Driving in central London can be an expensive business mainly thanks to numerous new charges imposed on drivers, but do electric cars have to pay the Congestion Charge? Read on to find out.
If you’re unfamiliar with London’s Congestion Charge, here’s a brief overview. It was introduced in 2003 with the aim of reducing traffic and pollution in the capital. There’s a flat daily fee for cars to drive into London, with areas affected signposted with a white C in a red circle.
The Congestion Charge applies between 7am and 6pm Monday to Friday, and midday to 6pm on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays. It is different from the London Ultra-Low Emissions Zone, which applies 24 hours a day, every day of the year (except Christmas day). The ULEZ fee also only applies to petrol and diesel cars which don’t meet the relevant emissions standards, and is being extended to all of greater London on 23 August 2023.
The Congestion Charge zone covers a far smaller area. It operates inside the London inner ring road, including the City of London and the West End.
It is enforced using number plate recognition cameras that detect when you drive into the specified charging zone.
Our Congestion Charge checker tool tells you if you’ll need to pay the Congestion Charge when driving into the capital. Simply enter your vehicle’s number plate or a London postcode.
How much does the Congestion Charge cost?
The Congestion Charge is a flat fee of £15 per day to enter the centre of London, though it’s £17.50 if you pay one to three days after you’ve travelled (a £160 fine is issued after three days). There are discounts available, such as a 90% discount for local residents and a 100% discount for blue badge holders. Motorbikes are also exempt, as are electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Are electric cars exempt from the Congestion Charge?
Good news for the owners of electric cars, you’re exempt from paying the London Congestion Charge. Zero-emission vehicles are eligible for a 100% discount, all you have to do is apply for a Cleaner Vehicle Discount.
Do note that from 25 December, 2025, electric cars will no longer be exempt from the Congestion Charge, and will have to pay the same £15 fee as everyone else.
Until 2021, low emission vehicles that emit less than 75g/km of CO2 and can travel at least 20 miles on electric power were also exempt from the Congestion Charge. The rules have changed since though and the exemption now only applies to pure EVs, hybrid cars are no longer exempt.
How to apply for Congestion Charge exemption
Owners of electric cars don’t automatically get an exemption from the Congestion Charge, you have to apply for the cleaner vehicle discount.
You can apply on the Transport for London website. You’ll need to upload photos of your V5C logbook, and it costs £10 per car to register.
If you don’t register, you’ll still have to pay the Congestion Charge and you’ll be fined if you don’t. You’ll also have to continue to pay the charge until your application has been approved.
Where else in the UK has a Congestion Charge?
London is currently the only place in the UK with a Congestion Charge, however there are a few places which have low emission zones.
Oxford City Council is currently running a ZEZ (Zero Emissions Zone), Electric cars are exempt, there’s a £2 per day charge for vehicles emitting under 75g/km of CO2 and a £4 charge for any petrol car which doesn’t meet Euro 4 emissions standards and any diesel car which isn’t Euro 6 compliant. All other cars are charged £10 per day to enter the zone.
From the 28th of November 2022, Bristol City Council will also introduce a CAZ (Clean air zone) with a £9 charge for any petrol car not meeting Euro 4 standards and and diesel model not meeting Euro 6.
Will electric cars be exempt from the Congestion Charge forever?
Electric cars will be eligible for the cleaner vehicle discount until the 25th of December 2025. After this date, the discount will be scrapped and electric vehicle owners will have to pay the Congestion Charge.
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