Owners of the most polluting cars will have to shell out up to £24 a day to drive in central London from 2019, under plans unveiled by Mayor Sadiq Khan. The Government's also drawing up plans to clamp down on high-polluting cars in other UK cities, though these are at an early stage - here's what we know so far.

The London Mayor announced this week that a new ultra low emissions zone (ULEZ) will come into force in April 2019, with cars that fall below set European emissions standards charged £12.50 a day to drive in the current Congestion Charge zone.

The charge will mainly affect drivers of older cars - typically diesel vehicles that will be more than four years old in 2019, and petrol vehicles that will be more than 13 years old. There are some exceptions though - see below for how to check if your car will be affected.

The ULEZ charge will be on top of the existing Congestion Charge, which is applied on weekdays, meaning the total daily fee faced by polluting cars will be £24. The ULEZ will apply across all types of motor vehicle except black taxis.

Khan is also consulting on plans to extend the charge across Greater London for heavy diesel vehicles such as lorries from 2020, and as far out as the North and South Circular roads for cars and vans from 2021. See our Motoring MoneySaving guide for tips on driving down the cost of using your car.

How London's new anti-pollution charges will work

With the current Congestion Charge, ULEZ proposals and the £10 T-Charge which comes in this October, there are plenty of changes on the horizon for motorists in London. Here's how the charges will work:

London charges for car drivers

Charge When Where Times Cars affected Price / day Discount for residents?
Congestion Charge Already in force Congestion Charge Zone (Central Ldn) Mon - Fri, 7am - 6pm All cars (1) £11.50 90% discount
T-Charge 23 Oct 2017 - 7 Apr 2019 Congestion Charge Zone Mon - Fri, 7am - 6pm Cars which don't meet emissions standard Euro 4 £10 90% discount
ULEZ 8 Apr 2019 - 2021 Congestion Charge Zone 24/7 Diesel cars which don't meet emissions standard Euro 6, petrol cars which don't meet Euro 4 £12.50 No charge till Apr 2022
From 2021 TBC - could stretch to North & South Circular TBC TBC TBC No charge till Apr 2022
(1) There are a few exemptions, eg, cars used by disabled people

How to check your vehicle's emissions standard

To see if you'll have to pay the T-Charge or ULEZ charge, you need to check your vehicle's European emissions standard. In most cases this is determined by how old your car is, as follows:

  • Euro 1 - applies to all new registrations after 31 Dec 1992
  • Euro 2 - all new registrations after 1 Jan 1997
  • Euro 3 - all new registrations after 1 Jan 2001
  • Euro 4 - all new registrations after 1 Jan 2006
  • Euro 5 - all new registrations after 1 Jan 2011
  • Euro 6 - all new registrations after 1 Sept 2015

However some manufacturers may have made vehicles to a higher emissions standard than was mandatory at the time.

For newer vehicles, your Euro emissions standard may be listed on your V5C vehicle registration certificate, under section D. Otherwise you may need to contact your vehicle manufacturer to check. See the RAC and Transport for London websites for more info.

Drivers of older cars in central London to pay £24-a-day fee - what new anti-pollution charges mean for you
The London Mayor announced this week that a new ultra low emissions zone will come into force in April 2019

'Air in London is lethal'

The introduction of the new anti-pollution measures in central London is expected to cut emissions of dangerous nitrogen oxides from traffic pollution by almost half.

London is one of a number of areas across the UK where air quality is failing to meet legal standards, contributing to early deaths and ill health for residents.

The mayor said: "The air in London is lethal and I will not stand by and do nothing. I'm announcing bold proposals which are critically needed to safeguard Londoners from our air quality health crisis."

Government to consult on anti-pollution plans for rest of UK

In recent days there's been widespread speculation that a so-called 'toxin tax' of up to £20 a day could be rolled out to other UK cities.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs hasn't confirmed this figure or any details of such plans, but it is working on proposals to clamp down on high-polluting cars. These plans will be unveiled by 26 April, and then consulted on over the summer.

Clean air plans for five cities - Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton - were announced in 2015. However this does not necessarily mean those cities will introduce a 'toxin tax' as the plans involve broader measures, such as upgrading bus fleets and traffic calming action.

Prime Minister Theresa May today stepped to suggest she may seek to help those affected by any new anti-pollution measures.

She said: "Decisions will be taken when we produce that [air quality] plan. But I'm very conscious of the fact that past governments have encouraged people to buy diesel cars and we need to take that into account when we look at what we do in the future."