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Low Emission Zones: What Are They & How Do They Work?

Electric vehicles are not the only means that the UK has taken to battle the effects of pollution and climate change. As well as the increasing number of EVs on our roads, the low emission zone is becoming more widespread in towns and cities nationwide. 

The team at RAW Charging have compiled an easy-to-follow guide on the different low emission zones, where they are, and why they exist. 


What is a low emission zone? 

The low emission zone is a scheme (typically run in cities) to tackle the impact of air pollution. Low emission zones (or LEZ) do this by charging certain types of vehicles to enter a specific zone. They operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year, and drivers will incur a charge should the vehicle fail to meet the minimum emissions standard for that particular zone. 

By reducing the number of vehicles producing more pollution, overall air quality in these designated zones will be improved, and those who fail to pay the specified charge risk potentially serious financial penalties. 


The different types of low emission zones.

There are three variations of low emissions zones that you will find across many urban areas in the United Kingdom. These zones impose different regulations depending on the area. 


Low Emission Zones (LEZ)

A low emission zone limits emissions from vehicles within a specific area. These zones impose regulations that generally target older, more heavily polluting vehicles. 

Though access to these areas is not prohibited for these vehicle criteria, the restrictions will mean drivers are subject to charges if their vehicle fails to meet the stipulated emission standards.


Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)

The ultra low emission zone imposes stricter regulations than your typical LEZ. Specific criteria are needed for certain vehicles to enter designated zones, and steeper charges will apply to cars that fail to meet emission standards.


Clean Air Zone (CAZ)

Clean air zones are areas where you will incur penalty schemes for vehicles that fail to meet the specified emission standards. By stipulating which vehicles must pay a charge (and encouraging the uptake of EVs), significant measures are taken towards improving the air quality within that zone. 


Where are low emission zones in the UK?

You will find low emission zones in the following locations: 

  • Aberdeen
  • Bath
  • Birmingham
  • Bradford
  • Brighton 
  • Bristol
  • Dundee
  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow
  • London
  • Newcastle
  • Norwich
  • Nottingham
  • Oxford
  • Portsmouth

Why do low emission zones exist?

As touched upon earlier, LEZs are introduced to lower pollution and improve the air quality of urban areas. However, there are specific reasons behind their creation and implementation. 


Public health.

Poor air quality in towns and cities has resulted in health concerns, particularly respiratory diseases and other problems. Not only will a LEZ aim to reduce pollution and the subsequent air risks, but it will also encourage the public to take up more active modes of travel (such as cycling) within these zones. 


National and international regulations.

The UK government must legally adhere to nationally and internationally imposed air quality standards. By creating these zones across the United Kingdom, the government will meet the stipulated criteria and avoid hefty fines related to non-compliance. 


Environmental sustainability.

Specific sustainability goals are outlined to improve air quality and decrease the environmental impact of ICE vehicles (Internal Combustion Engines). 

Low emission zones present a significant step towards reaching these goals, reducing the emissions of greenhouse gas and encouraging an uptake in EVs and cleaner transport options.


For more articles on sustainability and the EV network, browse the RAW Charging news page.