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It’s now emerged that some low emissions cars are now set to lose their free congestion exemption in London, UK. With newer cars being manufactured with much lower emissions, it stands to reason, there is not only going to be more emission competition, but more vehicles taking advantage of the free congestion charge.

How the exemption started

The low emission's scheme started in central London during February 2003 to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and lower harmful pollutants in the air. The goal was to create a pollutant free zone and to encourage more people to walk, cycle or to use the city trains, buses and taxis.

Cars not hit by the congestion exemption

The cars that are being targeted are diesels and some hybrids. Statistics prove that diesels emit twenty two times more gunk into the air than petrol cars.

The Tfl (Transport for London) are the body of people who make decisions on congestion exemption, believe it would be more beneficial to bring in an ultra lower emission zone. In addition to a much greener zone, the Tfl are planning to remove the option of paying the charges in shops and fuel stations. Motorists will be limited to paying online, SMS, CC Auto Pay and by phone. These decisions have been made due to only 10% of people paying for their congestion charge in shops and fuel stations.

The decision also came to light because huge car sales increased the amount of traffic on our UK roads. Therefore, it stands to reason that London was quickly becoming a smog zone rather than a green zone.

Cars that fit into the 100% congestion exemption will have to produce less than 75g/km emissions, be pure electric and will have to pass the Euro 5 standards. Present emissions are cars with less than 100g/km emissions. This is all set to change by the end of July 2013.

This announcement has caused a huge outcry amongst many motorists because those who commuted into London previously bought their cars based on the City's congestion exemption protocols at the time. Motorists clearly wanted a car that would free them from paying congestion charges, which is quite understandable.

Greener grace period

The Tfl have thought long and hard about this problem, and are now generously offering new car owners that fall into this category a two year interlude with the ultra low emission's scheme. This means motorist who own a car and are already registered for the greener discount can expect two years of grace after the enforcement is established. They will be exempt from congestion charges until the 26th June 2015. New registrations for greener discounts will close on 28th June 2013.

Pure electric cars automatically qualify for the ultra low emission's discount, and no action is required from the owner of the vehicle. The Tfl will automatically update all records. Nonetheless, the car owner will still have to renew their annual renewal fee, which is currently £10.00.

Congestion charges and penalties

Congestion charges are costly; and if you don't pay there is a heavy fine. Advance payment per day is £10, a following day charge is £12 and auto pay online is £9 per day. There is a network of cameras that operate and are currently set in place throughout the city to take photographic images of number plates. Any number plate that appears in the green zone is screened on a database against paying and non-paying cars.

There is no escaping the charges, fines are heavy and will be increasing this year. It is believed that fines are now expected to be approximately £130 not £120.

Consultations for congestion exemption of some cars will close on Friday, 8th February 2013. The Tfl will then prepare a report for finalizing the proposals and modifications for early summer 2013.

For those who want to be involved in public consultations regarding congestion exemption and charges, you can have your say before Friday 8th February. Please contact here for more information.

But, first tell us here what you think of this new ruling? Do you think it’s fair? What are your views?