Currently reading: London Congestion Charge-free cars
New rules on the congestion charge means that vehicles with emissions above 75g/km CO2 will have to pay - here's how to beat it

Changes to the London Congestion Charge mean that vehicles which fall above the 75g/km CO2 emissions threshold will soon be charged for going into the capital.

Now standing at £10 a day, the fee is levied on motorists who enter the area bounded by London’s inner ring road on weekdays between 7am and 6pm. Those who fail to pay up risk getting their number plate snapped by the ANPR cameras that surround the zone, and paying a £130 fine.

Since 2008, cars with emissions of less than 100g/km CO2 have been exempted from the charge. From this month, however, some of those vehicles place above the new threshold, and so will have to pay the charge. Worry not, however, because the Government has implemented a 'sunset period' lasting until July 2016 for those owners to either pay up, or find a new car.

If you are in the market for a super-frugal, congestion charge-beating car, here's Autocar's top picks.

1. Citroen C-Zero / Mitsubishi i-Miev / Peugeot iOn - £25,486/£28,990/£25,500 – 0g/km CO2

These triplets are all based on the chassis of the Mitsubishi i-Miev. As with Mitsubishi's city car the small footprint, good visibility and tight turning circles found in these models make them ideal for the city. The 63bhp electric motor in the i-Miev provides good acceleration to 30mph but isn’t at home outside of stop-start city traffic. Faster driving, especially in winter, will see a signification reduction from the claimed range of 93 miles.

2. Nissan Leaf - £25,990 – 0g/km CO2

The Nissan Leaf enjoys high levels of comfort and refinement, despite losing some of its space to large battery packs. Equipment includes a sat-nav that shows charging points along the route, and air conditioning that can be controlled from your smartphone. The second generation version has a claimed range of 124 miles, and can be fully recharged in just four hours when using a fast-charger.

3. Renault Twizy - £6795 – 0g/km CO2

Officially, the Renault Twizy is classed as a quadricycle rather than a car. With a top speed of 50mph, and a range of just 50 miles, it’s definitely designed for the city. Windows, and even doors, are optional extras, while luxuries like air-conditioning, a heater and even a radio just aren’t available. But if any car deserves the label ‘go-kart handling’, it’s this. What the car lacks in practicality, it makes up for in fun and personality.

4. Renault Fluence - £17,495 – 0g/km CO2

The Fluence is part of Renault’s four-pronged electric vehicle line-up, along with the Twizy, Zoe, and electric Kangoo Van. It has strong acceleration, but is limited to 84mph to conserve energy. The 1605kg weight means it’s not suited to sporty driving, but rather encourages a more relaxed style. The range is 125 miles, and a full charge costs less than £3.


Read our review

Car review

The Mitsubishi i-Miev is a useful electric city car with four doors and four seats

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5. Renault Zoe - £17,793 – 0g/km CO2

With the UK’s preference of hatchbacks over saloons, Renault expects the Zoe to be a stronger seller here. 0-62mph takes 13.5 seconds, but using that acceleration the whole time won’t see you achieve the claimed 130 mile range. Handling is tidy, but those heavy batteries bring the weight to 1,468kg, making this a heavy supermini.

6. Smart ED - £15,395– 0g/km CO2

The second generation Smart ED is appreciably more accomplished than its predecessor. With 140kg to lug around, and just 40bhp to do it, it isn’t quick off the line, but the seamless torque makes it a cinch to drive in town. Charging the batteries works out at a mere £1, but that’ll only get you 60 miles before you need to plug it in again.

7. Tesla Model S - £TBA – 0g/km CO2

The Model S is the only car on this list that’ll seat seven, and does so with the addition of the two optional rear jump seats. Without the extra seating, the volume of the front and rear boots adds up to a massive 820 litres. This car is as fast as it is practical – with 416bhp, it reaches 62mph in 4.2 seconds with the 85kWh cell. Range is between 230 and 300 miles, depending on choice of battery.

8. Chevrolet Volt / Vauxhall Ampera - £35,255/£34,995 - 27g/km

The Vauxhall Ampera is a rebadged version of Chevrolet’s Volt, although both models are on sale in the UK. The car has a real-world range of 33 miles, but once the batteries are out of juice a petrol engine cuts in to recharge them, all totally seamlessly. Daily driving can therefore be done on electricity alone (a full recharge costs about £1), but longer journeys can be completed without any range anxiety. 

9. Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid - £48,775 – 48g/km

The V60 Plug-In Hybrid works in a similar way to the Volt but, instead of a petrol motor, has a 212bph, 2.4 litre turbodiesel. It can be driven as a pure electric car, or with both the diesel engine and electric motor working together. Unfortunately the low-resistance tyres make the ride too firm, and the Hybrid’s 250kg weight penalty makes itself felt.

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10. Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid - £33,245 - 59g/km

It may look like a normal Prius, but the plug-in version allows it to be charged from the mains, and travel 12.5 miles on electric power alone. The car is brisk and nimble and, like a regular Prius, the switchover between petrol and electric power is imperceptible. There is, however, a £12,000 premium over the normal Prius.

11. Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - £88,967 - 71g/km

Unlike the old Panamera Hybrid, the E-Hybrid features a lithium-ion battery and the ability to charge from the mains. It now weighs a hefty 2095kg, but still cracks 62mph in 5.5 seconds. It can complete up to 22 miles on battery power before the petrol engine cuts in, but top speed is limited to 84mph when running on pure electric power.

James Lewis-Barned


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fadyady 2 July 2013

Old habits die hard

Toyota Prius, Vauxhall Ampera, Porsche Panamera and Volvo V60 (albeit diesel) are pretty much normal cars although they are capable of going quite a few miles without adding any harmful emissions in our environment.

This range is crucial. On the web you do come across folks whose daily commute lets them drive 1000s of miles per gallon in electric mode without experiencing the range worries normally associated with the electric only vehicles.

Among the pure electric cars, Tesla Model S Performance stands out thanks to its good looks. 250-mile range makes it pretty much range anxiety free - at least for the majority of drivers. And its fast. Real fast. M5 type fast. Yet more spacious and luxurious.

Tesla's good looks and impressive range come at a price - a hefty price. Renault's Zoe isn't bad looking either. And in this picture at least the Fluence doesn't look half bad either. Twizy can't be called a car though by any stretch of imagination.

Then we have the pioneering Nissan Leaf - not a looker but certainly better looking than the Peugeot / Citroen / Mitsubishi triplet. Even if there was a mad rush for EVS, you'd still think twice before buying one of these. What were they thinking?

Suzuki QT 2 July 2013

Hmmm ...

So we have a list of 10 cars (and one glorified mobility scooter) of which less than half cost less than £20K ... Those who can afford to buy the remainder wouldn't be bothered by the £10 charge anyway ...

The London Congestion Charge is the biggest con going and has nothing to do with congestion ... It is merely a way of extracting additional money to (apparently) fund the public transport infrastructure ...

superstevie 2 July 2013

The clue is in the title. It

The clue is in the title. It is a congestion charge. So why can a five meter long car be excempt, when my Smart fortwo is not?

And if you are going to go down the emissions route, why aren't taxi's getting hit? Especially the older ones. 

n50pap 2 July 2013

Is it just me??!!

Is it just me, or does it seems rather silly to spend, at the very least, £7k on a Renault Twizy to save a congestion charge of £10 per day?  Surely congestion is caused by the number of vehicles rather than how much they emit and, on another topic, how long before the rate is based on 75g/km as well to qualify for exemption from VED.  Luckily I live in Scotland and, at the moment, we don't have a congestion charge in any of our cities.  No doubt we will, in the future!

d79m 2 July 2013

Maybe because if you drive in

 it pay it every day.


d79m 2 July 2013

n50pap wrote: Is it just me,

n50pap wrote:

Is it just me, or does it seems rather silly to spend, at the very least, £7k on a Renault Twizy to save a congestion charge of £10 per day?  Surely congestion is caused by the number of vehicles rather than how much they emit and, on another topic, how long before the rate is based on 75g/km as well to qualify for exemption from VED.  Luckily I live in Scotland and, at the moment, we don't have a congestion charge in any of our cities.  No doubt we will, in the future!

Maybe because if you drive in there every day the £10 per day would have paid for your £7000 car in under two years. Even if you had to get a loan for the car the £10 per day would cover it then at the end you have a free car instead of filling the governments pockets even more. Surely for anyone with half a brain this would make sence. Its different if you go there once a week but im sure the large percentage of people that pay it pay it every day.


n50pap 2 July 2013

You'd save enough to buy a dictionary!

It probably does make sense, if you're travelling in every day, but I think the point is to persuade drivers to find an alternative way to get to work.  Fair enough a Twizy would pay for itself in two years, but I can't see spending teens of thousands on a car as economic sense.

Of course, I've only got half a brain!......but I can spell!!!!!