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The new commute

How to get around London without paying the congestion charge or relying on public transport
The new commute

This article first appeared in our Electric Nation EV special issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 03 September 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

As many drivers know, the London Congestion Charge (LCC) and Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) can make journeys in the capital expensive, but they are crucial for reducing emissions and improving London’s air quality.

During the first Covid-19 lockdown, these charges were suspended to help critical workers get to work and allow essential deliveries to take place.

This meant that those travelling in the congestion zones saved over £20 a day.

With Covid-19 vaccinations increasing and the UK returning to normality, more drivers are on the roads, emissions are on the rise and the LCC and ULEZ charges are back.

On June 22 last year the LCC fee increased from £11.50 to £15 per day and now operates seven days a week – between the hours of 07.00 and 22.00, rather than 07.00 and 18.00.

Is public transport the answer?

Use of public transport is on the rise, but it’s still much lower than pre-lockdown levels. Many understandably remain cautious; buses and trains have multiple touchpoint surfaces and maintaining social distance can be a challenge.

This is one reason why city workers are still reluctant to return to their London-based offices. Add public transport delays and the average annual cost of commuting into London by train – £5,114, 18% of the average annual London post-tax salary – and it is no surprise that London workers are looking at other transport options.

One alternative is to drive an electric vehicle (EV). EV adoption is on the rise, with new vehicle registrations continuing to grow in number. In May 2021, there were 22,975 new registrations (13,120 battery electric vehicles and 9,855 plug-in hybrids).

How to avoid charges

Until 2025, all pure electric cars, vans and other vehicles will be exempt from the congestion charge because they have zero tailpipe emissions.

This means that if you purchase a fully electric vehicle and register it with Transport for London (TfL), you won’t be required to pay the congestion charge in London. Drivers of electric vehicles are also exempt from paying the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charge.

The average list price of an EV is currently around £35,000, which is double the cost of a new conventional vehicle.

For those who feel the purchase price of EVs is still too high, a lot of money can be saved by renting an EV.

As an example, renting a BMW i3 from EVision Electric Vehicles will cost £5,040 (including VAT) per year, based on a three-year rental period. That is £74 less per year than paying for public transport, with the added benefits of staying in your own bubble.

Renting a BMW i3 from EVision comes with other advantages, too – including a free charging cable and free EV charging point, which can be installed at your home address or place of work.

It also includes a 20,000 annual mileage allowance and maintenance and service costs.

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