Do Electric Cars Pay the Congestion Charge?

Owning an electric vehicle has many benefits for their owners. From lower running costs to having less maintenance requirements, they are leading the way in being more financially viable for drivers whilst being better for the environment.

Those travelling to and from the congestion charge zone in London and it's surrounding low emission zones must pay daily if their car does not meet the emissions requirement which can then add up to an additional large expense.

It's definitely worth considering where an electric car fits into these additional charges and if it's an area where you can save money.

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What is the congestion charge zone?

The congestion charge zone is an area in central London where drivers are charged a fee for driving in the area during specific times of the day. The idea is that it will reduce congestion in the area as people will think about using their car there, which in turn will then reduce air pollution and improve air quality.

It was first introduced in 2003 and is one of the largest congestion zones in the world. The perimeter runs from Kings Cross all the way south to Vauxhall and then from Paddington all the way east to Whitechapel. If you are unsure if you will be traveling in the zone, Transport for London (TFL) have a postcode and map search on their website.

TFL charge £15 per day for any car that produces 76g/km CO2 or more in the area between the hours of 7am and 6pm Monday to Friday and 12pm to 6pm at the weekend and on bank holidays. Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras cover the zone and confirm if you have paid the charge or not through TFL.

If you do not pay the daily charge by midnight on the third charging day following it you will receive a penalty charge notice of £160 which must be paid within 28 days.

Is the Ultra Low Emission Zone the same?

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is a wider zone in London which surrounds the Congestion Charge Zone aimed at stopping the most polluting vehicles from driving inside London. It covers all roads within the north and the south circular roads and runs 24 hours a day.

Cars that don't meet the Euro 6 emission standards for diesels and Euro 4 emission standards for petrol cars must pay £12.50 a day for entering the ULEZ. For petrol these are mostly cars registered after 2005, although some were available that met the standards from 2001, but for diesel it is those cars registered from September 2015.

The charge for this is separate from the Congestion Charge fee and both must be paid if you travel in the two zones and qualify for both payments. Electric vehicles, by having zero tailpipe emissions, do not have to pay this fee.

Are electric cars exempt from the congestion charge?

Battery electric cars, alongside hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, are also exempt from the congestion charge as they are zero emission vehicles. It's another great reason to switch to an electric car if you live within the zone or travel in and out on a regular basis but you must register your car for the Cleaner Vehicle Discount or face a fine.

The daily charge of £15 worked out against the possible 260 working days in the year you could be looking at a cost of up to £3900 just to travel in the London congestion charge zone if you have to commute. The monthly cost is then more than you would pay in a finance agreement for many cars.

Currently the exemption is due to be discontinued in 2025, presumably in line with an expected higher number of electric cars being registered and TFL therefore losing a large amount of revenue as a result.

Are any other vehicles exempt?

A small number of ICE cars are exempt including blue badge holders, vehicles with nine or more seats, certain motor tricycles, motorbikes and sidecars, taxis and private hire vehicles registered with London Taxi and Private Hire.

What is the Cleaner Vehicle Discount?

The Cleaner Vehicle Discount (previously called the Ultra Low Emission Discount) is the exemption that electric cars fall under when driving in the London Congestion Charge Zone. It allows electric vehicles to drive in the congestion charge zone without having to pay daily.

It is not automatically given to your car and must be applied for every year. It costs £10 and currently is running until 25th December 2025. Driving into the area without having applied for this will lead you to face a fine of £160. You must submit a copy of your V5C vehicle registration certificate to TFL so that they can verify your car's zero emission status.

Previously, plug in hybrids were also exempt from having to pay the congestion charge but this was initially changed in April 2019 to exclude non-plug in hybrids and then again in October 2021 to exclude even plug in hybrid cars.

As it now stands, it is only pure electric vehicles, either battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, that qualify for the Cleaner Vehicle Discount.


Electric vehicles continue to prove their financial benefits over traditional ICE vehicles when it comes to the congestion charge and emissions penalties. Their exemption is another incentive for making the switch from a petrol or diesel counterpart, especially as these are likely to disappear in the next few years.

Other UK cities are also beginning to implement low emission zones in their city centres as a way of combatting air pollution and improving air quality. It's likely that as petrol and diesel cars are completely phased out, electrics will still benefit from lower or no payments in these areas.

An electric vehicle is an excellent option for your next vehicle, not only does it have environmental benefits but you are future proofing as built up areas begin to introduce policies to penalise those with cars that emit higher levels of CO2.

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