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What does the Ultra-Low Emission Zone mean to van drivers?

  • Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) set for 2020 introduction
  • All diesel vehicles must comply to Euro-6 by this date
  • Electric vehicles are, obviously, exempt

Written by Liam Campbell Published: 20 October 2014 Updated: 6 March 2015

Plans for an Ultra-Low Emission Zone have been in the mix for some time now, but it’s only recently that more precise details of the scheme have started to emerge. In this article we’ll dispel the myths and shed light on the issue, interpreting what it means for van buyers and users.


By 2020, Boris Johnson wants to have the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone up and running in our nation’s capital. The reasons behind such a scheme are pretty obvious, with London’s air quality ranking among the worst in Europe and the EU launching a legal battle against the UK for failing to meet its air pollution directive.

Diesel vehicles are widely viewed as the scapegoat in the latest pollution row as it was Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), a by-product of diesel engines, where the UK breached the EU directive. As a result, Johnson plans to charge diesel vehicles, including vans, more money to enter the centre of the city if they don’t comply with Euro 6 emission standards.

Euro 6 is the upcoming emission standard and will be mandatory for all type approved vehicles from September 2015. It specifically targets Nitorgen Dioxide, requiring more than a 50% reduction in these emissions compared to the current Euro 5 levels.

Precise Charge

A ballpark figure of £10 has been thrown around by a number of media outlets, on top of the current £11.50 congestion charge, but the Mayor’s office is yet to release an official figure.

“The precise charges that will apply are still subject to consultation”, said a spokesperson for Boris Johnson.

“In the Low Emission Zone there is a graduated charging system for different types of vehicles whereby HGVs pay more than vans, so something like this may be adopted for ULEZ. More detail will be published later this year”.

His spokesperson also emphasised that the fine was not specifically for diesels, and that certain petrols would also be fined.

“The ULEZ will apply to all vehicles. Standards are tailored to the specific types of vehicle – so buses must be at least hybrid, HGVs will have to be Euro 6 as they are all diesel, vans and cars will have to be Euro 6 if diesel and Euro 4 if petrol”.

Boundary and operating hours

The current Congestion Zone would form the boundary of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone under the plans, which stretches from Pentonville Road in Finsbury in the north to Kennington Lane in the south, across from Old Marylebone Road in the west, to Commercial Road in Spitalfields in the east.

Currently 619,000 vans enter the area each year and the two current proposals for the operating hours follow the Congestion Zone times (Monday to Friday, 7am until 6pm) or the Low Emission Zone times (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

Buyer’s considerations

Euro 6 (2015) will have been a mandatory requirement for new vans for five years when the plans are due to be implemented in 2020. So it won’t affect as many operators as the media is making out, though that does depend entirely on what type of vans are bought and how frequently they’re replaced. 

If you do change your van for a new one every five years or less, then this piece of legislation shouldn’t affect you. However, swap less frequently than every five years, or purchase from the second hand market, and you may have to be slightly savvier next time around.

For second hand buyers, you should try and time your purchase to just before the 2020 deadline, as there will be an influx of three and four year old ex-fleet, contract hire and lease vans hitting the used market, which will be compliant with Euro-6.

Or perhaps this latest proposal has convinced you combustion engines have no future in the urban environment, perhaps it’s led you to consider alternative forms of propulsion like petrol, or the latest electric offerings like the Nissan e-NV200 and the Renault Kangoo ZE.