London Congestion Charge exempt cars

Last updated: Apr 12, 2016

The London Congestion Charge applies to a central area of the capital during the week and makes taking a car into the heart of London an expensive business.

Naturally there is the fuel you’ll pay for, as well as parking, but you’ll also have to budget for the £11.50 charge. It doesn’t matter for how long or how far you travel in the zone, the fee is applicable in full regardless.

Up until June 2013, any hybrid vehicle, along with the greenest petrol and diesel cars, was exempt from the Congestion Charge. Since then, a new limit was introduced so that only cars emitting 75g/km of CO2 or less were eligible for exemption, and the new rule meant there were significantly fewer models that escaped the charge. We’ve had a look through the remaining cars that are still exempt and picked out the 10 best cars you can currently buy that beat the London Congestion Charge.

Tesla Model S saloon

Tesla had only made one car before it launched the Model S, which makes the quality and performance of the saloon even more impressive. The Model S is by no means cheap, with the car starting at around £55,000, but it is one of the best all-electric cars ever produced. The car’s stylish and futuristic look is complemented by a cutting-edge infotainment system on the inside that boasts an enormous portrait-orientated touchscreen on the centre of the dashboard. The car’s electric drivetrain is one of the most advanced on the market, and can return a range of up to 340 miles as well as a 2.8 second 0-62mph time. The Model S can transport five people in comfort and there is an option for rear-facing rear seats in the boot if you want to put two kids in them and carry seven people. Tesla has setup a network of ‘Supercharger’ stations for owners to use for free and they can charge the batteries to half capacity in just 20 minutes. Read more.

Key points

4.5 / 5
Price 
£63,235 - £97,335

Audi A3 hatchback

The A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid is the greenest version of the popular Audi hatchback. Unlike the Tesla Model S, there is a conventional petrol engine aiding the electric motor, so you needn’t worry about running out of battery power. If you can charge the car at home and at work, the petrol engine should rarely be called upon. The official economy figure stands at 176mpg but it will be very difficult to get close to this in real life and the car is more expensive than a conventionally powered A3. However, the A3 e-tron is a high-quality car and if you regularly drive into central London you’ll quickly start making savings on the Congestion Charge. Read more.

Key points

4 / 5
Price 
£21,515 - £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 - £43,500

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 
£23,075 - £52,325

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

3 / 5
Price 
£26,030 - £31,730