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Inside track: Clean air zones

The UK is seeing a significant push around the introduction of clean air zones, with cities such as Birmingham expected to have them in place by July 2020. The Government has in fact mandated certain cities to introduce the zones, including Birmingham and Leeds. 

Clean air zones are areas where significant action has been taken to reduce air pollution and improve air quality, by attempting to discourage the use of vehicles – particularly those that are older and therefore more polluting. Whilst in many areas domestic vehicles will be exempt, this leaves business vehicles, private hire vehicles, buses and coaches to be impacted. Daily charges are likely to be in place, in addition to penalties for failing to pay which will mean a significant cost for businesses. 

Low Emission Zone

What vehicles will be affected?

There are four different classes of clean air zone and the local authority in question can decide which one to introduce. 

  1. Class A: Buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles
  2. Class B: Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs and HGVs
  3. Class C: Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs and light goods vehicles (LGVs)
  4. Class D: Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs, LGVs and cars 

Exemptions have been agreed for some commercial vehicles in Birmingham for example, with no charges for one year for those registered within the zone. Grants to help hauliers will also be made available. More information can be found on the council’s website for any impacted city.

What will the clean air zone charges be?

Whilst charging is not compulsory, the local authority in question will impose a charge of their choice at a level that will reduce pollution, not one that will generate revenue beyond allowing them to recover outgoing costs of implementing the zones. 

Fees are expected to be around £8 for cars and £50 for buses and HGVs driving through city centres, with fines of £150 for non-payment.

What criteria do vehicles need to meet to avoid paying a clean air zone charge?

Taxis, cars and vans must meet the following standards depending on the fuel type: 

  • Diesel – Euro 6 (VI) standard of better (most new registrations after 1 September 2015)
  • Petrol or LPG added to original petrol engine – Euro 4 standard or better (most new registrations after 1 January 2006)
  • Gas – Euro 6 (VI) standard or better
  • Fully electric or hydrogen fuel cell – all are compliant and will not have to pay charges
  • Hybrid electric – the petrol/diesel engine must meet the relevant criteria 

If a vehicle does not meet the specified criteria, they can be made compliant by fitting a retrofit technology

HGVs and coach fleets must meet the following standards depending on the fuel type: 

  • Diesel – Euro 6 (VI) standard or better (most new registrations after 1 September 2015)
  • Petrol or LPG added to original petrol engine – Euro 4 standard or better (most new registrations after January 2006)
  • Gas – Euro 6 (VI) standard or better
  • Fully electric or hydrogen fuel cell – all are compliant and will not have to pay charges
  • Hybrid electric – the petrol/diesel engine must meet the relevant criteria 

Again, if a vehicle does not meet the criteria above, they can be made compliant with the retrofit technology. 

If your business is set to be impacted by the introduction of the clean air zones and you want to look at how you can upgrade your vehicles to meet the standards, visit our commercial vehicles page. Our team of specialists will be happy to help and assist you in the various finance options available for new vehicles.

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