We found out the hard way that Neo is not LEZ compliant (hello large fine). Before we talk about the solution we want to share some snippets of the phone conversion with Mr LEZ fine person:
Us: Isn’t there some kind of warning letter?
Mr LEZ: we don’t do that anymore, we think the LEZ has been around long enough that everyone should know about it.
Us: Can you explain to us how everyone is expected to know about it, considering there are not signs explaining that you are entering a chargeable zone on every entrance to the zone.
Mr LEZ: It’s the driver’s responsibility to know these things.
Us: So what your saying is that drivers should Google ‘things I don’t know’ to keep updated about entering London?
Mr LEZ: Yes
Us: Is there any way to pay the fine in instalments?
Mr LEZ: No
Us: So what your telling me is that if someone doesn’t have the money up front, their fine will raise from £250 to £500 then £750 and eventually go to court. At which point the court will agree to some kind of payment plan which in effect allows the person to pay in instalments, but for 750 plus court fees?
Mr LEZ: Yes
I think we get the idea.. this LEZ is not really about pollution (consider that they’ve just agreed to a new runway and that’s fairly obvious anyway), it’s about rinsing drivers, full stop. More proof for this argument comes in the form of the solution we found, which has nothing to do with improving your emissions.
The only method the DVLA says exists for non-compliant diesel vans is to get a DPF fitted. If you look at the current regulations for vans of this size older than 2002, this does (on the surface) seem to be the case:
- A van cannot weigh over 1.205 tonnes unladen.
However, take a look at the regulations for campervans:
- A motorcaravan cannot have a gross vehicle weight of over 2.5 tonnes.
We realised that converting the van to a camper, in combination with downgrading the gross weight actually makes the van compliant.
How to become LEZ compliant.
There are three steps to this process.
1. Convert your van to a motorcaravan.
In order to reregister your van as a camper it must contain:
- A fixed bed with a minimum length of 6 feet. (this may be used as seating during the day).
- A table and seating area. (the table may be removable but must be able to be fixed).
- A fixed cooker (in other information this is described as having fixed fuel lines).
- A window on the side of the living compartment.
Once you have installed these features, you simply need to write to the DVLA with:
- A cover letter explaining the changes and requesting an update to the classification on your v5.
- Part 7 of your v5, filled in.
- Photographs of the completed works, on the back of which should detail what is pictured and include the number plate. These photos should show:
- The front of the van with the number plate.
- The back of the van with the number plate, if you have back doors leave them open to show part of the interior.
- Photos of each of the particulars listed earlier.
You can find the full details in this pdf which also includes a link to a sample cover letter.
To see a full example of all the documents we sent, check out our Neo converted post.
2. Next you need to request a change to the gross weight of the van.
The GVW (gross vehicle weight) listed on your V5c is the maximum weight your van can be, including any load. Because a camper is never going to be much heavier than it is when built and laden, and that is generally a lot less than the gross weight, you can lower the gross weight.
We have heard of people simply writing the DVLA to request a weight change. We have also heard of people going to a weighbridge and sending the weight certificate to the DVLA to request the change.
Realistically, to be legal there is a chassis plate on your van which states the various weights including GVW, and this should match what it says on your V5c. It is possible to get replacement plates, and we’ve also heard of people getting one made and sending a photo it to the DVLA in order to request the weight change.
Others don’t have a vehicle weight listed on their V5c at all and simply send their new V5c (stating it’s a motor caravan) along with a picture of a new weight plate directly to TFL, who then update the LEZ compliance.
All of these methods seem to have varying levels of success. For some it obviously worked, for others, they spend months chasing the DVLA and/or TFL, who seem to sometimes insist they don’t record weights for vehicles under 3500kg. Go figure.
One option many go for, either in the beginning or after failing to manage themselves is to use SvTech who give you a new plate as well as a cover letter to send to the DVLA with your V5c. They charge £120 for this service, which is not much more than a day’s charge for LEZ, and we haven’t heard of anyone failing to get their van downplated this way, so if it’s a simple life you’re after, this is the way to get it.
With SvTech you are largely paying for all the information to be presented in a way that the DVLA accept. As far as we understand it you get a new plate, and instructions for how to deal with both it and the accompanying papers (a certificate with the new plate details, proving the downplate was done by someone qualified to do so, and a declaration for you to sign) which you should keep a copy of, and send together with your V5c to the DVLA.
If you want to save time and send both changes (vehicle classification and weight change) to the DVLA together, you can do so, just make sure you have the conversion visibly done when approaching SvTech.
To see what we did, check out our Neo converted post.
If you have done everything right, you should just get your v5 back with the new classification and downgraded weight on it.
3. Finally, get TFL to update your vehicle details.
Now that your vehicle is technically compliant, you have to let TFL know so that they can update their records. Go to their website and register for a ‘London Road User Charging Account’, then register your vehicle. Wait up to 10 days for them to respond that they’ve accepted your proof.
Alternatively, you can email the registration form and photo of your V5c to firstname.lastname@example.org to accomplish the same process.
Double check on the DVLA LEZ vehicle checker to make sure everything has been updated in their system correctly, and you’re good to go!