The London Congestion Charge is less about making the roads more free flowing and more about reducing pollution, allowing cars in free if they produce less than 100g/km of CO2. However, as manufacturers make ever more efficient motors, that limit has had to drop. From today, therefore, you’ll need to be in a car pumping out just 75g/km or less of CO2 to avoid the £10 daily fee.
The easy way to stay within the new maximum and avoid paying the congestion charge is simply to go all-electric.
You’ll never pay a single penny for driving in to London in cars such as the Renault ZOE or Nissan LEAF, but the age old problem of limited range could put those people living outside of the city off.
In that case, you’re limited to just five cars – and two of those are twins.
Here then is the definitive list of congestion charge exempt cars that will also allow you to take a drive across the continent without worry…
Amazingly, the largest Porsche is also the most economical. With its 330 bhp petrol engine being combined with a 95 bhp electric motor, the Panamera relies on immense levels of torque to cruise along using virtually no power. The headline figure of 91.1 mpg might be a tad unrealistic in the real world, especially if you insist on testing its 0-60 time of 5.5 seconds, but it’s officially a green car so Boris will allow you in to the city at no cost.
Toyota may have the hybrid market sown up, but it only gets to number four on this list. The new Prius Plug-in extends the abilities of the existing Prius by adding a larger battery pack and a plug socket. This means the limited electric range of the normal car is extended from around one mile to circa 13 miles, obviously leading to much lower fuel usage.
Proving the Porsche Panamera wasn’t a fluke, Volvo also grab a place on the list with their voluminous V60 estate. Like the Prius, it’s a plug-in hybrid which means you can charge it overnight at home before covering up to 31 miles on pure electric power. A powerful 2.4 litre turbocharged diesel engine provides extra oomph when needed, while also allowing you to cover as long a distance as you wish.
With all its brash Americana, few would expect the Volt to be the green machine it really is, but the US giant’s technology sees the family four-seater return stratospheric economy figures – in ideal circumstances, obviously. The Volt loses out to its Ampera twin purely because it’s £260 more expensive, but personal taste could easily overlook that slight difference.
Like its Chevrolet twin, the Ampera is an electric car with a petrol powered range extender – think of the engine as a generator rather than an engine. In the real world, that simply means you can drive on electric power but when the batteries run out you can continue under petrol power. It’s the best of both worlds, although not perfect; it only seats four people and costs in excess of £10,000 more than a similarly equipped Astra. Taking the number one spot purely because it’s £260 cheaper than the Volt, but being an early adopter is never cheap. At least you’ll be helping to bring the price down for future buyers…
Of course, if you can cope with the issues electric cars throw up then there’s a wealth of cheap motoring available to you. Renault’s Twizy brings funky Mediterranean style to your driveway for just £6,795, but you may soon tire of the open air sensation on a wet October evening. The Renault Fluence and Zoe offer a far more normal approach to motoring, both also being pure electric. Nissan’s LEAF adds a bit of futuristic styling to the mix, with the 2013 model now extending its range to as far as 125 miles.
Citroen, Mitsubishi and Peugeot teamed up to produce a trio of identical models, the C-Zero, i-MiEV and iOn respectively. Narrow and tall, they’re good city cars but less suited to the motorway. The same goes for the Smart ed coupe and cabriolet, but they’re going to raise far more smiles as you go.