The government has changed the rules concerning what can enter the London congestion charge zone for free. Previously, any vehicle that emitted 99 grammes of CO2 or less could come and go as they liked, but that’s all set to change. Going forward, only cars that push out 75g/km or less will qualify for exemption.
This means dozens of hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius, eco-friendly diesels such as the VW Golf Bluemotion and small-engined petrol cars like the Fiat 500 TwinAir will no longer be exempt. The government hasn’t completely yanked the carpet out from under your green car’s wheels. Any car currently registered or will be registered before June the 28th of 2013 will get what’s called a ‘sunset period’ where they’ll still be able to access the zone free until June 24 2016, but beyond that, what cars are exempt from the zone under the new rules?
We taken a magnifying glass to our huge car database to find cars that emit CO2 at a rate of 75g/km or less and here’s what we’ve come up with.
Mitsubishi iMiev / Peugeot iOn / Citroen C-Zero
Whichever badge you have on the front, the Mitsubishi iMiev, Peugeot iOn and the Citroen C-Zero are the same car. Each comes with an electric motor and a 16kWh battery that gives you enough juice for 93 miles of driving on a single charge, while the small footprint means parking will be a doddle. Charging takes seven hours unless you have a rapid charger, in which case, 30 minute gives you 80 per cent capacity.
Read: Mitsubishi iMiev review
It’s a car the size of a shopping trolley, and it doesn’t even have any windows. It was obviously designed for city use, so if this isn’t exempt from the congestion charge then we don’t know what should be. Renault’s pint-sized Twizy can drive you 55 miles before a recharge and every mile travelled will evoke smiles from onlookers, so be ready for attention. It’s a very affordable option for city dwellers who rarely leave the big smog. Just remember the £55 per month cost of leasing the battery.
Read: Renault Twizy Review
Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Coupé
Imagine a Smart car with an electric motor. Ta da! You have the Fortwo Electric Drive Coupé. A small electric motor coupled with an equally small battery means you have a range of 84 miles, a good amount for buzzing around London’s busy streets, but not much more. It’s not particularly practical, but it’s nippy, drives well and you can buy one outright or get it with a battery leasing option.
Read: Smart Fortwo ED review
Renault Fluence ZE Saloon
The Fluence is based on the Megane, but is pretty weird-looking, even by saloon standards. It’s good for 115 miles from a full charge to empty, giving you a bit less range anxiety than some of the alternatives on this list. It’s also more spacious so you can drive around with your family in tow without causing anyone any spinal problems. Leasing the battery costs £76 per month for 36 months on top of the on-the-road price.
Vauxhall’s Ampera combines a frugal petrol engine with an electric motor mated to a lithium-ion battery. The result is a claimed 235mpg when the electric motor has charge, an all-electric range of 46 miles and incredibly low CO2 emissions. Expect relatively average fuel economy on long journeys once the battery goes flat, but it’s good for those who want a city car that can also drive to the back of beyond in one sitting. It looks pretty good, too.
Read: Vauxhall Ampera review
It’s very similar to the Vauxhall Ampera, but the Chevrolet Volt has a slightly softer ride and has a slightly different aesthetic. The Volt is also a bit cheaper and slightly less expensive to insure than the Ampera. The rest is pretty much identical – same powertrain, same warranty, same ultra-low running costs. It’s far from cheap, though.
Read: Chevy Volt review
Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid
This might be a 212bhp diesel estate at heart, but the inclusion of an electric motor and lithium-ion battery that can run independently of that oil burner means the V60 Plug-in Hybrid can achieve CO2 emissions of just 48g/km. When it has juice, both motors work together to achieve 155mpg, although real-world use will yield far less economy. Still, it’s bloody quick, capable of 0 to 62mph in a smidge over 6 seconds. It doesn’t come cheap mind – if you can afford the asking price you can probably afford the congestion charge as well.
The Renault Zoe looks like an ordinary French hatchback and underneath its cutesy exterior lies an electric motor capable of taking you 130 miles before you find yourself out of battery life. If you have a fancy rapid charger in your garage or nearby (if you do then tell us where it is so we can join the fun), it can be ready to go in as little as 30 minutes from empty.
Read: Renault Zoe review
Nissan has taken its Leaf and, well, turned it over to make it even better. The range of this practical all-electric car is now 124 miles and it has the potential to be charged faster if you front up some cash for Nissan’s Home Charging Unit. There’s the option of leasing the battery for £70 a month, if you so desire, or you can buy it outright. It also rides and handles better than the previous model.
Read: Nissan Leaf review