Are Electric Cars Exempt From The Congestion Charge? (And Do You Pay Tax On Them?)

Are you in the market for an electric car but want to know where you stand with congestion charges first? ‘Congestion charge electric cars’ is a popular search item to be fair.

Well, we can tell you right now that congestion charge electric cars are practically non-existent, depending on the EV you own, of course.

Congestion charges are a necessary evil, put in place to lower emissions in populated areas like London and Birmingham if you live in the UK. Other countries do have their own congestion charges, or some sort of variation, in place, but we’ll be looking at the United Kingdom over all the rest.

After all, countries look to the London Congestion Charge as a guide of sorts for how best to implement these changes for the greater good.

This guide will take a look at electric car congestion charges in full — telling you everything you need to know.

We’ll also provide suggestions for the best electric cars that are exempt from these charges. How much tax you pay on an EV won’t be left out either.

In other words, it’s the perfect read for someone with no prior knowledge of the benefits of electric cars and congestion charges.

Let’s get started.

What is the London Congestion Charge?

To best understand congestion charges in general, the best thing we can do is isolate the notorious London Congestion Charge.

The London Congestion Charge was put in place in February of 2003, in a bid to lower the number of vehicles coming in and out of certain areas — known as ‘Low Emission Zones’ — in the UK’s capital.

Since its inception, the number of public transport options has increased, as has journeys made on foot or bike. Traffic levels have decreased, much to the annoyance of some motorists occupying London streets.

The congestion charge is in effect from 7am to 10pm every day, other than Christmas Day.

How much do you need to pay if you aren’t exempt? A daily charge of £15 is required, but it will allow drivers to move in and out of that area for the whole day.

Usually, you’d be expected to pay £11.50, but the £15 is the result of the current pandemic (a temporary charge).

Unlike other road tariffs, drivers register their VRN on a database and pay the charge digitally.

Currently, some electric cars are exempt from paying the congestion charge.

However, your vehicle will need to emit no more than “75g/km of CO2 and have a minimum 20-mile zero-emission capable range” to qualify. Unfortunately, this rules out most PHEVs as they don’t meet Euro 6 standards that apply to specific vehicles.

We should mention that this is due to change this October. Only battery-electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will dodge the congestion charge until December 25th.

From this point moving forwards, the congestion charge will apply to electric car owners.

We had a good run while it lasted.

Birmingham will soon launch a similar congestion charge. Expect more UK cities to follow suit in the near future.

What Other Cities Have Clean Air Zones?

As we’ve just mentioned briefly, Birmingham is on a mission to cleaner air — preferably before the upcoming Commonwealth Games (2022).

The Clean Air Zone will go into effect at the start of June, operating 24 hours a day, unlike London’s current congestion set-up that runs within allocated times. Electric cars, like in London, are classed as entirely different vehicles.

You’ll still need to register your electric car, but this shouldn’t take too long.

The decision to make the city a Clean Air Zone was suggested by the UK Government and council officials. Their goal is to lower NO2 emissions to an average of 40μg/m3.

Standard cars will need to pay £8 to drive in and out of the centre of Birmingham; again, you’ll have full access to the city for a full day.

Bath is another city with an onset congestion charge — the first to follow London. Unlike Birmingham, the Bath charge is already in place, covering a large section of the city.

Congestion charges don’t apply to electric cars or hydrogen-powered vehicles in Bath.

Another win for EV owners.

And another reason to invest in an electric car now rather than later.

What About Road Tax On An Electric Car?

Road tax in the UK asks drivers to pay around £150 each year on average.

You do get a £10 discount on that amount for owning a PHEV — or an ‘alternative’ vehicle as they’re known — which is better than nothing.

What is road tax used for? Money paid goes towards road work, maintenance and projects that benefit drivers.

Emissions emitted by each vehicle determines how much road tax you pay. For example, the Lamborghini Aventador has high levels of CO2 emissions at 370 g/km. Owners of this sportscar would need to pay over £2,000 in road tax.

Now, electric cars are a lot different, but we didn’t need to tell you that.

All-electric cars pay no road tax at all in the UK as it stands.

This is one of the main incentives of purchasing an all-electric model right now. However, there are some disadvantages to buying now rather than waiting. In fact, we have a complete guide on just that. If you’d like to learn more, check it out.

PHEVs are a different kettle of electric fish in that you still have to pay road tax to some degree. Moreover, you’ll be expected to pay an additional £335 a year if your vehicle is over £40,000.

The changes to how electric cars and road tax works were put in place in 2017, encouraging drivers to take a lot more care, emissions-wise, with their vehicles of choice.

Will it last forever?

Probably not.

When all-electric cars complete their total takeover — as early as 2030 in line with the UK Govs current roadmap — there will need to be an update of sorts.

How this is evaluated/implemented is anyone’s guess right now.

It might be that electric cars are taxed on miles covered versus the emissions they release.

Ideal Electric Cars to Tackle Congestion Charges/Taxes

With electric cars and congestion charges, you’ll want to find something cost-effective and as all-electric as possible.

Hybrids are great options for dipping your toes in the water of EV without making a full splash, but you’ll pay road tax for owning one.

Tesla’s are incredibly powerful all-electric cars, it’s true, but we’re thinking cheaper. You know, practical electric cars that appeal to most UK drivers. Second-hand Tesla’s are slightly cheaper, by the way, but they’ll still cost a pretty penny or two.

We’re assuming you want to pay the least amount of money possible anyway.

This is why we’ve done you a solid and picked out the best road tax-free vehicles available right now.

Nissan Leaf

Type: All-Electric
Price: £25,995
Road Tax: N/A

The Nissan Leaf has come a long way from its original launch back in 2011. Since then, Nissan has sold over 250,000 units.

Charge times will vary. Still, most Nissan Leaf’s can charge from 20% to 80% in an hour using rapid chargers.

A standard Nissan Leaf is made for city driving, perfect for counteracting congestion charges, with a max range of 168 miles.

If you’re looking for a version with better range, take a look at the Leaf E+. It’s slightly more expensive, but you’ll be able to drive further on each charge (239 miles).

In a way, it’s become the quintessential all-electric car for those on a budget. It’s a congestion charge-free electric car too. Furthermore, you pay £0 road tax for driving around in this eco-friendly hatchback.

Nissan’s Leaf is an award-winning EV, a torchbearer of cheap all-electric cars with no lapse in performance.

Honestly, you can’t have a list of the best electric cars for avoiding road tax and congestion charges without mentioning the Nissan Leaf.

Kia e-Niro

Type: All-Electric
Price: £21,865
Road Tax: N/A

Kia’s e-Niro all-electric car is yet another fantastic option for those looking to avoid congestion charge electric cars.

With this eco-friendly electric car, you’ll be travelling 282 miles on a single charge. We mean it when we say that this EV can compete with the best of them. You can thank the 64kWh lithium-ion battery for its power.

We’ve included this electric car, a) because it’s an all-electric car with the power to back it up. And b) because it comes with a lot of space.

Did we mention this EV comes with regenerative braking too?

Furthermore, you’re covered by Kia’s 7-year warranty. This warranty covers you for the first 100,000 miles; after that, you’d be expected to cover the costs of a new battery.

The word: ‘reliable’ springs to mind whenever we think of the e-Niro.

VW e-Golf

Type: All-Electric
Price: £28,075
Road Tax: N/A

What do you get when you take an EV and mix it with a classic Volkswagen Golf? You get the e-Golf.

Let’s talk spec.

The torque of the e-Golf is hella impressive (214 lb-ft), able to travel around 125 miles per charge. It’s not the best electric car for range, but it should take you to work and back, or around a city, no problem.

This front-wheel-drive vehicle can go from 0-62mph in around 9.6 seconds, travelling up to 93mph tops.

This electric car was designed to fit into an established family of cars — it wasn’t made from scratch to be an electric standalone, unlike most of what you see available right now.

Familiarity is key and is the reason why there are thousands of e-Golfs out in the wild already.

Renault Zoe

Type: All-Electric
Price: £21,865
Road Tax: N/A

Looking for a cheaper electric car to dodge congestion charges and road tax?

The Renault Zoe is everything you’ve ever dreamed of and then some, one of the most popular electric cars in all of Europe from a sales point of view.

But where’s the charger? Look on the front of the vehicle, specifically where the Renault badge is located. Yeah, that pops open, revealing the charging port.

Using the right home charging kit, you can be road-ready in around five hours or so. Range-wise, new versions of the Zoe can take you 245 miles at a time.

Buying new versions of the Zoe also comes with the charger included. That’s one less thing to pay for.

You can actually find a cheaper version of the Zoe on second-hand car sites. The battery might have more miles on the clock, but it’s still a vehicle that will bypass congestion charges/road tax in a great big electric swoop.

Additional Benefits of Owning an Electric Car

So, you now know all-electric cars pay no road tax and congestion charges for the time being. What else makes them so unique in the grand scheme of things?

Simple answer: they’re incredibly cost-effective in more ways than one.

The upfront cost of buying an EV can be pretty pricey, we know. But how much you’ll save on fuel and maintenance will make up for that in spades.

Standard fuelling options set UK drivers back up to £100 each time, whereas an electric car like the Nissan Leaf can be left to charge overnight at home and cost you less than £10.

Can you see the difference?

Every electric car follows this rule — outside of maybe PHEVs that still require standard fuel to run. Still, all-electric cars not only defy the congestion charge electric cars you want to avoid, but they’re also running on zero emissions.

If there’s one thing drivers can agree on, it’s that we need to lower our emission output before it’s too late.

Driving around with a clear conscience only adds to the increased performance of most electric alternatives. You no longer have to settle for a gas-guzzler, paying out over £100 in road tax each year when you can invest in an e-Niro or Zoe and not have to pay a thing.

Buyers can also take advantage of government grants to help cut down the price of certain EVs.

The plug-in grant alone can give you up to £3,500 towards an electric vehicle. We’ve heard there’s plans to scrap this grant, so you might want to get moving if you want to save as much cash as possible.

To recap, the benefits of owning an electric car include:

  • Low maintenance costs
  • Charging is a lot more convenient
  • You pay no road tax/congestion charges
  • Plug-in grants help take the edge off
  • They’re better for the planet

Wrapping Up: Are Electric Cars Exempt From The Congestion Charge? (And Do You Pay Tax On Them?)

If you’re sick of paying road tax or congestion charges, choose an electric car. We’ve given you enough reasons to make an electric switch. We’ve even provided some all-electric considerations for your viewing pleasure.

Remember, congestion charge electric cars apply to PHEVs (hybrids) only.

For the time being, all-electric cars in the UK are exempt from both road tax and congestion charges in cities like London and Birmingham.

You might want to take advantage of these EV perks now before they go away. Soon, every EV will be a congestion charge electric car, meaning you’ll have to pay like everyone else, regardless of the price/type of your vehicle.

Will you be buying an all-electric vehicle anytime soon, knowing you don’t have to pay road tax? Many have already taken the leap.

Congestion Charge Electric Cars FAQs

Find yourself with more questions than answers after reading all that?

Relax. We’ll be answering some of your frequently asked questions in this final section. Feel free to reach out on social media if something isn’t clear enough. Road taxes and congestion charges can be a mind-field; we get it.

Do I need to pay road tax on an electric car?

Yes and no. If you own an all-electric vehicle, like the Nissan Leaf, Kia e-Niro, or any other battery-optimised car, you pay no road tax. Furthermore, you pay no congestion charges in areas like London and Birmingham.

How do I know if I drove in the congestion zone?

Like speeding, you’ll only know you’ve driven in a congestion zone without paying the tariff when a letter arrives in the post. You’ll then have an allotted amount of time to pay the fine (£65 if paid within 14 days, £130 if longer).

What cars are congestion charge exempt?

As mentioned, all-electric cars are fully exempt from congestion charges currently. In London, however, this is due to change in December of this year. After December 25th, every vehicle, electric or otherwise, will need to pay.

How can I avoid congestion charging?

You could try taking public transport? Another option would be to walk or cycle. Re-routing and driving outside of the Clean Air Zone is possible too. Still, you could be doubling your journey time by doing so — unless you leave earlier to get parked ahead of the congestion charge.

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