Clean Air Zones: What drivers need to know
Many cities are introducing Clean Air Zones to tackle pollution across the UK. Here we explain what they are and how private hire drivers are affected.
We take a look at what is happening in different areas, and where you can go for financial support if you want to avoid clean air charges and ultimately make the switch to electric vehicles.
The following information is correct at the time of writing on 16 August 2021.
What are Clean Air Zones?
Clean Air Zones (CAZs) are being rolled out in major cities across England and Scotland as councils try and improve the air quality in their local area. They work in a similar way to congestion charging – cars and other vehicles that are heavily polluting are charged when they enter certain zones, such as busy city centres.
There are other schemes to try and reduce pollution, such as London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone or ULEZ which was introduced in 2019.
Whether you’re charged to travel into a Clean Air Zone or not will depend on how much emissions your car produces, and the type of vehicle you have.
To avoid a charge, your vehicle must be at least a Euro 4 emission standard compliant petrol model (meaning it has to be registered after January 2006) or, if it’s a diesel, compliant with Euro 6 standards (registered after September 2015).
You can use the government’s online service to check or pay a CAZ charge in Bath and Birmingham, and in Portsmouth later this year. This only works if your vehicle was registered in the UK.
Charges have to be paid by 11:59pm on the sixth day after driving into the zone. You can pay up to six days before you travel. If you don’t pay the charge in time, you may get a penalty charge notice.
Where will Clean Air Zones come in, and when?
- Bath – live since March 2021
- Birmingham – live since June 2021
- Leicester – expected later this year
- Oxford – expected later this year
- Bristol – expected October 2021
- Portsmouth – expected November 2021
- Newcastle – expected later in 2021
- Sheffield – expected later in 2021
- Bradford – launches January 2022
- Manchester – expected Spring 2022
- Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen – expected between February and May 2022
What’s happening in different cities
The mayor is making changes to the Ultra-Low Emission Zone from 25 October 2021. The ULEZ will move beyond central London up to (but not including) the North Circular and South Circular roads. The area covered will be 18 times larger than it is now. If you’re in London, you can check if your vehicle is affected here.
Also from 25 October 2021, hybrid vehicles will no longer be exempt from the congestion charge.
Uber wants to be a fully electric platform in London by 2025, and across the UK by 2030. Under its Clean Air Plan, riders in London are charged 3p a mile for every trip. The money will go towards helping drivers upgrade to an electric vehicle and ongoing maintenance costs.
Daily cost: £12.50 for most vehicle types including cars, motorcycles and vans (up to and including 3.5 tonnes)
Bath saw the first Clean Air Zone outside of London. It covers Bath city centre, Kingsmead, Walcot, Bathwick and the Royal Victoria Park.
Daily cost: £9
After a delay due to Covid-19, Birmingham’s CAZ will span all roads within Birmingham’s A4540 Middleway Ring Road, but not the ring road itself. Disabled passenger tax class vehicles are automatically exempt, though this doesn’t include blue badge holders.
Daily cost: £8
Cameras have started to be installed which will automatically recognise number plates and whether vehicles need to pay the CAZ charge. The planned zone will run from where the M275 meets the city, down Kingston Road and Fratton Road to Gunwharf Quays and back up to the M275, including Portsmouth University, the main shopping centre and the harbour.
Daily cost: £10
Bradford’s CAZ will cover the area inside and including the Bradford outer ring road. It will also extend out along the Aire valley corridor (Manningham Lane/Bradford Road and Canal Road area) to include Shipley and Saltaire.
Earlier this year hundreds of Bradford taxi drivers went on strike protesting the congestion charge and the CAZ plans. Drivers have been encouraged to apply for grants worth up to £5,000 for those with wheelchair accessible vehicles and up to £3,200 for private hire drivers to switch to electric, hybrid or low polluting vehicles. The CAZ is planned to launch on 5 January 2022.
Daily cost: £12.50
If you need support
There are a number of places you can go if you’d like more info about avoiding CAZ charges and choosing a cleaner vehicle:
- Uber – upgrading to an electric vehicle
- The Office for Zero Emission Vehicles, which offers a range of grants
- The Go Ultra Low Campaign for information about electric vehicles and grants
- The Clean Air Fund, for support for individuals and businesses including vehicle upgrades – speak to your local council
A number of councils are also offering their own financial support and incentive schemes, such as Bath, Bradford, Birmingham and Portsmouth.
For more on going electric, take a look at our list of the best electric cars for Uber drivers.
At INSHUR, we help our drivers stay on top of things. To get your private hire insurance sorted quickly, check out our coverage options today.