The London Congestion Charge emissions exemption limit is being lowered to 75g/km CO2, meaning that only plug-in cars will qualify for exemption, and sub-100g/km petrol and diesel cars will have to pay to enter central London.
Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed it will replace the existing Greener Vehicle and Electric Vehicle Discounts with a stricter Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED). The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, confirmed the changes following a 12-week consultation on the proposals, which sought the views of Londoners, businesses and key stakeholders.
The limit will change from the current 100g/km CO2 to 75g/km CO2 in a relatively short time, on 1 July 2013.
Vehicles emitting less than 75g/km CO2, and meeting the Euro 5 emission standard for air quality, will receive a 100% exemption from the £10 charge.
Cars currently qualify for the Greener Vehicle Discount (GVD) if they emit 100g/km of CO2 or less and meet the Euro 5 standard for air quality, meaning some low emission diesel cars are exempt from the charge.
A Euro 4 diesel car emits around 22 times as much particulate matter as an equivalent petrol car, but sales of diesel vehicles in the capital have increased from a 10 per cent to a 50 per cent market share over the past decade, in part due to low carbon incentives.
The new limit is likely to encourage the use of electric vehicles in the city. Anyone registered for the current Electric Vehicle Discount will automatically be transferred to the new ULED. The changes will not only help with CO2 levels in the capital, but also with local air quality.
However, drivers who have recently purchased sub-100g/km cars will continue to be eligible for exemption from the Congestion Charge for three years, until 24 June 2016.
The Mayor also announced two further changes to the scheme – the removal of the option to pay the charge in shops (which is now used for only 6% of payments) and an increase in the level of penalty charge from £120 to £130.
The increase in the penalty charge will take effect on 20 May 2013.
Drivers will still be able to pay the congestion charge using a wide range of other means including online, by phone, by text message or by CC Auto Pay.