All cars that emit more than 75g/km of CO2 must pay a congestion charge when driving in central London. Fully electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell cars are exempt from this charge, along with a number of efficient hybrids. Read on for our full list of cars that qualify to drive through London for free. It’s worth remembering that the city’s rules change over time so a car that just clinches exemption now might not 10 years down the line.
Buy one of the models below and you can drive into London’s city centre for free – with the added benefits of zero road tax, low BIK tax for business users, easier parking and, of course, low running costs. Try out the new car deals page to browse the best offers on these cars from our network of trusted dealers or use our helpful PCP calculator to get a better idea how much your new car could cost.
Be aware, you must register your car with Transport for London before you are exempt from the congestion charge.
Popular congestion charge-free cars
Here are 10 of the most popular congestion charge-free cars on sale:
- Audi A3 e-tron
- BMW i3
- Volvo XC90 T8
- Renault Zoe
- Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
- Nissan Leaf
- VW e-Golf
- Toyota Prius
- Mercedes S500 Plug-in Hybrid
- Tesla Model S
Full list of congestion charge-free cars
Audi A3 e-tron
The Audi A3 e-tron is a contender for ‘the only car you’ll ever need’. It’s classy inside and out, almost hot-hatch quick, reasonably practical, very desirable and incredibly efficient. The combination of Audi’s smooth and powerful 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor means the A3 e-tron excels in both performance and efficiency. It’s yours from £30,690 when you take into account the government grant.
Audi Q7 e-tron
The Audi Q7 SUV has received a hybrid makeover to become the Q7 e-tron – a £64,950 high-riding off-roader than can cruise in silence thanks to its electric motors yet sprint from 0-62mph in a sports-car rivalling six seconds. It boasts the same exquisite interior and stylish exterior as the standard Q7 SUV but should prove significantly cheaper to run than its petrol or diesel siblings.
BMW 2 Series Active Tourer hybrid
The hybrid version of BMW’s practical 2 Series Active Tourer MPV can travel as far as 25 miles in fully electric mode. The £35,005 Active Tourer hybrid boasts an excellent interior, typically solid BMW build quality and a spacious 400-litre boot. Thanks to its well balanced chassis – it uses a platform shared with the Mini Clubman – it’s good fun to drive, too.
BMW 3 Series hybrid
Not only does the BMW 3 Series offer class-leading handling and decent value for money but it’s also available as a hybrid. The combination of an efficient 2.0-litre petrol engine and powerful electric motor allows this practical saloon to emit as little as 44g/km of CO2 yet complete the 0-62mph sprint in as little as 6.1 seconds.
BMW 7 Series hybrid
The luxurious BMW 7 Series saloon is available as an efficient hybrid in 740e guise. This model uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, in conjunction with an electric motor, to return a claimed fuel economy figure of 141.3mpg and emit just 45g/km of CO2. This £68,330 luxury saloon can also travel up to 30 miles in silent electric-only mode, too.
If you’ve not seen a BMW i3 on the road yet, you’re in for a treat. It looks like nothing else around, and that goes for the i3’s lounge-like interior, too. Made from carbon fibre reinforced plastic, it’s been designed as an electric car from the outset. That BMW badge counts for a lot, and you’ll get 80-100 miles from a full charge – double that in the range-extended model. The i3 is priced from £25,680 after the government grant.
It’s not as cheap as the i3 so probably won’t appeal to as many potential buyers but, if you have the cash and you’re keeping an eye on your exhaust emissions, the BMW i8 is a very convincing machine. Combining a version of the 1.5-litre turbo three-cylinder from the Mini Cooper with electric motors, the i8 has supercar-rivalling performance with tiny fuel bills – that should help to lessen the sting from the £99,540 price tag.
Ford Focus Electric
The Ford Focus Electric takes the fairly practical and proven Focus platform and adds a fully electric drivetrain in place of the standard selection of petrol and diesel engines. A full charge will allow you to travel approximately 100 miles – more than enough for the average commuter.
Hyundai ix35 hydrogen fuel cell
The Hyundai ix35 fuel cell vehicle uses hydrogen to provide power for its electric motors without the need for heavy batteries. It’s a fledgling technology so will only suit early adopters who can live with its limitations. This technology emits nothing but water and, with the number of hydrogen filling stations in the UK growing every year, owning such a car is become an increasingly practical prospect.
Kia Soul EV
The Kia Soul EV is a boxy part-SUV, part-MPV that’s proving popular with eco-minded families thanks to its quirky looks and excellent practicality. With one of the most energy-dense batteries currently available, the Soul has a usable 130-mile range and a spacious cabin. At £24,995, it represents reasonable value for money and benefits from Kia’s industry-leading seven-year warranty.
Mercedes B-Class Electric-Drive
The Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive was designed from the ground up to be electrically driven so fitting motors and batteries hasn’t affected interior space noticeably. Being a Mercedes it’s not the cheapest car to buy but, considering the technology on offer, the £27,275 price isn’t too steep.
Mercedes C350 Plug-In Hybrid
One of the more recent additions to the plug-in hybrid ranks is the Mercedes C-Class. The C350 Plug-In Hybrid can slip into London’s city centre without incurring charges. It mates a 2.0-litre petrol with an 80hp electric motor to produce 275hp and can accelerate to 62mph from rest in just 5.9 seconds. It’s all yours for £33,270 after the government’s plug-in car grant is taken into account – impressive, especially considering the performance on offer. It’s also available as an Estate.
Mercedes S500 Plug-In Hybrid
Imagine the C350 Plug-In above turned up to 11. The Mercedes S500 Plug-In Hybrid packs a powerful twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine mated to a 114hp electric motor. The combination makes 436hp in total with 479lb ft of torque – plenty to waft you to work but, thanks to its electric motor, it can return more than 100mpg. The price is steep at £84,290 but, if you want the best, you have to pay for it.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
A few years ago, it would be unthinkable that eco-minded buyers could ever be tempted into buying an SUV. Mitsubishi has proved it’s not impossible, however, with its Outlander PHEV. Combining a 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, the PHEV can achieve more than 100mpg while still providing enough space for the modern family. The Outlander has just been facelifted and is now priced from £29,248 – not bad considering the space and efficiency on offer.
The Nissan Leaf was launched in 2011 so is actually one of this list’s oldest vehicles – an indication of how new the electric vehicle market is. Revisions in 2013 made it a better car than before and cheaper, too. If that doesn’t nudge sales along then Congestion Charge exemption should see a few more on the roads, and competitive battery leasing deals make it even more affordable. Recent updates have seen the Leaf’s range extended to a maximum of 155 miles and the price lowered to £20,790. If you’re happy to lease the battery from as low as £70 per month, the Leaf is yours for a mere £15,790.
Porsche 918 Spyder
This hasn’t sneaked into our list by accident – the Porsche 918 Spyder really does slip under the limit, with CO2 emissions of just 72g/km. That makes it one of the cleanest sports cars on sale, comfortably the greenest supercar you can buy and still one of the fastest vehicles ever made – it’ll reach 62mph in just 2.6 seconds from rest. The Porsche isn’t for everyone but, at £718,000, not everyone can afford it!
Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
Porsche’s timing with the Panamera S E-Hybrid was a masterstroke – a guilt-free Porsche you can drive straight into London without incurring a daily penalty. You’ll probably never hit its 91mpg combined rating, and you may pump out more than the quoted 71g/km of CO2 but it’ll avoid the congestion charge, has around 30 miles of electric range and can still top almost 170mph on the autobahn. £77,439 gets you membership to this exclusive club
The Renault Twizy stretches the definition of “a car” further than almost any other vehicle but, if you accept its range limitations (around 30 miles in real-world driving) and the fact it has no real weatherproofing, there are few better, cleaner ways to get around the city. It’s the cheapest here to buy at £6,590 – even more so if you’re a business user looking at the VAT-reclaimable Twizy Cargo.
Renault has produced a truly likeable electric car in the Zoe. It’s attractive, serene to drive, and costs little more than your average supermini – £13,443 after the grant. Reviews are positive, so it’s well worth a look for city buyers – in comparison to petrol and diesel equivalents, the congestion charge benefits make it even more tempting.
Tesla Model S
The Tesla Model S is impossible to omit from this list. It gets serious praise across the industry, while an electric range nearing 300 miles makes it the most usable, practical electric car yet. It’s a wide car – you’ll need to breathe-in through London’s width restrictions – but a deeply, deeply impressive vehicle.
Tesla Model X
Tesla has expanded its range of luxurious all-electric vehicles with the new Model X SUV. This large seven-seater is not only comfortable and spacious but its electric motors can power it to 62mph from rest in a supercar-startling 3.2 seconds. Many electric vehicles suffer from a limited range but the Model X can cover a comparatively impressive 250 miles on a single charge.
The Toyota Mirai is the second hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to feature on our list. Its carbon fibre-reinforced plastic fuel tank can store enough compressed hydrogen to power its electric motor for approximately 300 miles and, unlike an electric car, refuelling takes just a couple of minutes. The Mirai boasts a luxurious cabin with seats that, Toyota claims, use a new manufacturing process to make them both more comfortable and supportive than conventional items.
The latest Toyota Prius is said to be a great improvement over the previous model. It retains the same 1.8-litre petrol engine, electric motor and CVT automatic gearbox but, with far better tuning, it’s now more responsive and refined on the move. Be aware that only Prius models fitted with the smallest alloy wheels sneak under the 75g/km CO2 limit for London – these can be fitted at no cost to high-spec models in addition to entry-level ones.
Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid
It might look similar to the normal model, but the 49g/km Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid – still based on the previous Prius’ platform – claims up to 135mpg on average. If you like the existing Prius, you’ll have little trouble adapting to this one. It’s a pity its post-grant price still seems steep, at £28,395. The new Prius, above, also qualifies for free entry into London’s centre.
Toyota Yaris Hybrid
Unlike the Prius, the Toyota Yaris Hybrid uses a more conventional hybrid set up and achieves its low CO2 output through a combination of light weight and clever electronics. It starts to struggle as speeds increase so motorway commuters might be better off with a diesel but, for those in cities, the little Toyota is efficient and compact enough to be an easy companion. With prices from £14,995, it’s not much more expensive than a normal supermini, either. Only models with the smallest wheels qualify for free congestion charge so we’d avoid picking larger ones from the options list.
If there’s one car that could kick-start an electric car revolution in Europe, it’s the Volkswagen e-Golf. The regular Golf is one of Europe’s top-sellers, and Volkswagen’s badge is highly-regarded around the world. It’s great to drive too, as we found out on the launch in Berlin – exceedingly quiet, well-made, and good fun to nip through city centres. A real-world 80-100-mile range is achievable, and it’s priced from £25,845 after the government grant.
e-Golf too big for you? You’re in luck, because VW also makes an electric-powered version of its excellent Up city car. Like the Golf, our first drive was in Berlin, where the e-Up proved great fun to throw around tight corners and brisk enough to beat taxis away from traffic lights. It’s even better to drive than the regular Up but you have to pay for the privilege – its £19,250 post-grant price seems a little high.
VW Golf GTE
CO2 emissions of 35g/km drop the Volkswagen Golf GTE comfortably under London’s congestion charge limit but, unlike some of the electric vehicles, which limit you to 100 miles or so before a charge, the GTE will take you over 500 miles. Why? It’s another plug-in hybrid and a sporty one at that, since VW has infused it with some of the GTI’s DNA – you get 204hp and even a set of sporty tartan-trimmed seats. The £28,035 price makes the Plug-In Prius above seem obsolete.
VW Passat GTE
If you want something a bit more substantial than Volkswagen’s smaller hybrids, the Passat GTE might be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s available in both saloon and estate bodystyles, and has a bigger battery than its smaller siblings to give an electric range of 31 miles and a theoretical total range of 622 miles. Prices cost form £37,500.
Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid
The Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid is a wonderful all-rounder. If you never venture into London then a regular diesel is a better bet, but the hybrid’s 49g/km CO2 rating makes it a must-have for Londoners. It’s supremely comfortable, surprisingly quick and far more refined than you’d give its diesel engine credit for. The only downside is it’s scarily expensive, at £44,275 including the £5,000 government grant.
Volvo XC90 T8
If you’re after a practical SUV that you can also drive into the city for free, then Volvo’s XC90 is one of the best choices around. With 402hp, it’s incredibly powerful and, if driven sensibly, can travel up to 26 miles on electric power alone. At £54,455, it’s not cheap but it’s well equipped and, when compared to diesel-powered rivals from German manufacturers, there’s little price difference.
Save money on your next new car
Take a look at our list of the best electric cars and the best hybrid cars on sale today then head over to our deals page to see our latest discounts. To narrow down your search, check out our car chooser and, once you’ve made your decision, use our PCP calculator to get a better idea how much your new car could cost.