Sadiq Khan to impose congestion charge on electric vehicles

Sadiq Khan - Sadiq Khan to impose congestion charge on zero-emission cars
Sadiq Khan will being an end to green exemptions from the congestion charge by the end of next year - Getty Images/Ray Tang

Sadiq Khan is extending London’s congestion charge to all zero-emission vehicles from the end of next year.

The move, which will extend the £15-a-day tax on motoring to battery-powered electric vehicles from Christmas Day 2025, was widely condemned on Tuesday.

Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, said: “Taxing cars even if they’re zero emission shows Labour’s plan to use motorists as cash cows. If they get into government there will be worse to come, with pay-by-mile taxes and fuel duty hikes to help close their £2,000 tax black hole.”

The AA described the scrapping of the green exemption as “a turkey bone in the throat” for owners of electric cars wanting to drive them in the capital.

Mr Khan’s office declined to comment when approached by The Telegraph.

Over the years, the Mayor of London has spoken extensively about his personal drive to improve London’s air quality by imposing charges and restrictions on motorists, including the Low Emission Zone (Lez) and the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (Ulez).

Transport for London (TfL), which he chairs, confirmed this week that it was proceeding with plans to remove the current £10-a-year exemption that lets owners of battery-powered vehicles drive in the capital without paying the £15-a-day congestion charge.

A spokesman said the plans were first announced in 2018, highlighting a statement from that year which mainly talked about scrapping exemptions for taxis. The congestion charge exemption does not apply to the Lez or Ulez schemes.

Confirmation on Tuesday that the zero emission vehicle exemptions will be scrapped were condemned by Quentin Willson, a former Top Gear presenter who now campaigns for a faster transition to electric vehicles.

Mr Willson told The Telegraph that the plans seemed “counter-productive” and that his FairCharge UK group would be writing to the Mayor to object to them.

“The cynic in me can’t help thinking that this is a revenue-based issue,” he said. “Why are we stopping it now? And they will say, ‘well, it’s a congestion issue’. But then surely, it’s manifestly better to have cars with zero tailpipe emissions sitting in queues rather than those that are polluting diesel and petrol?

“So to me, it just doesn’t work with his campaign to make London a much greener, cleaner air city. It seems completely counter-productive.”

Steve Tuckwell, who won the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election by opposing Labour’s “war on motorists”, said: “London is the western front in Labour’s war on motorists, and only the Conservatives are fighting to defend drivers.

“Sadiq Khan has let Labour’s mask slip – scrapping the discounts on electric vehicles makes this clear. Labour wants your car to make as much money as possible for them, whether it’s through Ulez or pay-per-mile.”

Motoring groups also hit out at the plans. Jack Cousens, the head of roads policy at the AA said: “The London Mayor’s decision to force EV drivers to pay the congestion charge from Dec 25 2025 onwards may be a Christmas present for him.

“However, it is a turkey bone in the throat of EV owners who heeded his call to switch to green vehicles and improve air quality in the capital. The key question is: has this decision come about because he hasn’t made as much money as he thought from the Ulez expansion?”

Sadiq Khan has made clean air one of his priorities as Mayor of London
Sadiq Khan has made clean air one of his priorities as Mayor of London - PA/David Mirzoeff

But Simon Williams, the RACs head of policy, said: “This is a somewhat inevitable step as the journey towards zero-emission motoring has progressed considerably since the congestion charge was first introduced, with more than a million electric vehicles now on our roads.

“It was put in place to reduce the number of vehicles using central London roads with a view to improving both air quality and traffic flow. And, now we have the Ulez directly tackling air quality, it’s probably only fair that this discount comes to an end as all vehicles, regardless of how they are powered, can create congestion.”

A spokesman for TfL said: “The congestion charge’s cleaner vehicle discount was part of our phased scheme to tackle London’s toxic air. Ending the cleaner vehicle discount from Dec 25 2025 will maintain the effectiveness of the congestion charge, which is in place to manage traffic and congestion in the heart of London.

“The introduction of the London-wide Ulez has resulted in dramatic improvements in air quality and more than 52,000 grants have been approved for Londoners, businesses and charities to switch to cleaner vehicles, with 70,000 fewer non-compliant vehicles now seen driving on London’s roads.”