ULEZ expansion: What is the ULEZ, when is it being expanded, and is my car compliant?

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
The ULEZ expanded on August 29 2023, meaning all of London’s boroughs have been incorporated into the scheme. Here’s what you need to know.

In November 2022, the London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced he would be expanding the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to cover the whole of greater London this August.

Previously extending to the North and South Circular roads, the zone acts as an incentive to upgrade older, more polluting vehicles in an attempt to clean up the capital’s air.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Most of those driving non-compliant vehicles in the ULEZ, with a few exemptions, are liable to pay a £12.50 daily charge.

Charities, businesses and residents in outer London boroughs due to be incorporated into the expanded zone have raised concerns about whether they will be able to afford the new cost. However, environmental campaigners, doctors and other concerned parties have supported the mayor’s decision, arguing it is essential to reduce air pollution in London.

Below, we run through what the ULEZ is, why it is being expanded, and what support is available to those having to upgrade their vehicles.

When was the ULEZ expanded?

The ULEZ was expanded on August 29. A High Court challenge launched by five Conservative councils had threatened to delay its introduction. However, in late July, the judge found in-favour of Mr Khan and TfL, meaning the expansion could go ahead as planned.

For more on the High Court case, see below.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
A map of the planned ULEZ expansion. Credit: TfL/Google. A map of the planned ULEZ expansion. Credit: TfL/Google.
A map of the planned ULEZ expansion. Credit: TfL/Google. | TfL/Google

Why is the ULEZ being expanded?

Mr Khan has consistently stated the ULEZ expansion is necessary to clean up London’s air, and that the decision was not easy, “but it was necessary”.

Explaining the move, a spokesperson for the mayor previously told LondonWorld: “Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year due to toxic air, children are growing up with stunted lungs and thousands of people in our city are developing life-changing illnesses, such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma.”

However, the effectiveness of the ULEZ expansion has been queried by opposing groups. Many point to an independent Integrated Impact Assessment (IIA) report compiled for the mayor by Jacobs, which found the scheme is estimated to have a minor impact on nitrogen dioxide exposure (NO2), and a negligible impact on PM2.5, a fine particulate which causes damage to lungs.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In a Transport for London (TfL) report on the assessment, it is pointed out that while the ULEZ expansion will in some cases make minor or negligible improvements, in absolute terms, the impact will be notable.

For example, it states that although the impact on carbon emissions is assessed as negligible, “this equates to a saving of 27,000 tonnes of CO2 saved in outer London, which is a comparatively larger saving than we have seen with other similar policy interventions. It is nearly double that which the central London ULEZ achieved in its first year of operation.”

Various groups, such as charities, businesses and local residents, have also raised concerns about the cost implications. To try and mitigate some of those pressures, the mayor launched his £110m scrappage scheme, later extended to £160m, earlier this year.

Demonstrators hold placards against London mayor Sadiq Khan and chant slogans during a rally to protest against the expansion of the ULEZ in London. Credit: Henry Nicholls/AFP via Getty Images.Demonstrators hold placards against London mayor Sadiq Khan and chant slogans during a rally to protest against the expansion of the ULEZ in London. Credit: Henry Nicholls/AFP via Getty Images.
Demonstrators hold placards against London mayor Sadiq Khan and chant slogans during a rally to protest against the expansion of the ULEZ in London. Credit: Henry Nicholls/AFP via Getty Images. | AFP via Getty Images

What vehicles are compliant?

The ULEZ standards for vehicles are:

  • Euro 3 for motorcycles, mopeds, motorised tricycles and quadricycles, 
  • Euro 4 (NOx) for petrol cars, vans and minibuses, 
  • and Euro 6 (NOx and PM) for diesel cars, vans and minibuses.

Most drivers of vehicles which are non-compliant will be liable to pay the £12.50 daily charge.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

How many vehicles in outer London are already compliant?

Mr Khan and TfL have said nine in ten cars seen driving in outer London are already compliant with the ULEZ standards.

However, separate data analysing the number of vehicles registered to outer London properties found some boroughs, such as Harrow and Sutton, record 83% of vehicles as compliant.

The mayor and TfL argue their figures, which are collected using automatic numberplate reading (ANPR) cameras, is a more accurate measure of how many vehicles are likely to have to pay the charge.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Credit: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Pride In London.Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Credit: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Pride In London.
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Credit: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Pride In London. | Getty Images for Pride In London

What support is available?

As mentioned above, the mayor earlier this year launched the ULEZ scrappage scheme intended to mitigate some of the impacts of the expansion.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

While initially limited to those who met a certain set of criteria, the scheme was most recently expanded in August to include all Londoners with non-compliant cars or motorbikes. Increased grants were also announced for groups including small businesses and charities.

For cars, motorbikes and wheelchair accessible vehicles, eligible applicants can received the following grants:

  • Scrap a car - £2,000
  • Scrap a car - £1,600 plus one adult-rate Annual Bus & Tram Pass
  • Scrap a car - £1,200 plus two adult-rate Annual Bus & Tram Passes
  • Scrap a motorcycle - £1,000
  • Scrap a motorcycle - £600 plus one adult-rate Annual Bus & Tram Pass
  • Scrap a motorcycle - £200 plus two adult-rate Annual Bus & Tram Passes
  • Scrap a wheelchair accessible vehicle (car or van) - £10,000
  • Retrofit a wheelchair accessible vehicle (van only) - £6,000

And for vans and minibuses:

  • Scrap a van - £7,000
  • Scrap a minibus - £9,000
  • Retrofit a van - £6,000
  • Retrofit a minibus - £6,000
  • Scrap a van and replace with an electric van - £9,500
  • Scrap a minibus and replace with an electric minibus - £11,500

Small businesses and sole traders can also receive up to £21,000 to scrap up to three vans, and charities are able to receive up to £27,000 in grants to scrap up to three minibuses.

For more information on who is eligible and how to apply, see our piece on the scrappage scheme here.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The ULEZ High Court case

On July 4 and July 5, a judicial review was heard in the High Court after five Conservative councils challenged the ULEZ expansion on three legal grounds.

These were:

  • A failure to comply with the correct statutory requirements, with the scheme to have been launched as a separate legal entity rather than a variation of the current one, 
  • that it was unlawful due to consultation materials being unclear,
  • and that it was unlawful due to a lack of consideration of the inclusion of non-Londoners in the scrappage scheme.
Five Conservative councils have taken the mayor and TfL to court over the planned ULEZ expansion. Credit: Ben Lynch.Five Conservative councils have taken the mayor and TfL to court over the planned ULEZ expansion. Credit: Ben Lynch.
Five Conservative councils have taken the mayor and TfL to court over the planned ULEZ expansion. Credit: Ben Lynch. | Ben Lynch

The two-day hearing ended with the judge, Mr Justice Swift, saying he understands this is a case where it will be “better to judge it sooner rather than later”, and that he intends on making a decision by the end of July.

On July 28, the judge announced he had ruled in-favour of the the mayor and TfL, giving the all-clear for the ULEZ to be expanded as planned.

Responding to the ruling, Mr Khan said: “This unambiguous decision today in the High Court allows us to press on with the difficult but vital task of cleaning up London’s air and tackling the climate crisis.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.