Are Electric Cars Exempt from the Congestion Charge? 

The London Congestion Charge is a £15 fee paid by motorists who enter the relevant parts of the city during specific times of day. We’ll look at the terms in more detail below. First, let’s deal with the burning question: are electric cars exempt from the Congestion Charge or not? 

 

EV Exemptions from London Congestion Charge 

As of summer 2022, vehicles with very low emissions may qualify for an exemption to the Congestion Charge. This includes hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) but none of the various types of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). 

This exemption is currently called the Cleaner Vehicle Discount, but it’s due to end on Christmas Day 2025. Because the Congestion Charge doesn’t apply over Christmas anyway, even BEV drivers should expect to start paying the Congestion Charge from January 1st 2026.

It’s not surprising that the exemption is being lifted. Initiatives like the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) have seen a rapid increase in electric car usage in Central London, so, logically, TfL will begin to tackle electric car congestion too.

 

Do I Need to Pay the Congestion Charge? 

Regardless of the type of vehicle you drive, the Congestion Charge applies at the following times: 

  • Mon-Fri 7am-6pm
  • Sat-Sun 12pm-6pm
  • Bank Holidays 12pm-6pm 

Between Christmas Day and the immediately following New Year’s Day bank holiday inclusive, there is no charge. This is a little tricky as the official New Year’s bank holiday does not always fall on January 1st. 

For example, in 2022 the Christmas Day bank holiday actually lands on Tuesday December 27th, while the 2023 New Year’s Day bank holiday is on Monday January 2nd. According to TfL’s T&Cs, the Christmas exemption will still begin on Christmas Day itself (December 25th) but will therefore run through until January 2nd. 

All of this means unless it’s Christmas, and unless you have pre-registered for an exemption, you will normally need to pay the Congestion Charge on weekend and bank holiday afternoons until 6pm, and on weekdays during typical commuting and working hours. 

 

Do I Need to Pay the ULEZ Charge? 

The Ultra Low Emission Zone is a separate fee for vehicles that produce air pollution to drive through the relevant zone in London. 

Unlike the Congestion Charge, the ULEZ is in force around the clock, 24/7 with the sole exception of Christmas Day. It costs £12.50, and to be exempt, you’ll need your vehicle to meet certain standards: 

  • Euro 4 for petrol cars
  • Euro 6 for diesel cars
  •  Zero-emission BEVs 

If your vehicle is fully battery-powered and produces zero emissions,  your vehicle is currently exempt from the ULEZ charge. 

 

How to Claim a Congestion Charge Exemption

There is usually no need to register a ULEZ exemption – if your car is net-zero and has not been modified in a way that changes its emissions, it qualifies automatically. As such, any of the top EV cars and new electric models on the market today should be fully exempt. 

The Congestion Charge exemption for electric cars is a different matter. If you want to receive the Cleaner Vehicle Discount before it is discontinued at Christmas 2025, you’ll need to register with TfL and submit documents to prove you qualify.

Evidence you may need to provide includes: 

  • V5C DVLA certificate (also known as the vehicle’s ‘logbook’) for UK vehicles
  •  Equivalent document from relevant licensing agency for non-UK vehicles
  • Either document must clearly state ‘battery electric’ or ‘hydrogen fuel cell’ 

There is a fee to register your exemption, but it’s only £10 a year, so you’ll more than make your money back if you enter the Congestion Charge zone even once. You can submit documents digitally online, or start your application and send paper copies by post later.

 

Final Thoughts

There are many other Congestion Charge exemptions, including for residents who live inside the zone, disabled ‘blue badge’ holders (even if they are a passenger, not the driver) and some commercial vehicles, e.g. breakdown recovery trucks. Any vehicle with nine or more seats should also be eligible for a 100% discount. 

In terms of electric cars, it’s a shame – although understandable – that the exemption is due to end in December 2025. Remember, though, that the ULEZ remains in force 24/7 (except Christmas Day) and is likely to do so into the second half of the decade. 

As a result of this, although BEVs may no longer be exempt from the Congestion Charge once 2026 begins, there should still be a considerable financial advantage to driving a zero-emission vehicle if you need to go anywhere inside the North and South Circular Roads in London.