Do Electric Vehicles Pay the Congestion Charge?

Congestion Charging Zone in London

The UK is undergoing a green transformation. The government has introduced more eco-friendly heating alternatives, pledged to plant more trees, and pushed for more low-carbon vehicles on the road.

One city in particular seems to be going above and beyond when it comes to cutting emissions: London. Since 2016, Mayor Sadiq Khan has introduced a number of policies – including ULEZ and the Low Emissions Zone – that have led to the number of people living with illegal pollution levels falling by 94% (The Guardian, 2020).

In a bid to further reduce emissions, Khan has also tightened measures on the Congestion Charge Zone, leaving many drivers to pay higher fees – except for electric vehicle (EV) drivers, that is.

How exactly do EV drivers avoid the charge? Scroll further down, where you can find everything you need to know about the Congestion Charge, and how it impacts electric vehicle owners.

Getting an electric vehicle can come with a tonne of benefits. One way you can make life with an EV even easier is by investing in a home charging station – especially if you don’t have private parking available for your EV.

Luckily, we can help with that. All you have to do is pop a few details in our quote comparison tool, and let us do the rest. We’ll put you in touch with our professional installers, who will contact you with their best prices.

Congestion Charging Zone in London

What is the London congestion charge?

The Congestion Charge is a daily fee for anyone entering the Congestion Charge zone – an area in central London, which we’ve outlined in the map below.

Congestion Charge Zone

The Congestion Charge was first introduced in 2003, and its main goal is to reduce traffic levels in central London, making walking and cycling in the area much safer and the bus network more reliable.

The Congestion Charge zone is managed by Transport for London (TfL), and runs from 7:00am–22:00pm every day – except on 25 December. The zone is monitored by cameras, which check whether cars entering the area between these times have paid the fee.

How much is the Congestion Charge?

Before the pandemic, the Congestion Charge only cost drivers a daily fee of £10.50 if they paid by AutoPay, and £11.50 if they paid another way. However, the charging rate was increased to £15 a day in June 2020, to reduce congestion during the pandemic.

Although the government stated that this was a temporary change, there are now ongoing debates about whether this increase should continue, to help reduce emissions in the capital.

“Coronavirus continues to present our city with unprecedented challenges, but I am determined to ensure that we emerge from this pandemic with a cleaner, greener and more sustainable transport system” – London Mayor Sadiq Khan

Tempted to sneak past the cameras and avoid paying? It’s probably best not to try this, as it could land you with a £160 fine – reduced to £80 if you pay it within 14 days.

Do electric vehicles need to pay the congestion charge?

Electric or hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle owners can avoid paying any Congestion Charge fees by applying for the Cleaner Vehicle Discount.

To be eligible for the scheme, drivers need to prove that their car is electric or hybrid by either providing images of the vehicle or sending photocopies of the following documents:

  • UK-registered vehicles – V5C vehicle registration certificate (logbook) issued by the DVLA
  • Non-UK registered vehicles – The vehicle registration document issued by your vehicle licensing agency

If you decide to go down the document route, make sure it clearly states that the vehicle is registered as fuel type ‘battery electric' or ‘hydrogen fuel cell'.

The application for the Cleaner Vehicle Discount costs £10 per vehicle and needs to be renewed every year – a small price to pay to avoid daily charges.

How does this compare to petrol and diesel cars?

If you find yourself travelling into the Congestion Charge zone regularly, swapping a petrol or diesel car for an electric or hybrid one will save you heaps of money.

But just how much money can you save?

Well, the average person travels 7,600 miles annually. If you’re driving these miles with a Nissan LEAF (2018) – which typically costs 4.3p per mile – you can expect to spend £326 a year on running costs.

A petrol car, on the other hand, will cost you lots more to run. In fact, Nimble Fins estimates the average petrol car costs around 15.8p per mile – totting up to around £1,200 a year. 

This means that, on average, electric cars are 3.6 times cheaper to run than petrol cars.

On top of all this, Londoners can save even more money by getting themselves the Cleaner Vehicle Discount. For people travelling into the Congestion Charge zone every day – whether that’s because you live in or around the area, or drive there for work – it’ll cost you £5,460 a year. 

So, overall, driving an eco-friendly car in central London could save you roughly £6,660 a year – and that’s not taking into account the amount of money you’d save from avoiding ULEZ charges.

EV Charging

Is this ever going to change?

EV and hybrid car owners can avoid the Congestion Charge fees for the time being. However, the government has stated that as of December 2025, all vehicle owners (unless they have another discount or exemption) will need to pay to enter the Congestion Charge zone.

Why are there plans to axe the discount further down the line? Well, the government is currently pushing for greener transportation – and one way to do this is to incentivise drivers.

However, as electric vehicles get more popular over the next few years, central London will become busier, as more people swerve the fee thanks to the Cleaner Vehicle Discount. This will effectively make the Congestion Charge pointless.

How many electric vehicles are there in London?

London is one of the UK’s electric vehicle hotspots. As of June 2021, there were 70,200 ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) registered in London, which includes battery-electric vehicles, hybrid-electric vehicles, and hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles.

But how are different regions in the UK performing when it comes to the number of green vehicles – and how does London compare? Check out the chart below to find out.

Data from Department for Transport Statistics 

As you can see, London is currently sitting snugly in third place, behind the South West and slightly in front of the North West. Not too bad considering London’s competing with whole regions, right?

Well, when you compare the number of ULEVs to the total population, London’s rates are slightly less impressive, since the city has a far larger population than the likes of Wales, for example.

To get a better idea of how many people are buying ULEVs around the country, we’ve calculated the number of eco-friendly vehicles per 100,000 people on the chart below.

Next steps

UK transport is gradually becoming electrified – a trend that is only set to increase in the coming years. Records were broken as recently as September 2021, when nearly 33,000 pure electric cars were registered – almost 50% more than in September 2020.

Considering hopping on the electric vehicle bandwagon? One way to make your life easier with an EV is to invest in a home charging station – simply plug it in when you get home and chill out whilst it charges.

Luckily, we can help you get the best charging station for your home. All you have to do is pop a few details in our easy-to-use quote tool, and let us do the rest. We’ll put you in touch with our professional installers, who will let you know their best quotes to compare.

You’ll be saving money – and the planet – in no time!

Beth Howell Writer

Beth has a real passion for green living. She’s been absorbed in eco research for over three years, and has become quite the expert. Whether you’re after a new set of solar panels, a home energy improvement, or you want to catch the latest eco news, she’s got your back.

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