A guide to electric vehicle legislation and Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) in the UK

The government’s Road to Zero strategy, announced in July 2018, has established ambitious targets for new car and van sales, with ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) set to change the face of our roads, homes, and the workplace, over the next ten years.  

This rapid transformation has been likened to the automotive revolution at the beginning of the twentieth century, where the motor car replaced the horse-drawn carriage.  

To bring about the exponential transition the government desires, it’s important for businesses to understand the national legislation and local activity that has been put in place to support our own automotive evolution – the road to ULEVs becoming ‘the norm’ across the UK. 

How will national and local legislation affect fleets? 

We’ve considered the questions fleet managers may have about electric vehicle legislation in the UK and compiled answers explaining how national government initiatives affect fleets.  

In addition, we’ve provided a guide to local Ultra Low Emission Zone and Clean Air Zone developments. 

National CO2 and electric vehicle legislation FAQ

What is the government’s Road to Zero strategy and how does it affect fleets?

This government policy, released in July 2018, targets at least 50% – and as many as 70% – of new car sales to be ultra-low emission by 2030, as well as up to 40% of new vans.

Since 2009, the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has deemed an ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) to be a car or van that emits less than 75g/km of CO2.

Recognising advancements in technology, from 2021 it expects ULEV emissions to be defined as less than 50g/km.

To encourage businesses to choose ultra-low emission vehicles, the Road to Zero proposes a number of government incentives for electric vehicles, as well as the development of a charging infrastructure to enable vehicles, such as plug-in hybrid and electric cars and vans, to complete similar journeys to their petrol and diesel counterparts.

Has the government put in place Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) in cities outside of London?

Five major cities outside London have been given a mandate to deliver pollution reduction targets as part of the national Clean Air Zone strategy.

While London has chosen to call its Clean Air Zone the Ultra Low Emission Zone, other cities will use the name Clean Air Zone, but have similar emissions standards in place and will charge vehicles that do not meet these.

Birmingham, Leeds, Derby, Nottingham and Southampton are the first tranche required to implement action plans to reduce pollution levels through the development of similar congestion charges as those already in place in London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone. These are being developed at a local level and will require government approval.

See local Clear Air Zones (CAZ) below for more details.

Are there any grants or tax relief incentives for installing workplace charging points?

The government has confirmed it plans to extend the current 100% first-year allowance, for any expenditure incurred to install new and used electric vehicle charging points in the workplace, to 31 March 2023.

This is in addition to savings provided by the Workplace Charging Scheme. This business grant provides up to £350 per socket for up to 40 sockets, helping to reduce the cost of workplace charging points by up to £14,000 per applicant business.

What about the Plug-in Car and Plug-in Van grants?

The latest Plug-in Car Grant offers 35% of the vehicle purchase price up to a maximum of £3,000. This is available for cars with a list price below £50,000, CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and a zero-emissions range of at least 70 miles.

The Plug-in Van Grant provides 20% of the purchase price, including VAT, up to a maximum of £8,000. This is for commercial vehicles with CO2 emissions of less than 75g/km and a zero-emissions range of at least 10 miles.

These grants directly impact whole-life costs, which makes plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles a valid consideration versus internal combustion engine (ICE) models.

NB: See more details of the available government incentives for electric cars and vans.

Our specialist advisors can help you establish whether, and how, electric vehicles could be a fit for your fleet, as well as help you make your EV business case.

Is there an advisory fuel rate for electric and hybrid cars?

There has been recent confirmation that the advisory fuel rate for pure electric cars is 4p per mile. Plug-in hybrid and hybrid vehicles will continue to be treated as petrol or diesel models in terms of mileage reimbursement.

Both company car drivers and fleet managers need to be aware of this newly announced rate so drivers can consider any tax implications, and employers can ensure they are not paying more mileage expenses than are necessary.

What is the current lease rental restriction on vehicle CO2 emissions?

The current lease rental restriction has been reduced from 130g/km to 110g/km.

This means that any lease vehicles with emissions of 110g/km or less will not face a rental restriction, making the cost of the lease fully deductible against taxable profits.

For lease vehicles with emissions of more than 110g/km, businesses can only offset 85% of any rental payments against their taxable profits.

What are the latest announcements on the government’s ULEV taxation policy around benefit-in-kind (BiK) taxation, National Insurance contributions (NIC), Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Testing (WLTP) figures, writing down allowances (WDA) and Vehicle Excise Duty (VED)?

BiK and NIC: CO2 emissions are the basis of our government’s taxation policy and are being used as a lever to encourage company car drivers and employers to consider plug-in vehicle options.

Current policy for BiK and NIC is known up to the 2024/25 tax year, with company EV drivers benefitting from 0% BiK rate in 2020/21 rising at 1% each year until 2022/23 where it is then sustained at 2% until April 2025. Businesses benefit from a corresponding NIC perspective too.

In addition, ULEVs with CO2 emissions from 1-50g/km benefit from lower BiK rates too, but the specific rate will depend on its range in zero-emissions mode. Those registered from 6 April 2020 with an electric only range of more than 130 miles will benefit from a BiK rate of 0%, rising all the way up to 12% for those that can travel less than 30 miles. Cars registered before this date have rates ranging from 2% up to 14%, subject to the same mileage parameters.

NB: In addition to considering these savings as part of your EV fleet analysis, it’s important to make sure plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles are fit for purpose for both a driver’s job function and their lifestyle outside of work. Our Future Fleet Analysis and EV-4-ME? tools are designed to help fleet managers and drivers to evaluate EV viability.

WLTP figures: For cars registered from 6 April 2020 the CO2 values used for the taxation policy are WLTP. Cars registered prior to this date will continue to be taxed on their NEDC-correlated figures.

NB: Latest news on this will be posted on our WLTP guide and social media.

WDA: These heavily favour electric vehicles and ULEVs. Zero emission vehicles benefit from 100% first–year allowance.

Cars with CO2 emissions between 1 and 50g/km benefit from 18% per year and those with emissions above 51g/km attract a 6% writing down allowance.

Light commercial vehicle VED study: the report on this consultation is due imminently. The study has investigated whether to introduce graduated bands for light commercial vehicles to establish VED rates based on CO2 emissions, in the same way as these rates are determined for cars.

The proposal is for a 2-category system, based on weight, to be introduced from April 2021, with zero-emissions vans being zero-rated. Confirmation is still awaited on bands and rates, which will have an inevitable impact on whole-life costs.

Fleet and finance managers should note that zero–emissions electric vans are already zero-rated. The impact here will be on ICE models, potentially changing the difference between these and ultra-low emission and electric vans.

Local Clean Air Zones (CAZ) 

What is the difference between a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) and an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)?

A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality, in particular by discouraging the most polluting vehicles from entering the zone. No vehicle is banned in the zone, but those that do not have clean enough engines will have to pay a daily charge if they travel within the area.

For example, the Government has said that Birmingham needs a Clean Air Zone by January 2020* and that the city is required to reduce levels of NO2 in the air to a maximum average of 40μg/m3 as soon as possible.

As mentioned earlier in this guide, the five major cities outside London that have been identified to deliver pollution reduction targets as part of the national Clean Air Zone strategy are Birmingham, Leeds, Derby, Nottingham and Southampton.

At present, the only city that has named its Clean Air Zone Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is London. Other cities will continue to use the name Clean Air Zone. However, these will have similar emissions standards in place as the London ULEZ and charge vehicles that do not meet these.

More information on this can be found below.

*See current Birmingham CAZ launch date

London Congestion Charge Zone

First introduced in 2003, the London Congestion Charge Zone is one of the largest of its kind in the world.

Exempt vehicles must have CO2 emissions of no more than 75g/km, a zero-emissions range of at least 20 miles and pay an annual registration fee of £10.

The London Congestion Charge Zone operates 7am to 10pm, every day except Christmas Day. The daily charge is £15.

London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)

Covering the same area as the Congestion Charge Zone, the London Ultra Low Emission Zone operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year except Christmas Day.

Charges of £12.50 per day apply to petrol cars and light commercial vehicles (LCVs) that do not meet the Euro 4 standard, as well as diesel cars and LCVs that do not meet Euro 6.

The zone will be expanded in October 2021 to all roads within an area bounded by the North Circular and South Circular roads.

London borough of Hackney additional ultra-low emission measures across two zones

The London borough of Hackney has introduced two of its own Ultra Low Emission Zones. These cover five streets that only permit vehicles with CO2 emissions below 75g/km to enter from 7-10am and 4-7pm Monday to Friday.

Although these streets are already covered by the wider London ULEZ, the local measures are more stringent and will be applied to more streets in the borough when the London ULEZ is extended.

The Mayor of London is supporting small businesses to swap old diesel vans for new electric ones

The Mayor of London has announced a £6,000 support packagemade up of £3,500 scrappage allowance and £2,500 towards running costs, including insurancefor small businesses with ten or fewer employees and annual turnover of up to £632,000 (or £316,000 balance sheet total).

This is designed to support small businesses to replace up to three older diesel vans, that don’t meet ULEZ standards, with electric alternatives. All electric vans will also be exempt from the daily congestion charge, potentially saving thousands of pounds over their operational lifecycle.

This support is also available to London charities operating minibuses.

The VWFS | Fleet EVolve team can provide advice on how to benefit from this support.

Birmingham Clean Air Zone (CAZ) plans

Originally due to come into force on 1 January 2020*, Birmingham ULEZ covers the area inside the A4540 Middleway ring road (though not the ring road itself) and will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

*The launch of Birmingham CAZ has been delayed until at least the end of 2020 originally due to the development of a vehicle checker tool by the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) being delayed, but then the COVID-19 pandemic.

Councillor Waseem Zaffar, cabinet member for Transport and Environment at Birmingham City Council, said going ahead with the Clean Air Zone in January as planned, would be “completely unfair on residents, businesses and visitors to the city who would only have a matter of weeks, if not days, to make key choices about their travel behaviour or upgrade their vehicles. This is simply unacceptable.”

Charges of £8 per day will apply to petrol cars and LCVs that do not meet the Euro 4 standard, as well as diesel cars and LCVs that do not meet Euro 6. Certain exemptions apply to local businesses for a limited number of vehicles and a limited time.

Comment courtesy of Fleet News 18/06/19

Leeds Clean Air Zone (CAZ) plans

As with Birmingham CAZ, this was originally due to come into force on 6 January 2020 but was put back to July 2020 because of the government’s delayed Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) vehicle checker tool. It has since been delayed again due to COVID-19.

Leeds CAZ will not charge private cars and light commercial vehicles at any time, but charges will apply to non-compliant taxis, private hire vehicles, buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles.

This Ultra Low Emission Zone covers an area roughly bounded by the M1 between junctions 45 and 46, the outer ring road and the M621.

Councillor James Lewis, deputy leader for Leeds City Council, said: “It is extremely disappointing that Leeds has been forced to delay the introduction of one of the UK’s first Clean Air Zones because of the government’s failure to meet its own commitments to the two largest local authorities.

Leeds City Council has worked incredibly hard to make sure that the Clean Air Zone would be delivered on time, successfully meeting a number of challenging deadlines set by the government. Many local businesses have similarly invested both time and money into ensuring their own preparedness for January.”

Comment courtesy of Fleet News 18/06/19

Derby Clean Air Zone (CAZ) plans

Derby council plans to introduce traffic control measures that it believes will achieve the necessary reductions in pollution levels within the first twelve months. The council currently does not plan to introduce a charging Clean Air Zone.

Nottingham Clean Air Zone (CAZ) plans

Rather than introduce a charging Clean Air Zone, Nottingham is focusing on updating its bus fleet through a retrofit programme and addressing emissions from older taxis.

The city will also receive funding support to update its own vehicle fleet with cleaner alternatives, including its waste collection vehicles. The council’s plan has been approved by Defra.

Southampton Clean Air Zone (CAZ) plans

Southampton has determined that it will focus efforts on the most polluting taxis and buses in the city, rather than introduce a Clean Air Zone. These measures will enable Southampton to reach its pollution reduction target by 2020.

Clean Air Zone plans for other parts of the UK

In addition to the five cities above, several districts and other cities across the UK are progressing with plans for their own pollution reduction schemes, some of which include Clean Air Zones.

Other measures being investigated include:

  • limiting access to certain areas by time/fuel type/emissions
  • differentiated parking costs.

In all of the above instances, electric cars and vans are the least likely vehicles to be affected.

The VWFS | Fleet EVolve team is best placed to help you to introduce electric vehicles to your fleet.

Need more EV information?

Now you’ve had a chance to digest how national and local electric vehicle legislation might affect or benefit your business, why not speak to one of our expert EV advisors? Alternatively, our range of free tools and guidance is designed to help you analyse your fleet for EV viability. 


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