Only 0.5 per cent of cars on UK roads are ultra-low emission

More work to market ULEVs needed as London introduces toughest emissions zone.


Only one in every 200 vehicles on UK roads emit ultra low levels of carbon, according to newly released figures from the Department of Transport.

In total 200,295 ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) were licensed at the end of 2018, representing 0.5% of the country’s total vehicle fleet.

While this figure is a big jump on the 144,000 total in 2017, it shows that much work still needs to be done to persuade motorists to switch to ULEVs, amid growing concern about the impact of petrol and diesel emissions on air quality and global warming.

Ultra-low emission vehicles are defined as vehicles which emit less than 75g of carbon dioxide for every kilometre travelled. These vehicles are typically pure electric or plug-in hybrid models.


The Government has previously announced a goal to end to sales of new conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040 as part of efforts to clean up transport. And this week London introduced what is being dubbed one of the world’s toughest vehicle emissions standards.

Drivers of older, more polluting cars are being charged a new £12.50 fee to enter the ultra-low emission zone in the centre of the capital. This zone currently matches that of the congestion charge (which drivers also have to pay) but Transport for London intends to enlarge it to take in the area bounded by the North and South Circular roads.

Cars affected by the new zone are those with petrol engines prior to Euro-4 standard, which became mandatory for all new cars in 2005 and light vans in 2006, and diesel engines prior to Euro-6, mandatory for all cars and light vans built since September 2015.

Commenting on the new figures, RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said that they show a gaping hole between the ambition to green the vehicle fleet and the reality on the road.

“The relatively slow take-up of electric cars shows how important government incentives remain and any changes – such as cuts in the level of the plug-in grant and restrictions on eligibility seen in October last year – have to be finely tuned,” Gooding said.

“The data also underlines the continued dominance of diesel. Whilst there are more petrol cars than diesel, diesel fuel sells at almost twice the volume because of its use in almost all commercial vehicles including HGVs and the fast-rising number of vans.”

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More people want to buy ULEVs – demand is outstripping supply for new models such as the Kia e-Niro electric vehicle.

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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