What is a Zero Emission Zone and why is it being introduced in Oxford?

Exhaust of a car where emissions effect clean air quality.

Oxford is launching Britain's first ever Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) from Monday, February 28.

It means polluting cars will be fined for driving into parts of the city centre. Only zero emission vehicles, such as electric cars, will be able to enter the zone for free.

While many cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and Bath have already introduced or are in the process of introducing Clean Air Zone restrictions and charges for vehicles, Oxford will be the first city in Britain to introduce a ZEZ.

A low-emission zone (LEZ) is where access by some polluting vehicles is restricted or deterred with the aim of improving air quality. A zero-emission zone is where only zero-emissions vehicles are allowed.

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Oxford is launching Britain's first ever Zero Emission Zone this month

What is Oxford's Zero Emission Zone?

The ZEZ is an area where zero emission vehicles (such as fully electric motorcycles, cars and vans) can be used without incurring a charge but where other motor vehicles may be charged.

All petrol and diesel vehicles, including hybrids, will incur a daily charge if they are driven in the zone between 7am and 7pm unless they have a 100 per cent discount or exemption.

It is being introduced in two phases. This will allow Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council to test how the scheme will work before expanding to a wider area in the second phase. The wider area zone will be subject to further assessments, consultation and funding.  

Councillor Duncan Enright, Oxfordshire County Council

Why does Oxford need a ZEZ?

Vehicle emissions are one of Oxford's most significant causes of air pollution. They are harmful to our health and contribute to climate change.

A zero emission zone will:

  • encourage people to switch to low and zero emission vehicles

  • make other positive changes to their travel behaviour.

This will improve the air quality in Oxford and reduce traffic while still maintaining access for those who need it.

It is a key part of the Oxford Transport Strategy, part of Oxfordshire County Council’s wider Local Transport Plan and Oxford City Council’s Local Plan.

The ZEZ will operate alongside other council proposals, including Connecting Oxford, the Active Travel programme and the councils’ air quality strategies, including Oxford City Council’s Air Quality Action Plan.

Signs will be placed around the zone, notifying drivers of the ZEZ

Where in the city will you be charged?

  • New Road, between Bonn Square and its junction with Castle Street

  • Bonn Square

  • Queen Street

  • Cornmarket Street

  • New Inn Hall Street

  • Shoe Lane

  • Market Street, from Cornmarket junction east for 40 metres

  • Ship Street

  • St Michael’s Street

How much will different vehicles be charged?

Most vehicles will need to pay a daily charge depending on their emissions if used in the pilot area. However, the scheme will not ban any vehicles from being used in the zone.

Daily charges by vehicle band and emissions:

How will it work?

Traffic signs will identify the location of the zone. The scheme will be enforced using automatic number plate recognition cameras.

You will be able to pay the charges online via Oxfordshire County Council's website:

  • up to six days in advance

  • on the day the vehicle is driven in the zone

  • or in the following six days.

Charges will apply from 7am to 7pm, seven days a week, all year round. The daily charge covers the entire day, so a vehicle can enter and be used within the area on multiple occasions each day. Charges don't apply to vehicles that are parked within the zone and do not move.

How to check your vehicle's emissions

Each vehicle band has a minimum emission standard. You can find your vehicle's emissions in your vehicle logbook or from your vehicle manufacturer.

The following online checkers below indicate your vehicle's emission standard/Euro status. The checkers are for guidance only.

Click here to check CO2 emissions.

Click here to check Euro emission standards.

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