With global warming and environmental activism on everyone’s minds in recent years, people have been considering how they can help improve the planet on both an individual, city-wide, and even global level.

One instance in which the UK is trying to lower the gases it produces is by controlling its road emissions. That’s why many cities are starting to introduce clean air zones. But what are clean air zones, and what do you need to know before entering one? Here, we explain it all.

what is a clean air zone?

Clean air zones are a method of keeping the pollution areas lower in an area. They are implemented by region; the idea being that by working on a smaller scale, businesses and local authorities can all contribute to the national collective.

These areas have been introduced with a specific focus on NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) concentrations on regions that are producing too much.

What does clean air zone mean? There are two types of clean air zone: non-charging and charging.

  • Non-charging clean air zone: A non-charging clean air zone, unsurprisingly, does not charge vehicles for entering the zone. Instead, the focus is on more controlled measures to improve air quality. These measures will often include things like traffic flow management.
  • Charging clean air zone: In a charging clean air zone, on the other hand, drivers must pay a fee to enter the zone. However, they will only need to pay this fee if their vehicle does not meet that region’s required standards.

All clean air zones are labelled as one of the four classifications: A, B, C, or D. the emissions standards are more or less in line with London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), but this and regional clean air zones aren’t quite the same thing.

what’s the difference between a CAZ and London’s ULEZ?

The key difference between a clean air zone and London’s ultra-low emission zone is that the latter has stricter charging policies.

The only ultra-low emission zone in the UK is located in London, whereas clean air zones are regional. The latter can also be applied to an area of any size; it could be a single road, or it could be the whole city centre.

clean air zone classifications

As mentioned previously, there are four different classes of clean air zone (A, B, C and D). These classes refer to the vehicle types that are subject to the clean air zone.

  • A – Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire
  • B – Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire, heavy goods vehicles
  • C – Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire, heavy goods vehicles, vans, minibuses
  • D – Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire, heavy goods vehicles, vans, minibuses, cars. Motorcycles can also be added to this at the local authority’s discretion.

where are the current clean air zones?

There are currently seven cities that have clean air zones in the UK. These are:

  • Bath – Class C
  • Birmingham – Class D
  • Bradford – Class C
  • Bristol – Class D
  • Portsmouth – Class B
  • Sheffield – Class C
  • Tyneside – Class C

Greater Manchester is also soon to become a clean air zone, with its class currently under review. As clean air zones are designed by each region, you’ll need to check what the requirements are for a specific area before travelling to it.

what to do before driving in a clean air zone

Clean air zones are in effect 24/7, so make sure you’re prepared if you need to drive through one. You can check whether you’ll need to pay a charge for your vehicle ahead of time on the government website. If you do, you can also use this site to pay the charge in advance.

You can pay up to six days before and six days after your travel. If you don’t, you might find that you receive a penalty charge notice.

clean air zone exemptions

There might be local exemptions to each clean air zone. As previously established, the exact rules of each clean air zone are relatively free for each region to decide upon themselves. However, there are some general exemptions that are valid throughout all of them. These are known as national exemptions, and they include your vehicle being:

  • A certain type of agricultural vehicle
  • A disabled passenger tax class vehicle
  • A disabled tax class vehicle
  • A historic vehicle
  • A military vehicle
  • An ultra-low emission vehicle

If your vehicle fits into one of the above categories, it has an automatic exemption to any clean air zone charge.

find the right car for your commute

If you’re currently driving a car that requires payment but you often find yourself driving in clean air zones, it could be time to upgrade your vehicle to something more eco-conscious.

At findandfundmycar.com, we have used cars for you to choose from all over the UK, including a range of eco-conscious cars. Start browsing today.

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