Motor World shares what you need to know about clean air zones in 2023, as more city centres around the UK are declared low-emission zones. What does that mean for you and your vehicle?
You might have heard about clean air zones coming into effect throughout the UK. But do you know how it will affect your driving and what they might do for your own neighbourhood? While some cities have already been operating clean air zones for some time, such as Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Bradford, Portsmouth and London, they are due to expand into many other places, including Glasgow.
Clean air zones originally only applied to lorries, buses, and taxis, but they have been expanded to include cars too. So, there are some points about clean air zones that are useful for everyone to learn about. Here, the experts at My Motor World take you through everything you need to know in 2023 about clean air zones, plus some tips for driving more sustainably — all in time for clean air week.
What are clean air zones?
Clean air zones are places where the local authority in question is implementing measures to improve the quality of air in the area. This is part of a broader plan to increase the air quality throughout cities in the UK, and measures consist of limiting or redirecting traffic according to specific pre-designed routes.
These measures are also sometimes brought in to reduce — or have the effect of reducing — traffic in frequent bottlenecks in areas such as city centres. Depending on the type of clean air zone imposed on your local area, it might mean you have to pay a charge to drive in a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) or you might even have to take another route.
Types of clean air zones
There are various types of clean air zones, and they all have different regulations. They are denoted as A, B, C and D, and they cover different types of vehicles. It’s worth knowing which type of vehicle each zone applies to, as this will impact your journeys.
- Class A: Class A only covers buses, coaches, and taxis.
- Class B: Class B affects buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, and heavy goods vehicles.
- Class C: Class C goes further, applying to the above vehicles and also vans and minibuses.
- Class D: Class D is the toughest clean air zone, applying to all the above as well as cars. The local authority also has the option to include motorbikes under this zone.
Clean air zones in Glasgow
From the 1st of June 2023, Glasgow’s city centre will be a class D Low Emission Zone (LEZ), which will charge all vehicles that do not meet clean air status. Motorbikes and mopeds will not be included. Blue badge holders and emergency vehicles will also be exempt.
The LEZ will run 24 hours a day and will cover an area of the city centre bordered by the M8 to the north and west, the River Clyde to the south, and Saltmarket/High Street to the east. Signs will be displayed as vehicles approach the city centre to inform drivers that they’re entering the LEZ if they wish to take an alternative route.
You can find out more about Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone on the Glasgow City Council website.
How to check your personal vehicle’s clean air status
If your vehicle is over a certain emissions level, you might need to pay to drive in a LEZ, so it’s useful to check where your car is on the emissions scale. If you are going to be travelling in an area with a clean air zone, it’s well worth doing this ahead of time so you can adjust your route plans accordingly.
You can check how your vehicle will comply with the clean air zone in question by using Low Emission Zones Scotland’s vehicle checker. This page will allow you to find out if you need to pay for your vehicle during your journey or pay a daily charge instead. You’ll need to know the registration of the vehicle you’re checking, and if you need to pay a charge, you’ll also need your debit or credit card. It will also allow you to view maps of clean air zones. You can also check via your local authority website for any exemptions in your low emissions zone.
It’s worth noting that if you’re going to be travelling in London, you’ll instead need to check your car’s emissions status using the TfL clean air zone webpage, as this is specifically for the city.
How to check a clean air zone for business vehicles
If you need to check a clean air zone for your business, and this includes multiple vehicles, you’ll need to use the same webpage as when you check personal vehicles’ emissions status. However, you’ll also need some additional information when you begin the check:
- An account with the service — you can create one using the webpage
- Your company name
- An email address
- A spreadsheet in CSV format of the number plates of the vehicles that you want to check
To pay for a number of vehicles, you’ll also need a credit or debit card, or bank details. Being able to do this online makes the process of organising clean air zone driving very easy for businesses, it’s just important to factor it into your financial projections if you use car travel a lot for business, as well as building time into your administrative work to ensure you have time to enter the information.
How to drive more sustainably
While clean air zones are meant to limit the driving of high emissions vehicles, especially at peak times in city centres, there are other ways that drivers can contribute to keeping these areas lower in pollution. It’s worth considering how you can contribute by driving more sustainably. One of the biggest things you can do is to ensure that all your exhaust parts are clean and working correctly, as well as doing regular checks on your engine. A faulty exhaust or struggling engine will emit more emissions and raise pollution levels.
You can also ensure that you are using your car more for long journeys rather than short ones: short journeys are less sustainable because they don’t allow your car to reach its optimum temperature. This means that your vehicle is less fuel efficient. Cars are most fuel-efficient when they are working at their optimum temperature, which occurs when driving longer distances. So, ensure that you are trying to use your car for longer routes, even combining errands where possible.
“Clean air zones are great measures to increase the air quality in our local areas, but they can be confusing to navigate as a driver. So, utilise the Government’s resource website and ensure that you are conducting all the relevant checks before heading out on your journey. If you’re travelling somewhere new, it’s important to check the clean air zone regulations ahead of time to learn whether it applies to your vehicle, as many clean air zones won’t apply to cars.
“You can also use this as an opportunity to learn about more sustainable driving habits, and how you can reduce the pollution given out by your vehicle. In many cases, this means taking time to ensure your car or other vehicle is fully maintained, with all its parts working correctly and being cleaned regularly. So, some extra at-home car maintenance can make your vehicle more eco-friendly than you might imagine.”