Almost 700,000 drivers in London will have to pay the £12.50 ultra low emission zone (Ulez) levy if they use their car when the scheme expands, according to new analysis.
The RAC, which obtained the figures from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), said the expansion of the zone from August 29 would have a "massive financial impact on motorists and businesses".
Transport for London believes that fewer than 200,000 additional motorists a day - including van drivers and motorcyclists - will be liable to pay the Ulez levy for the first time from August, based on camera analysis of the vehicles currently driving in the outer “doughnut” expansion area.
But the RAC figures are the first to show the total number of non-compliant cars registered to London addresses - including many homes already inside the current Ulez zone.
The figures intensified the row over the expected impact of the Ulez expansion, with Mayor Sadiq Khan being accused of being “out of touch with outer London” in a dispute over how many low-income Londoners in the suburbs own a car.
Mr Khan, under questioning at Mayor’s Question Time on Thursday, said that 78 per cent of households in outer London with an annual income of less than £10,000 didn’t own a car - suggesting that 22 per cent, or more than one in five, do.
However, it is not known how many low-income Londoners own a car that fails to comply with the Ulez emission rules, meaning they would be liable to pay the daily levy or risk an £180 fine.
Neil Garratt, a Tory member of the London Assembly, highlighted TfL data showing that the poorest 10 per cent of residents in outer London were more likely to own a car than the wealthiest 10 per cent of people in inner London.
He told Mr Khan: “This is why your Ulez policy has such a different impact on people, has such a different public reaction.
“This picture of a city that is so different, inner versus outer, is something that you didn’t really understand.”
Sadiq Khan doesn't get outer London - a graph.— Neil Garratt AM (@NeilGarratt) March 23, 2023
He says "The poorest Londoners don't own a car" but TfL data shows that among the poorest households in outer London
1. Most DO own a car
2. They are MORE likely to own a car than the very highest income households in inner London. pic.twitter.com/NzdeOw2vna
The row came a day after Transport for London (TfL) claimed that nine out of 10 cars seen driving in outer London on an average day meet the Ulez standards, so will not be liable for the charge.
It also said that many drivers are switching from older, more polluting vehicles ahead of the expansion.
The zone is currently limited to the area within London's North and South Circular roads. Mr Khan decided to expand it to cover the whole of the capital, claiming this will boost air quality.
Most diesel cars registered before September 2015 and petrol cars registered prior to January 2006 are liable for the charge.
The DVLA figures obtained by the RAC show that 691,559 licensed cars in the whole of London fall into one of those categories.
This does not take into account other vehicles such as vans and lorries, or vehicles which enter London from neighbouring counties such as Essex, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Kent.
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: "Cleaning up London's air should undoubtedly be a priority, but the sheer number of vehicles that don't meet Ulez emissions standards in Greater London suggests there will be a massive financial impact on motorists and businesses through having to fork out £12.50 every day they drive in the zone.
“We desperately need more co-ordination between the mayor and the Government to help small businesses, tradespeople, NHS staff and carers who have no choice but to drive into the expanded Ulez for work purposes from outside Greater London.
“Consideration should also be given to those who work at night when public transport is greatly reduced in the outer boroughs."
TfL is running a £110m scrappage scheme for vehicles that do not comply with the Ulez standards. More than 10,600 low income Londoners and small businesses have already applied - raising fears it will be massively oversubscribed.
Mr Lyes urged Mr Khan to consider delaying charges by a year for certain key workers, or having TfL partner with a leasing company to provide discounted Ulez-compliant vehicles to small businesses and traders.
He went on: “Changing to a compliant vehicle at such short notice simply won't be something many will be able to afford, especially during a cost-of-living crisis and at a time when second-hand car prices are so high.
“We need more creativity from London's mayor and his team to help people out as the current scrappage scheme is akin to using a plughole to drain an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
“It's simply not big enough for the scale of the job."
A spokesman for Mr Khan said: “The Mayor expects the number of compliant vehicles to increase even further over the coming months, but he knows there is more to do to ensure every Londoner can breathe cleaner air.”