London Congestion Charge exempt cars

Last updated: Oct 5, 2015

Driving into central London on a weekday is made very expensive by the London Congestion Charge. In addition to paying for your fuel and parking, you also have to fork out £11.50 per day to use your car on the streets of central London. Previously, any hybrid vehicle was exempt from the charge, as well as many low-emissions petrol and diesel cars. However, since June 2013, only cars that emit less than 75g/km of CO2 escape the charge. Not many models meet this stringent revised limit, but we’ve picked out 10 of the best Congestion Charge beaters you can currently buy.

Tesla Model S saloon

This car would be hugely impressive if it had come from an established manufacturer, but the fact that Tesla had only made one car before this (the Tesla Roadster) makes it a remarkable achievement. It’s very expensive (starting from around £55,000) but for the money you get sleek, futuristic looks, a hi-tech infotainment system with a huge tablet-like screen and one of the most advanced electric drivetrains in any car. The Model S can go for up to 300 miles before it needs recharging and will carry five people in the cabin, plus two kids in optional rear-facing seats in the boot. Tesla provides a network of ‘Supercharger’ stations for owners to use for free and they can give you a half-charge in as little as 20 minutes. Read more.

Key points

4.5 / 5
Price 
£57,335 - £89,435

Audi A3 hatchback

The A3 e-tron is the most economical and efficient version of Audi’s premium family hatchback. As it’s a plug-in hybrid, you have the 1.4-litre petrol engine to fall back on if the battery runs flat, but so long as you can charge the car at home or work, you should only rarely need to use petrol power at all. Audi promises up to 176mpg fuel economy, although most people will struggle to achieve that in everyday driving. All this clever tech comes at a price, of course – you’ll pay more for the e-tron than you would for a regular petrol or diesel A3 – but if you’re a regular London commuter, the long-term savings could be considerable. Read more.

Key points

4 / 5
Price 
£18,865 - £32,710

BMW i3 hatchback

BMW’s range of ‘i’ cars aims to marry electric-car efficiency with the fun driving experience traditionally associated with the German brand. The swoopy i8 supercar has grabbed much of the attention, but the more affordable i3 will be more relevant for most buyers. It comes in either pure electric or plug-in hybrid versions and boasts a spacious cabin the equal of most famiy hatchbacks'. It’s also agile and entertaining to drive, while the electric-only model can go for up to 125 miles before needing a recharge. Around £3,000 more gets you the plug-in version – still Congestion Charge-exempt, but with a petrol engine to take over if the batteries run down. Read more.

Key points

4.4 / 5
Price 
£30,980 - £34,130

Kia Soul hatchback

The Kia Soul had already established itseld as a funky yet practical family car when the Korean manufacturer added an all-electric version to the range in 2014. Like all EVs, the Soul is a good deal more expensive than its conventionally powered sister models, but this one offers chunky SUV looks and enough room for all the family and their luggage. Kia claims a range of 132 miles and we found the car comes pretty close to matching that in real-world conditions. Read more.

Key points

3.8 / 5
Price 
£12,800 - £29,995

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SUV

Gone are the days when all low-emissions cars were small and impractical – almost every type of car is now available as a green hybird. Case in point is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which offers both the high driving position and off-road ability of a traditional SUV as well as the low emissions and superb fuel economy of a plug-in hybrid. It can return up to a claimed 148mpg economy and emits an ultra-low 44g/km of CO2. The Outlander is also ideal for city driving, as you can travel up to 32 miles on silent electric power alone. And it costs no more than the standard diesel Outlander – bucking the trend of hybrids costing more than conventional models. Read more.

Key points

4 / 5
Price 
£34,304 - £45,554

Toyota Prius hybrid hatchback (2009-2015)

The Toyota Prius is one of the longest-established, and therefore best known, hybrids on the market. The most basic version has an electric motor that works in concert with the petrol engine, but that’s no longer London Congestion Charge-exempt. To escape the daily fee, you need to go for the Prius Plug-In Hybrid, which has 49g/km CO2 emissions and can return up to 135mpg if driven carefully. The Prius remains a practical family hatchback, with a bigger boot than the Volkswagen Golf and plenty of storage space inside. On the downside, its electric-only range is just 15 miles and the ride can be quite firm on poor-quality UK roads. Read more.

Key points

3.2 / 5

Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid estate

If you want a plug-in hybrid that doesn’t skimp on luxury and upmarket appeal, consider the Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid. It boasts the same sturdy build quality, classy styling and high-end equipment as a petrol or diesel V60, but adds a diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain with 49g/km CO2 emissions and a 32-mile electric range. With the diesel engine driving the front wheels and the electric motor the rears, you also get four-wheel-drive grip. The big problem with the V60 Plug-In is its big price: over £45,000 is just too much when you consider the competition. Read more.

Key points

3 / 5
Price 
£45,175 - £46,875

Porsche Panamera hatchback

You may be surprised to find a Porsche on this list, but thanks to its plug-in hybrid drivetrain, the Panamera S E-Hybrid is exempt from the London Congestion Charge. Like other plug-in hybrids, it can cover some distance (22 miles in this case) on electric power alone, setting up the possibility of an electric-only commute if you can charge the car at home or work. But the Panamera is still a Porsche: capable of rapid accleration when the powerful petrol engine comes into play and guaranteed to put a smile on your face. It also manages to look like good value when compared to other prestigious four-door cars like the Maserati Quattroporte and Aston Martin Rapide. Read more.

Key points

3 / 5
Price 
£63,913 - £131,152

Renault ZOE hatchback

The Renault ZOE opened up the possibility of electric-car ownership for the masses, as it’s significantly cheaper than other EVs. It also looks less unusual, blending into traffic more effectively than the quirky BMW i3 or Nissan Leaf. Inside, it’s about as practical as its conventional equivalent, the Renault Clio supermini, as well as being very quiet on the move. The ZOE is best kept in urban environments, however, as with a maximum range of just 100 miles, it’s not well suited to long journeys. Read more.

Key points

2.8 / 5
Price 
£18,445 - £25,545

Nissan Leaf hatchback

Nissan was first to bring a pure electric car to the market and the Leaf continues to be a popular choice for those looking for rock-bottom running costs. It’s about the same size as a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra, so can play the role of family car very well. Like all electric cars, relatively few moving parts mean the Leaf should be very reliable in the long term – although used values are a worry. On the plus side, the Leaf is as safe as any petrol or diesel rival, with a five-star Euro NCAP rating. It’s also good to drive, thanks to the urgent acceleration provided by the electric motor and a soft ride on rough roads. And if you’re sensible, you should be able to keep going for over 120 miles before the Leaf needs to be plugged in. Read more.

Key points

2 / 5
Price 
£25,790 - £31,490