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Older, dirtier cars hit with big extra charge to enter central London

This is on top of the usual congestion charge that drivers must already pay.

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone Comes Into Effect
If you're in central London often, expect to see loads of these signs.
Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Driving into the center of London is about to become even more expensive, unless you're driving a car that's up to date with the latest and greatest emissions regulations.

Central London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is now in effect. Under this, drivers of certain vehicles will have to pay an additional £12.50 (about $16) to enter a chunk of London that was already subject to an £11.50 ($15) congestion charge. Vehicles that qualify for the ULEZ charge will still have to pay the standard congestion charge.

The rules for who will and will not pay appear pretty cut and dry. Pre-2006 gas cars and vans that don't meet Euro 4 emissions standards must pay the ULEZ charge, as well as pre-2015 diesel cars and vans that don't meet Euro 6 emissions standards. Pre-2007 motorcycles that don't meet Euro 3 standards must also pony up the pounds sterling. Things are even worse for buses and trucks that don't meet Euro 6, as they will face a £100 (about $130) charge. Failing to pay the ULEZ charge will result in either a warning or a £160 (about $210) fine. Yikes.

This move is all about improving air quality in a crowded part of London. Transport for London's website claims that there are "at least 360 primary schools in areas with illegal pollution levels," so it's clearly a public health issue. Vehicle emissions can contribute to a raft of respiratory and pulmonary issues, putting strain on the healthcare industry and generally making life more annoying for people caught up in the smog.

This is only the start for the ULEZ, as well. The BBC's report has a map that shows the zone will expand greatly on Oct. 25, 2021, extending to most of Greater London.