Introduction

In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about UK clean air zones and how they could impact van drivers in 2021.

If you regularly travel to some of Britain’s big cities, the chances are you may already be aware of UK clean air zones and the implications they have on businesses throughout the country.

As our country puts more of an emphasis on a sustainable future, further measures are introduced to fight climate change.

The UK transport industry is a major culprit, contributing 27% to net greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. When action needs to made and solutions to be found, the transport sector is often the first to be hit.

One such solution is the introduction of clean air zones up and down the UK.

London paved the way for such schemes with the overwhelming success of the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone, which launched in 2018.

Now, more cities across the country are looking to introduce similar plans in the very near future.

Here is a breakdown of UK clean air zones: what they are, how they work and how they will affect van drivers in 2021 and beyond.

 

What Is A Clean Air Zone?

A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is an area in the UK where action has been taken to improve its air quality.

The scale of a CAZ can vary from a single street all the way to a whole city.

Similar in premise to ULEZ, a CAZ implements emissions standards for all vehicles entering and travelling within a designated area.

The consequences of driving a vehicle that doesn’t meet the area’s emissions standards can vary. Similarly, the severity of restrictions can vary area-to-area depending on emissions goals or current air quality.

 

Why Are UK Clean Air Zones Being Introduced?

Clean air zones are put in place to reduce greenhouse gases emitted by older, more polluting vehicles, therefore improving overall air quality.

The list of reasons for why authorities want cleaner air is endless. Mainly, they want to protect the health of residents.

High levels of air pollution can cause health effects such as breathing problems, cardiovascular diseases, asthma, lung cancer and more.

According to the European Environment Agency, around 379,000 premature deaths in 2018 were linked to fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) – which primarily comes from vehicle exhausts.

The UK Government aims to make Britain a net-zero carbon emissions country by 2050. Introducing clean air zones in polluted urban areas could be a significant step towards achieving this goal.

 

Four Types Of CAZ

Different areas have different air qualities.

Larger cities like London with higher populations will emit more greenhouse gases than sparsely-populated ones like, for example, Exeter.

Here are the four main categories of clean air zone:

 

A)
 Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles
B)
 Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles
C)
 Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, vans, minibuses
D)
 Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, vans, minibuses, cars, the local authority has the option to include motorcycles

 

Clean Air Zone Charges

Penalties for entering the zone aren’t compulsory. Authorities will only be permitted to set charges at levels to reduce pollution and raise revenue to recover no more than the initial costs.

In London, smaller vehicles that aren’t ULEZ compliant must pay a £12.50 charge every time they use the zone, while the daily charge for larger vehicles such as lorries and coaches is £100.

Meanwhile, Bath introduced a CAZ in March 2021, with a charge of £9 for smaller vehicles and £100 for larger vehicles per use of the zone.

Costs are determined by the local authorities and vary from area to area.

The best way to find out exactly how much you’ll need to pay is by checking the official UK Government website once your nearby CAZ is up and running.

If you’re eager to start planning now for the introduction of a CAZ, we recommend reaching out directly to your local authority to keep up-to-date with all developments.

 

Minimum Emissions Standards

The heavier the vehicle, the higher the level of harmful emissions.

According to the European Environment Agency, heavy-duty vehicles such as coaches, lorries and trucks are responsible for 27% of road transport CO2 emissions – an increase of 25% since 1990.

Newer engines produce significantly less harmful emissions than older ones.

Research from Volvo found that a heavy goods vehicle with a Euro 5 engine emits 6.41kg of carbon monoxide in the space of six months. Meanwhile, a HGV with a Euro 6 engine emits just 0.64kg in the same amount of time.

Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, the minimum requirements for clean air zone compliance vary depending on the size of the vehicle.

Here are those requirements:

 

Vehicle type
Clean Air Zone minimum standard
Buses, coaches, heavy goods vehicles
Euro VI
Vans, minibuses, taxis, private hire vehicles, cars
Euro 6 (diesel) and Euro 4 (petrol)
Motorcycles
Euro 3

 

Unsurprisingly, the bigger the vehicle, the newer the engine that’s required.

Vans currently need to have a Euro 6 diesel or Euro 4 petrol engine to be CAZ-compliant.

That may change in the future to meet the UK Government’s goals of net-zero carbon emissions.

For now though, if you’re driving a Euro 6 van, you don’t need to stress.

 

UK Clean Air Zone Exemptions

Luckily, not all vehicles will be penalised.

Similar to London’s Ultra Low Emissions zone, certain types of vehicles are exempt from paying the daily charge.

Here’s a full list of vehicles that don’t currently have to pay CAZ charges:

  • A vehicle that’s ultra-low emission (outlined in the table above)
  • A disabled passenger tax class vehicle
  • A disabled tax class vehicle
  • A military vehicle
  • A historic vehicle
  • A vehicle retrofitted with technology accredited by the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme(CVRAS)
  • Certain types of agricultural vehicles

 

 

Clean Air Zone Cities

2021 looks to be a big year in the rollout of clean air zones in the UK.

Bath became the latest city to commit to cleaner air quality in March, and plenty more are expected to follow suit.

Birmingham will make theirs live in June, with Leicester later in the summer.

Here is a full list of cities that will or are believed to introduce Clean Air Zones in the coming months:

  • Bath: 15th March
  • Birmingham: June 1st 2021
  • Leicester: Summer 2021
  • Oxford: August 2021
  • Bradford: October 2021
  • London: ULEZ expansion October 2021
  • Bristol: 29th October 2021
  • Portsmouth: November 2021
  • Manchester: Spring 2022
  • Glasgow: Feb – May 2022
  • Edinburgh: Feb – May 2022
  • Dundee: Feb – May 2022
  • Aberdeen: Feb – May 2022

 

How UK Clean Air Zones May Impact Van Drivers

 

Penalty Charges

There’s one thing all businesses care about: money.

Travelling to/in UK Clean Air Zones when your vehicle doesn’t meet emissions standards will cost you.

Because penalties need to be paid every time you enter a CAZ, those travelling frequently within the area will be the worst hit.

If your business is based in a CAZ or you regularly travel to one for deliveries/jobs, you’ll have a decision to make (scroll down to later on in the piece for some potential solutions).

 

Buying Habits

Van users already have a number of factors to consider when buying a van.

Prize, size, warranties, aftercare – you name it.

As a vehicle supplier, we’ve noticed a rising trend in recent years of customers becoming more concerned about if certain vans meet certain emissions standards.

For big fleet and city-based businesses, clean air compliance is equally as important as any other feature on a van.

The reason is simple: they know that failing to comply with air quality standards can actually cost them more in the long run than upgrading to a newer, cleaner van.

This trend will only grow with the further rollout of UK clean air zones.

Older vans will become less desirable as their engines become more and more outdated.

Business owners and van buyers will shift their focus to newer engines to ensure their fleets are future-proof.

 

Government Goals To Ban Diesel

Petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned from sale in 2030, according to plans recently announced by Boris Johnson.

That’s right – in nine years time, you will not be able to buy a petrol or diesel van.

Newer hybrids will still be available for purchase up until 2035 if they can cover a ‘significant’ distance on their zero-emission modes.

The Government is set to invest billions to help facilitate the move away from fossil fuel vehicles to achieve their goals of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

EV charge points, grants, production and battery development are just some of their areas they’ll throw money at in the coming years.

Considering the rapid technological strides made in the EV sector in recent years, it’s not unreasonable to think electric vans will be performing to suitable standards by 2030.

Ford claims their newly-announced e-Transit can travel up to 217 miles on a single charge with a payload of 1616kg.

With that kind of performance, van users won’t need to worry about more restrictions and UK clean air zones being rolled out in the future.

 

The Solutions

 

Pay the charge

The simplest fix, but could arguably end up costing you a lot of money in the long run.

If you still need to access the zone – whether regularly or sparsely – and aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to your old vehicle, simply paying the charge could be the right choice for you.

Paying UK clean air zones’ charges can be rather straightforward. In London’s case, if you’re to pay a ULEZ charge you simply log onto the Transport For London website and pay your balance.

Deadlines and exact payment processes for future UK clean air zones may vary.

Again, we advise contacting your local council for more information.

 

Avoid clean air zones where possible

This option will save you the most money. But we understand it might not be entirely possible.

A lot of businesses rely heavily on travelling to or within big cities. Couriers, tradespeople, delivery service – you name it.

If travelling within a CAZ is simply unavoidable, our other two solutions may be more appropriate

However, say, for example, you’re a logistics company with a large fleet of vans. Some of your drivers might be using newer, Euro 6 vehicles for deliveries while others might be stuck with Euro 5 or older engines.

Make sure you’re only using newer vans for deliveries into cities and keep your pre-euro 6 vehicles for more rural routes.

If you don’t have a fleet of Euro 6 (or newer) vehicles at your disposal…

 

Upgrade your old van

This option might be the hardest to take in at first.

Forking for a brand new van might not seem the most cost-effective option for your business – but that couldn’t be more wrong in some cases.

At Vantastec, we’ve had countless London-based businesses reduce their daily operating costs after buying a new diesel Euro 6 or electric refrigerated van.

Let’s break down how.

London’s ULEZ charge for vans is currently £12.50 per day. Say you work a five-day week, that works out to £62.50 per week or approximately £270.83 per month.

Plus the daily congestion charge of £15, you’ll end up paying a total of £595.83 per month per vehicle just for travelling in central London.

Meanwhile, a brand new Euro 6 Citroen Berlingo refrigerated van – which is exempt from ULEZ charges – costs £243.08 per month on a finance lease.

So, yes – if you’re travelling an outdated gas-guzzler in large cities on a daily basis, you can actually save hundreds of pounds every month by upgrading to a shiny new van.

 

Conclusion

So that concludes our guide on UK clean air zones and how they will affect van drivers in 2021.

Hopefully, you’re now well-equipped with the knowledge to prepare your business for when your local authorities start clamping down on harmful emissions.

Please feel free to leave any questions or topics you’d like us to cover in the comments section below.

 

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