Low emission zone sign

What is the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and what will it mean for disabled motorists or Motability Scheme vehicles?

The ULEZ is an area of central London within which all cars, motorcycles, vans, minibuses, buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) will need to meet exhaust emission standards (ULEZ standards) or pay a daily charge to travel.


The ULEZ will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week within the same area as the current Congestion Charging Zone (CCZ). The start date for the ULEZ is planned for September 2020 however, there is currently a consultation taking place to bring the start date forward to 8th April 2019. This is approximately 17 months earlier than originally planned. In addition, the government is also consulting on whether to strengthen the emissions standard to also cover Particulate Matter (PM) emissions from diesel vehicles. This consultation closes on the 25th June 2017 and the results of the consultation are expected later this summer.

Why is the ULEZ needed?

It is estimated that the equivalent of 9,400 premature deaths occur each year in London due to illnesses caused by long-term exposure to air pollution and 448 schools in London are in areas exceeding legal air quality levels. Diesel vehicles are recognised as a major contributor to pollution and associated health impacts in London.

How can I find out if my vehicle meets the ULEZ standards?

The currently agreed ULEZ standards for vehicles are that cars and small vans will need to be Euro 6 Compliant for diesel engines engines (registered from September 1, 2015 so five years old or less in 2020) and Euro 4 compliant for petrol engines (registered from January 1, 2006 so 14 years old or less in 2020). Non-compliant vehicles could still drive in the zone but they will be required to pay a daily charge of £12.50.

Large vans and minibuses to be Euro 6 compliant for diesel engines (registered from September 1, 2016 so four years old or less in 2020) and Euro 4 compliant for petrol engines (registered from January 1, 2007 so 13 years old or less in 2020). Non-compliant vehicles will be required to pay a daily charge of £12.50.

If the ULEZ start date is brought forward to April 2019 the standards will remain the same.

The simplest way to check your vehicle is by visiting the Transport for London (TFL) website.

Will the ULEZ affect Motability Scheme vehicles?

Standard cars leased for three years

Overall it is very unlikely that Scheme customers would be affected by the ULEZ. This is because most Motability Scheme cars are brand new vehicles leased for three years, so these, whether they are diesel or petrol vehicles, will be compliant by the time the ULEZ comes into force in 2020 or 2019 if the date is brought forward.

WAVs and cars with extensive adaptations or low mileage

Wheelchairs Accessible Vehicle (WAV) customers who lease their vehicle for five years or more and car customers with certain adaptations fitted to the car or with a very low mileage at the end of the lease can opt to extend their lease to five or even seven years. These customers will also be unaffected. This is because vehicles that have a ‘disabled’ or ‘disabled passenger vehicle’ tax class (‘disabled exemption’) will be granted a three-year sunset period with a 100% discount, up until 6 September 2023.

This means that a diesel vehicle purchased prior to 1 September 2015 will still be exempt from the charge until 2023. Therefore, a vehicle leased in 2014 with a seven year lease would not have to pay the ULEZ charge because of the sunset period extension.

If the government decides to bring the ULEZ start date forward to April 2019 then the sunset period will start from then. Therefore, if the ULEZ was to start on 8 April 2019 then the end of the sunset period would also be brought forward by 17 months, and end in April 2022. However, this should not affect many Motability customers as the majority of vehicles leased before 1 September 2015 should already have been replaced by the end of the new sunset period in 2022.

Overall it seems that because most Motability Scheme vehicles are less than seven years old it is very unlikely that many customers will be affected by the ULEZ even if it is brought in early.

Read the eligibility criteria for the disabled exemption on Gov.uk.

Cars which do not have VED exemption

Scheme customers who are using their tax exemption on another vehicle or have left the Scheme and purchased their ex-Motability Scheme vehicle should be aware that if the car does not use a VED exemption, they will have to pay the ULEZ in 2020 (or 2019 if the decision is made to bring it in earlier) if their vehicle is not compliant. If they are VED exempt it will not apply until 2023 (or 2022).

Will the ULEZ affect non-Motability Scheme vehicles?

Unlike the congestion charge zone Blue Badge holders will not be exempt and will be required to meet the new ULEZ emission standards unless the vehicle has a ‘disabled’ or ‘disabled passenger vehicle’ tax class.

Anyone who is worried that their vehicle is going to make them liable because of the age of the vehicle or a change in circumstances should check online by visiting the TFL website.

Please note, details included in this article are correct as of June 2017 but can be changed at any time by the relevant local authority.

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The Motability Scheme enables disabled people and their families to access a brand new car or scooter, by exchanging their mobility allowance to lease the vehicle of their choice. Find out more:

Get a free information pack

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