissions standards to change their transport options and to support with the cost of this, a new scrappage scheme is being introduced.  

The new scheme is available to Londoners who meet particular criteria, such as being on a low income or disability benefits.

This scrappage scheme has some key differences to previous schemes. Firstly, it’s not purely about scrapping vehicles – applicants can get a grant to retrofit their vehicle to meet the ULEZ standard.

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Secondly, micro businesses (defined as having 10 or fewer employees), as well as charities and sole traders with a registered address in London, may also qualify for the scheme. These organisations can get grants for scrapping or retrofitting vans and minibuses.

TfL has negotiated a range of support offers with other providers, available for successful applicants to the scrappage scheme. These include discounts on bike, e-bike and e-scooter hire, credits against vehicle rental, and support with new vehicle finance.

Why is the ULEZ expanding?

Improving air quality in built-up areas has been on local and national authorities’ agendas for many years. Air pollution is shown to contribute to illnesses such as cancer, asthma and lung disease.

While vehicle emissions form only a small part of the pollutants affecting people’s health in general, in London they account for almost half of city-wide air pollution, including nitrogen oxides and particles.

TfL have said that the intention in expanding the ULEZ is to ensure that greater London air quality improves, stating that ‘the greatest number of deaths related to air pollution occur in outer London areas’[i].

Opposition to the ULEZ expansion

A number of London authorities are opposing the plans to expand the ULEZ, citing the impact on businesses and residents.

Harrow, Hillingdon, Croydon, Bromley, Bexley and Havering have all stated their opposition to the expansion. These outlying boroughs of Greater London have expressed concerns about the timing of the change, due to the cost of living crisis. Some have questioned whether the current emissions standards for the ULEZ will stay consistent, or if currently compliant vehicles could find themselves out of favour in the future.

Five other boroughs – Richmond, Kingston, Sutton, Barking & Dagenham, and Redbridge – have said they have concerns or have called for the ULEZ expansion to be delayed, but are not opposing the expansion completely.

Are classic vehicles exempt from the ULEZ charge?

Apart from the vehicles that meet the ULEZ emissions standard, there are quite a few types of vehicles that are currently exempt from paying a charge for driving in the ULEZ.

Historic vehicles, aka classics, are exempt if they are historic vehicle tax registered and not being used for commercial purposes. The historic vehicle tax exemption applies to cars registered 40 years ago or more.

Also exempt from paying the ULEZ charge are:

  • taxis (subject to some restrictions)
  • vehicles for the disabled (this exemption expires in 2025)
  • private hire vehicles in certain circumstances
  • agricultural vehicles
  • military vehicles
  • mobile cranes (most but not all)
  • some non-road vehicles e.g. excavators
  • non-for-profit minibuses (up to October 2023 and subject to conditions)
  • showman’s vehicles (subject to specifics found on the TfL website)

What does it cost to drive in the ULEZ?

The current daily charge for driving a non-compliant car, small van, or motorbike in the ULEZ is £12.50. This applies to any vehicle under 3.5 tonnes that isn’t exempt from the charge.

If you are driving a heavier vehicle like a lorry or coach, over 5 tonnes, the ULEZ charge is £100 per day.

Charges apply 24/7, every day except Christmas Day.

How many cars are already exempt from the ULEZ charges?

Transport for London (TfL) report that more than 4 out of 5 vehicles already meet the ULEZ emissions standards.

Relatively new vehicles tend to be exempt due to stricter emissions standards, and all hybrid and electric vehicles are also exempt from the charge.

Are you affected by the planned expansion of the ULEZ? We’d love to hear your views.

Send us a message below and we may contact you to see if you’d like your comments featured in a follow-up piece.