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Ultra low emission discount for London Congestion charge exemption to finish in 2025

Number of vehicles registered for exemption grows six-fold in just five years

Published: 02 Jul 2024

Transport for London (TfL) is ending the discount that allowed electric cars an exemption from the Congestion Charge fee. From 25 December 2025, 100 per cent electric cars and vans will have to pay just like every other car. That’s a steep £15 per day for the previously exempt. Ouch.

Some 112,000 vehicles are currently registered for the Cleaner Vehicle Discount (CVD), previously known as the ultra-low-emission discount (ULED), a contributory £10 for the year. Come the end of next year, they'll be liable to pay a standard £15 daily rate to access the capital’s inner sanctum. That count includes almost 16,000 private hire vehicles (PVH) too, according to figures provided by TfL.

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The congestion charge and the ultra-low emission zones (ULEZ) are part of the London Mayor’s plan to tackle air pollution and congestion. TfL has said in a statement that all the changes are part of a staggered plan announced in 2018.

Indeed, hybrids got phased out in October 2021 and have since had to pay up. As more EVs hit the road, the main takeaway is, the charge is meant to minimise congestion regardless of the powertrain.

But TfL did have this to say: “The Congestion Charge’s Cleaner Vehicle Discount was part of our phased scheme to tackle London’s toxic air. Ending the Cleaner Vehicle Discount from 25 December 2025 will maintain the effectiveness of the Congestion Charge, which is in place to manage traffic and congestion in the heart of London."

The number of vehicles registered for the discount in 2019 was 20,000 and had risen to 112,318 as of June 2024. But not everyone is happy about the loss of an EV carrot. James Court, CEO of the Electric Vehicle Association (EVA) England, said: “It’s hugely disappointing that the Mayor is removing this incentive, and is completely counter intuitive. As other cities are moving towards electric vehicles and the cleaner air that brings, London will be going in the other direction.”

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Meanwhile, TfL acknowledges the change is to actively discourage private hire vehicles in the zone. It said: "PHVs that do not meet the CVD standard or are not wheelchair accessible will also be discouraged from driving in central London with the removal of their exemption from the Congestion Charge.

"The changes affecting PHVs will help tackle congestion and its associated problems, such as poor air quality, and are expected to reduce the number of PHVs circulating in the Congestion Charging Zone by up to 8,000 a day."

It's not the only issue taxis and private hire vehicle operators are facing. The mayor's changed the licensing requirements as of January 2023. It means all new applicants for licences must drive a vehicle that has an electric-only mode. The aim is to get all cabs to 100 per cent electric by 2030.

We approached the National Association for Private Hire Vehicles (NPHTA) and Addison Lee for comment. The latter declined. More as we get it.

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