Emission charges for van drivers

Don't get caught out by hefty clean air zone tolls: these are the forthcoming emission charges for van drivers

John Evans
Sep 30, 2018

If you drive a van in London, you’ll be aware of the daily T-charge. It stands for toxicity charge and is a £10 penalty applied to all petrol and diesel vans that enter the London congestion zone and which don't meet the Euro 4 minimum emissions standard. It comes on top of the £11.50 congestion charge itself (you can save £1 if you use TfL’s Autopay service), which means a van could attract a total daily charge of £21.50. Like the congestion charge, the T-charge only operates weekdays from 7am to 6pm. 

Light vans registered since 1 January 2006, and all-new models registered between that date and 1 January 2005, meet the Euro 4 standard. Large vans registered since 1 January 2007 also meet the standard. Check your van’s V5 registration document to see what Euro emissions class it confirms to. If you haven't got it to hand, visit T-charge checker where you can find out if your vehicle is subject to the charge.

From 8 April 2019, the T-charge will be replaced by the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, or ULEZ, for short. This sets far stricter emissions limits on diesel vans, imposes higher charges and operates around the clock, seven days a week.

It will operate within the current congestion zone but from 25 October 2021 will expand to cover the inner London area bounded by the North and South Circular roads.

The emissions limit on diesel vans rises to Euro 6; All light vans registered since 1 September 2015 have been required to meet this standard, as have larger vans since 1 September 2016. So any van that was sold as new after this date should be exempt from the ULEZ charge.

On petrol vans, the standard remains at Euro 4, meaning small vans registered since 1 January 2006 and larger ones, since 1 January 2007 can enter the zone without paying the additional charge.

For vans not meeting these standards, the charge for entering the ULEV is £12.50, or £2.50 more than the current T-charge. As with the T-charge, it is in addition to the congestion charge and the penalty for non-payment is £130, reduced to £65 if paid within 14 days.

The ULEZ’s new, higher emissions standard will penalise relatively young vans – those conforming to Euro 5 registered between January 2011 and September 2015 (all-new models from September 2009). It means that a van driver going into London every working day in a Euro 5 van will pay an extra £62.50 a week.

It’s possible this extra charge will depress the values of used vans being sold near London that don’t comply to Euro 6. On the other hand, values of those vans that do, could benefit from it.

Where such Euro 6 compliant vans lose out, is in the reduction to their payload. To help meet Euro 6 emissions standards, most van manufacturers fit selective catalytic reduction systems to their vehicles that break down the engine’s NOx emissions. They do this using ammonia, marketed as AdBlue. It’s stored in a tank, typically 10-20 litres in size that accounts for between 30kg to 80kg of a van’s payload, so reducing the quantity of goods, equipment or tools the van can carry.

AdBlue has to be topped up at intervals, too, and depending where you buy it, it costs from £8 to £20 a litre. The flipside is that Euro 6 vans are more efficient than their older, dirtier counterparts and are better future-proofed against changes in road taxation.

Meanwhile, clean-air zones (CAZ) on the lines of London’s ULEZ are set to be rolled out across other major UK cities over the next few years. Birmingham, in 2020, is set to be the first. At least 18 cities, from London to Aberdeen, will operate clean air zones that restrict free entry to Euro 6 diesel vans. Again the values of Euro 5 vans and older that cannot enter these towns and cities are likely to be weakened although as they get older and cheaper, this should be less of an issue.

If your van is not Euro 6 compliant, TfL explains your options here. They are, simply, to replace it with a new or used one that is, or buy an electric vehicle. Retro-fitting emissions reduction technology is permitted under the government’s Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS). However, to date, only systems for buses have been certified. Although future technologies could be developed for vans, the Energy Saving Trust believes they would be too expensive to justify upgrading a vehicle rather than replacing it with a Euro 6 van.

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