Are electric bikes the answer to avoiding Clean Air Zone charges?


The effects of the government’s Clean Air Zones (CAZs) continue to ripple across the UK as the latest tide of changes come into force. London’s alternatively named ‘Ultra-Low Emission Zone’ (ULEZ) has now expanded right out to the north and south circular and Portsmouth’s new CAZ will become operational later this month.

The new charging regimes for vehicles that don’t meet emission standards are likely to impact the way many people get around, effectively deterring the use of older and more polluting petrol or diesel vehicles in urban areas.

Electric cars and some low-emission vehicles are exempt – but electric bikes and cargo bikes (and rental electric scooters), are set to play their part for many looking to avoid the huge cost of switching to an electric car or van.

Which cities are implementing Clean Air Zones?

Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, London, Portsmouth, Newcastle/Gateshead/North Tyneside, Bradford, Manchester and Sheffield are all currently implementing or planning to implement CAZs, while Liverpool may opt to for a full-scale congestion zone.

What does this mean for me?

If your vehicle doesn’t meet the emission standards, you could be paying a charge every day you enter a CAZ. For a car or taxi this could be between £8-12.50 (depending on where you live), or if you’re a business owner, as much as £100 for a large commercial vehicle.

The upshot is that many people with older petrol or diesel vehicles will face the charges unless they change their travel habits.

What are my options?

For people looking for cheaper independent travel solutions, electric bikes and cargo bikes are fantastic options. Not only are they dramatically cheaper to buy than electric cars, but the ongoing charging cost is considerably less too. Plus, you won’t run into any parking costs, or waste time searching for parking spaces! 


Currently, rental e-scooters are highly likely to operate in similar zones to the new CAZs, while the UK Government is expected to analyse the results of the trials with a view to legalising the use of privately-owned e-scooters in the future.

However, right now, electric bikes offer the closest flexibility you can get to a car without the cost, but with the added bonus of clear health benefits without you having to break sweat too much when you don’t want to.

Check out our e-bike buyer's guide now

Electric cargo bikes can even represent a viable alternative to a second car for some families - they’re already a money-saving solution compared to car, even without a new CAZ! Luggage, up to five children, heavy loads… they can cope with it all.

For small business owners a cargo e-bike could definitely be a cost-saving solution for how to fulfil local deliveries within CAZs. Some can carry up to 250kg of protected load, with capacities that could equate to around 50 delivery packages.

Read the Pure Electric electric cargo bike buyer's guide now

If you think an electric bike could be the answer for solving your local CAZ issues, you’ll find our flagship Pure Electric store in Spitalfields, London.

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, why not join the Pure Electric Club via the footer at the bottom of this page to receive more news, insights and exclusive offers!


More info on CAZs

Why are CAZs being introduced?

Air quality across the UK has long been an issue, and before the COVID-19 pandemic the UK Government issued warnings to various cities to bring their air pollution within target limits. Just last month the UK was found guilty by the European Court of Justice of “systematically and persistently” breaching air pollution limits. [1]

Vehicle use is a chief culprit, producing carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter (PM) – but it is nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels that the government is specifically targeting for reduction via the Clean Air Zones [2]. NO2 causes harm to everyone’s health, but particularly affects children, the elderly, plus those with respiratory and underlying health conditions.

In general, air pollution increases the chances of a person developing lung cancer and cardiovascular disease and may be associated with cognitive decline, including dementia. [3]

How do CAZs work?

The UK Government standardises the types of vehicles it regards as ‘higher emission’ for consistency, but councils in conjunction with the Government determine exactly what type of CAZ they introduce. CAZs are categorized from A-D (see table above), which dictates the types of vehicle that will be charged, but the level of charges varies across the country.

Many CAZ plans were put on hold over the last year, as pollution levels dropped during national lockdowns. Plus, in such difficult financial times, councils didn’t want to hit residents and businesses with more costs. However, plans are now back on course for CAZ introductions in 2021 and 2022.

You can check what type of vehicles are included in each CAZ category and whether your vehicle meets the emission standard here.