Officials have raised concerns that vehicles emit more harmful emissions when travelling at higher speeds.
They have suggested that stretches of motorway with high levels of emissions could benefits from a cut in speed limits of 10mph.
The measures are highlighted in the Government’s air pollution strategy which could see all cars that do not comply with the latest Euro 6 emissions standard face charges.
However, ministers have made clear that councils must consider all alternatives to pollution taxes before proposing a charging scheme.
Officials say that charging is likely to have the “greatest impact” in bringing down emissions to safe levels.
It recommends that councils should pursue “alternative” approaches such as improving the flow of traffic by removing speed humps and improving the “sequencing” of traffic lights.
The Government has also announced a consultation on plans for a “targeted” diesel scrappage scheme and grants to “retrofit” older vehicles to reduce the level of emissions.
Ministers have identified 40 local authorities where the level of diesel emissions currently exceeds European standards, but have not identified which of them will have to take additional measures.
The consultation says: “The Government believes that charging zones should only be used where local authorities fail to identify equally effective alternatives.
If local authorities do conclude that charging is the only way to achieve compliance in the shortest possible time, they will be required to set out the detail of where and when charges would apply, and the vehicle types to which they would apply.
“They will also be required to engage with local people and fully assess the impact of such an approach and how it could be mitigated.
“In all cases, charging zones would apply only to older, higher-polluting models of the vehicle types, so as to have a targeted impact on pollution. Any revenues collected by local authorities will be reinvested to support local transport policies, which could cover public health projects or better town and city planning, promoting cleaner air.”
The Conservatives said they are opposed to Labour’s approach of “hitting motorists in the pocket by imposing charging zones and increasing parking charges”.
Instead they proposed a series of measures including funding and regulatory changes to support uptake of electric and hydrogen vehicles and increasing electric car charging points.
Measures also include tackling road humps and poorly managed traffic lights that increase congestion and pollution, “real driving emissions” tests for vehicles and better consumer advice when buying cars.
Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “Improving air quality is a key priority as we support businesses in building a stronger and cleaner economy.
“Our plan today sets out how we will do just that – including presenting options for targeted diesel scrappage schemes.
“But in contrast to this common-sense way forward, Jeremy Corbyn’s only solution would be to hit you in the pocket with higher taxes.”
The Government has commissioned further research on reducing motorway speed limits and asked Highways England to conduct more analysis on the proposals. The proposal is not being formally consulted on.