Electric vehicles and congestion charges

Electric vehicles (EVs) and congestion charges can both reduce pollution and help make cities greener.

Electric vehicles (EVs) and congestion charges can help to reduce pollution and help make cities greener. However, the country’s first and only congestion charge was set up to decrease traffic jams rather than to cut emissions. So, even if you drive the cleanest machine the world has ever seen, you may still have to pay a fee to cruise through central London.

Read on to find out exactly which charges EV drivers face and what the difference is between a congestion charge and a Clean Air Zone charge.

What is a congestion charge?

A congestion charge is a fee paid by drivers to help reduce traffic in certain areas of a city, usually in and around the city centre. The UK has one congestion charge, in London, but there are similar fees in cities across the county.

A bit about terms

Technically, London is the only city in the UK with a congestion charge – officially known as the London Congestion Charge. And the capital also has two other, separate fees – one for its Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and another for its Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). In some other cities, there are charges for driving in Clean Air Zones, which are similar to London’s LEZ and ULEZ.

Generally, the difference between a congestion charge and a Clean Air Zone charge is that the first is designed to help reduce traffic and the second is designed to help reduce traffic emissions. However, to keep things simple, we’ll use congestion charge to refer to all these fees, except where London is concerned.

With that out the way, let’s talk about whether electric vehicles (EV) are exempt from congestion charges and what charges you might have to pay if you drive an EV.

How do I know if I need to pay a congestion charge?

Whether you need to pay a congestion charge or similar fee depends on three things:

  • Where you drive 
  • When you drive 
  • What you drive

Let’s start with the where and the when, but remember the below information is subject to change, and is correct as of May 2024.

The London Congestion Charge

If you're driving in London, there are three charges you might come across. First is the London Congestion Charge. This is a £15 fee applied to vehicles going through the city centre during certain hours – Monday to Friday, 7:00am to 6:00pm and Saturday to Sunday and bank holidays, 12:00pm to 6:00pm

London’s LEZ and ULEZ charges

Then, there's the fee for London’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ), which mainly targets larger vehicles like buses and lorries. This is in effect 24/7 and focuses on emissions. Depending on your vehicle, you’ll need to meet either Euro 6 or Euro 3 emissions standards to avoid paying in the LEZ.

And last, there's the fee for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). This is like the LEZ fee but with stricter rules. To avoid paying here, petrol cars need to meet Euro 4 standards and diesel cars have to hit Euro 6 standards. Vehicles with emissions above these levels may be charged a daily ULEZ fee and possibly also a LEZ fee and the Congestion Charge.

Clean Air Zones charges

Following London’s example, seven other cities in the UK have introduced charges aimed at lowering emissions. The areas where these apply are called Clean Air Zones and the fees are called Clean Air Zone charges.

In general, the fees are only charged to certain kinds of vehicles. Let’s take a look at how they work in two very different cities – Birmingham and Bath.


Like London, Birmingham is a big, bustling place, known for its industrial history. So, it’s probably not surprising that the city was among the first to bring in Clean Air Zones to help reduce pollution. 

The rules here are pretty simple. If a vehicle doesn’t meet the emissions standards, the fee to drive in the Clean Air Zone is £8 per day for cars, taxis and vans, and £50 per day for coaches, buses and HGVs. 

Learn more about Birmingham’s Clean Air Zones charges at #brumbreathes


Think Bath and it may be elegant Regency carriages rather than gas-guzzling lorries that come to mind. However, in 2021, it introduced a Clean Air Zone to help cut emissions in the city centre.

In Bath, you’ll be charged only if you drive a taxi or larger vehicle like a camper van, minibus, or lorry. Depending on your vehicle’s type and size, you’ll need to pay either £9 or £100 per day to drive in the Clean Air Zone.

Find details on Bath’s Clean Air Zones at the local council website

Do electric vehicles pay congestion charges?

Whether electric vehicle drivers have to pay congestion charges depends on where and when they drive. 

If the ‘where’ is central London and the ‘when’ is within certain hours, you’ll likely have to pay the London Congestion Charge, whatever vehicle you drive (see The London Congestion Charge above for details). If you have a battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell car, you could pay a lower rate with the Cleaner vehicle discount. But this discount is due to end on 25th December 2025.

Unlike the Congestion Charge, the fees for London’s Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) and Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) are based on a vehicle’s emissions, or how polluting it is. That’s also true in many Clean Air Zones across the county, though there are some exceptions.

So, if you drive a fully electric EV, hybrid, or other low emissions vehicle, it’s less likely you’ll have to pay a LEZ, ULEZ, or Clean Air Zone charge.

How do I know if my car needs to pay the congestion charge?

The UK’s congestion and Clean Air Zone charges depend on where and when you drive. You can enter your vehicle’s registration number on council or government websites to work out what, if anything, you’ll need to pay.

If you’re driving in another city, you can find out whether you’ll be charged at some local council websites or on the governament website dedicated to Clean Air Zones chargesFootnote [1]   

Looking for electric vehicle insurance?

Our car insurance covers your electric vehicles and its accessories as well. And with our comprehensive cover, the RAC can take you to the nearest charge point if you run out of charge. Footnote [2]  

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