The Government has launched a new online service to help drivers and businesses to prepare for the introduction of clean air zones with charges, in Birmingham and Leeds.

The vehicle checker will enable drivers to find out if they will be affected by the change, which will charge the most polluting vehicles to drive in the cities.

Leeds City Council is bringing in a Class B clean air zone later this year which will mean some older, polluting buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles and HGVs will be charged to drive within the zone. Birmingham City Council is bringing in a Class D charging zone, which will also come into place later this year, and will also apply to some vans and private cars.

Further local authorities including Bath and Sheffield are bringing in clean air zones in 2020 and 2021 and will be also responsible for introducing charges.

As well as the online vehicle checker, the government has already provided around £60m to Leeds and Birmingham to retrofit buses and support businesses and drivers affected by the charge.

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis commented: “With the first clean air zones outside London coming into force this summer, it’s essential drivers can quickly and easily find out whether their car is affected. We’ve been calling for an online emissions checker for more than two years, so this is a step in the right direction.

“But we do have some concerns about how effective this beta website currently is in checking the compliance of every vehicle. Drivers of some early Euro 6 diesel vehicles for example will face a strange situation where this website tells them their car is not compliant for Birmingham’s clean air zone. But if they were to use London website checker, where the Ultra Low Emission Zone standard operates to the same Euro 6 standard, they will find it is compliant. This explains why the new website carries a notice that asks drivers to check back on the site closer to the time new clean air zones come in.

“In short, a number plate is not a reliable way of finding out a car’s Euro emissions standards so we recommend drivers double-check with their vehicle manufacturer to be sure.

“There is now very little time for drivers in cities such as Birmingham with non-compliant vehicles to change them. Those who still need a car for essential journeys but can’t afford to switch to a compliant one will soon face daily charges as certain cities take action to clean up their air.”