The system tells you whether you'll have to pay to drive in city-centre clean air zones.

The government has launched a new online checking service to help drivers find out whether their vehicle is exempt from city-centre clean air zones.

Set to arrive in cities across the UK over the coming year or so, clean air zones see vehicles that fail to meet certain emission standards charged to enter an area of the city — usually in the centre. London already has such a zone in the shape of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), while Leeds and Birmingham are both introducing such zones this year. Further zones are in the pipeline for the cities of Bath and Sheffield.

Each city has a different kind of clean air zone, with Leeds introducing a so-called “Class B” clean air zone that will see older buses, taxis and HGVs charged to enter part of the city. However, the zone will not affect private cars, no matter how old or polluting the vehicle.

Traffic in Leeds City Centre West Yorkshire England

Birmingham, on the other hand, is bringing in a “Class D” charging zone, which means private cars will also be charged. Under Birmingham’s rules, any petrol vehicle that does not meet the Euro 4 emission standard will be charged to enter the zone, as will any diesel that does not meet the Euro 6 emission standard.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has sent the new online system live today, allowing drivers and businesses to check whether their vehicle can enter. To use the system, drivers must enter their vehicle’s registration, then select the zone or zones they would like to enter. The system will then tell them whether their vehicle is exempt from charges.

View of Rotunda and Bull Ring in Birmingham UK

In a statement, the DfT said: “Air pollution has improved significantly in recent decades, but we recognise there is more to do, and local authorities are taking forward clean air zones to reduce the use of polluting vehicles.

“Tackling high pollution levels is a serious challenge for communities across the UK, which is why the government is providing financial and expert support to local authorities to help them clean up their air.”

Signs indicating Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) on London street

For those intending to enter London’s ULEZ, the standards are similar to those of Birmingham, but the DfT advises checking with Transport for London (TfL) to be sure of whether you need to pay. The DfT’s service can be found at www.gov.uk/check-clean-air-zone-charge, while the TfL checking service can be found at www.tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/check-your-vehicle-35896.