Businesses face a race to register vehicles before 28 June if they are to benefit from three years of congestion charge-free motoring in London.

With many companies already under significant pressure to reduce costs, it could be a pivotal month for both suppliers and fleet managers.

The new Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED), which came into force in May 2013, will see the minimum threshold for the London Congestion Charge fall from 100g/km of CO2 to 76g/km.

The scheme replaces the current Greener Vehicle Discount, which offers a 100% discount on vehicles emitting less than 100g/km and meet Euro5 standard of air quality, and the Electric Vehicle Discount.

Many fleets have built vehicle portfolios to comply with the Greener Vehicle Discount, taking on standard diesel cars and LCVs that fall below the 100g/km threshold.

However, under the new rules, it will only be plug-in hybrid vehicles, such as the Prius, Vauxhall Ampera, Chevrolet Volt and Volvo V60, and pure electric cars that can beat the strict 75g/km standard.

Even the Yaris Hybrid will fall outside of the category at 79g/km.

At £9 per day for those that use the automatic payment system, the London Congestion Charge can have a significant cost impact on businesses operating in the capital.

Fleet operators need to work quickly to assess the impact on their fleet, and in some cases consider early termination of vehicles due to be replaced after the deadline and acquire new vehicles in the 76g/km to 99g/km bracket to lock in the exemption from the charge until 24 June 2016.

Thankfully, a number of manufacturers have the right vehicles in stock. 

After the 28 June, fleet operators will need to consider how plug-in vehicles can work for them in the capital given their financial benefits under the congestion charging zone.

The new limit is a logical step by the Government and is well positioned to encourage greater use of electric vehicles, coinciding with the continued roll-out of electric vehicle infrastructure across the country, which is evidenced by TfL’s recent statement that it has installed 1300 publicly accessible charge points.

The ULED also reflects the ongoing ambition of London mayor Boris Johnson to reduce congestion, which was the primary goal of the charging zone.

Like it or not, the London Congestion Charge is here to stay and regulations to reduce emissions will only get stricter.

As a fleet manager in these uncertain economic times, however, costs management must remain front of mind and compliance with the new guidelines is paramount.