The Congestion Charge has been a contentious issue in London since its creation at the start of the 21st century. Designed to limit traffic in the city centre, it has received praise and condemnation in equal measure – and its rules are set to change again. Previously, all-electric vehicles were exempt from the Congestion Charge, but that looks to be changing. When will electric vehicles no longer be exempt from the Congestion Charge?
What is the Congestion Charge?
The Congestion Charge is a daily fee, imposed on eligible vehicles for driving in a select part of London. The charge was implemented in 2003 in order to combat rising traffic levels in the city centre, jamming roads, prevention efficient travel and raising the amount of air pollution from exhaust fumes to dangerous levels. An area called the Congestion Charge Zone, or CCZ, was drawn up, encompassing the area of central London from Hyde Park’s west side to Whitechapel, and from Lambeth to Pentonville. The charge amounts to a daily £15 fee for driving in the CCZ between the hours of 7am and 10pm, on every day apart from Christmas Day.
Electric Vehicle Exemption
Electric vehicles have been exempt from the Congestion Charge since its conception, owing to the utter lack of emissions created by them. But as all-electric vehicles have become increasingly prevalent in recent years, and as new charges have been introduced to combat emissions rather than congestion, that fact is set to change. Hybrid electric vehicles were exempt from the Congestion Charge until the 25 October 2021, and all-electric vehicles are next; starting in 2025, all-electric vehicles will also be eligible to pay the Congestion Charge.
(Despite the addition of electric vehicles to Congestion Charge eligibility, they will naturally still be exempt from the ULEZ Charge levied on high-emission vehicles.)
The Future of Driving in London
The face of travel in London has been regularly and rapidly changing in the last couple of decades, with the introduction of the controversial Congestion Charge, followed by the creation of the LEZ and ULEZ to combat emissions in the capital directly. Meanwhile, infrastructural work on roads and road-reliant public transport has made travel difficult in other ways. With the cost of private travel in London rising by the month, and with it becoming harder and harder to qualify for exemptions from the capital’s various charges, many commuters are looking instead at train times to London as an affordable alternative to driving and parking there.
London’s rail transport links, from the Underground to the Overground and its destination stations with lines across the country, make for a compelling argument against driving a private vehicle in the city centre – which is partially why the charges have been introduced to begin with. Not only do they make the city streets easier to navigate for essential workers, but they make them safer and pump more money into infrastructure in the process.