Everything You Need to Know about UK’s Clean Air Zones

Debora Carley

To fast-track the shift to EVs (electronic vehicles) and the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, the UK introduced Clean Air Zones or CAZs in several of its cities, towns, and busiest areas. Despite global efforts to bring down air pollution levels, air quality is still a major […]

To fast-track the shift to EVs (electronic vehicles) and the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, the UK introduced Clean Air Zones or CAZs in several of its cities, towns, and busiest areas.

Despite global efforts to bring down air pollution levels, air quality is still a major problem worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is now the primary cause of premature deaths, with around four million recorded year after year. In the UK, early deaths linked to toxic air are estimated at 40,000 every year.

Since air pollution is primarily caused by vehicle emissions, the UK government decided to create a program that would focus on limiting the areas where high-polluting vehicles can travel. Bringing down the levels of toxic emissions can help improve overall air quality.

CAZs defined

A CAZ is an area in a town or city where vehicles with high levels of toxic emissions are prohibited to enter. In some zones, high-polluting vehicles will only be able to pass through if they pay a fine or additional charge.

Areas under the Clean Air Zones are those that have dangerous levels of air pollution.

The goal of Clean Air Zones is to improve the quality of air in the designated areas and, eventually, in the whole of the UK. Some of the zones have been around for years and evidence shows they have been effective in reducing the levels of pollutants such as particulate matter, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxide or NOx.

CAZs are also intended to support the government’s goal of an emissions-free future, as well as the banning of petrol and diesel car sales beginning in 2030 and hybrid cars starting in 2035. The zones are also there to protect public health. Air pollution has life-changing impacts on human health and the environment.

Clean Air Zones can also encourage residents to consider alternative travel options, such as public transport. This will not only lower vehicle emissions but also lessen congestion in busy city centres and towns throughout the UK.

Which vehicles can enter CAZs?

Vehicles that follow UK’s minimum standards are the only ones allowed to enter Clean Air Zones:

  • Euro VI minimum standard – coaches, buses, and HGVs or heavy goods vehicles
  • Euro 4 (Petrol) and Euro 6 (Diesel) – cars, private hire vehicles, taxis, minibuses, and vans
  • Euro 3 – motorcycles

In most cases, different standards are set for private hire vehicles and taxis. This is the responsibility of local authorities, so drivers must verify fines or charge information with them.

It is important to note that there are four types of CAZs:

  • Class A – Private hire vehicles, taxis, coaches, and buses
  • Class B – HGVs, private hire vehicles, taxis, coaches, and buses
  • Class C – Minibuses, HGVs, private hire vehicles, taxis, coaches, and buses
  • Class D – Cars, minibuses, HGVs, private hire vehicles, taxis, coaches, buses, and in some areas, motorcycles

Clean Air Zones are fully operational every day for 24 hours, seven days a week. Fines or charges must be paid by 11:59 p.m. six days after a vehicle is driven into the zone. Drivers also have the option to pay the charges six days before their schedule of travel. Failure to pay the charge on time will result in a PCN or Penalty Charge Notice.

The maximum payment for single CAZ single transaction charges is £5,000. Payments that are over the specified amount are divided into multiple transactions.

The Dieselgate diesel emissions scandal and NOx emissions

In September 2015, the Volkswagen Group received a notice from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board. It outlined the authorities’ allegations that Volkswagen and Audi vehicles in the US were installed with defeat devices that detect when a car or van is in emissions testing.

Defeat devices use artificial methods in lowering emissions levels while the vehicle is in testing. As such, authorities are presented with an emissions-compliant vehicle and one that adheres to WHO-mandated limits.

However, once the vehicle is driven on real roads, it switches back to default settings. As a result, massive volumes of NOx are emitted into the air, at levels that go beyond WHO- and EU-regulated limits. Thus, the vehicle is a pollutant and not environmentally safe.

A year or so later, Mercedes-Benz also received a notice from US authorities about emissions regulation violations. Defeat devices were also found in Mercedes diesel vehicles in the United States.

Other vehicles involved in the Dieselgate diesel emissions scandal include Renault, BMW, Peugeot, Alfa Romeo, Nissan, and Vauxhall, among others.

NOx, the reactive gas that diesel vehicles emit, has dangerous effects on the environment and human health. It contains nitric oxide or NO and nitrogen dioxide or NO2. It is a catalyst for the formation of several pollutants, including ground-level ozone, smog, and acid rain.

Exposure to NOx emissions makes a person susceptible to respiratory infections, cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, asthma, and premature death.

Carmakers should be held liable for the environmental harm and health risks they exposed their customers to.

Make a diesel claim

If you have a Mercedes-Benz or any other affected vehicle, visit ClaimExperts.co.uk to verify your eligibility to make a diesel claim. Your carmaker owes you compensation for all the inconvenience and troubles the defeat device caused you.

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