Nearly half a million drivers could be priced off the roads thanks to ‘eco taxes’ such as London’s new Low Emission Zones charge, warns the AA.

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) targets older cars that do not meet with certain emissions criteria: Euro 4 for petrol (broadly post-2006) and Euro 6 for diesel (broadly post-2016). It currently costs drivers of non-compliant vehicles £12.50 to enter the zone, applicable 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And because it elapses at midnight, someone staying over or working a night shift could have to fork out £25.

The ULEZ charge has brought in £51 million in its first four months, with the number of non-compliant vehicles falling by 12,524 a day from 35,578 in March to 23,054 in July – a reduction of more than a third. However, with the ULEZ set to expand in October 2021, it’s expected that more than 300,000 drivers will be affected. A similar scheme mooted for Birmingham next year will hit a further 100,000, the AA claims, and tens of thousands more will suffer if Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle follow suit.

The AA claims that 40 per cent of those hit with charges so far are some of the worst-off drivers. “It is wrong to discriminate against one section of the community,” said AA president Edmund King. “They are being run off the road.”

Mr King is urging local councils to divert revenues from motoring convictions towards subsidising the move to compliant vehicles for those who can’t ordinarily afford it, but rely on their cars. Classics registered in the historic vehicle category are exempt from charges, but that still leaves a host of modern classics and older vehicles effectively out in the cold.