Low emission zones in Europe

When you’re travelling in Europe it’s important to keep the driving rules and regulations in mind. There are a number of countries that have introduced low emission zones in towns and cities across Europe, including Germany, Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, France, and Portugal.

Low Emission Zones (LEZ) are areas where high polluting vehicles are regulated. Usually this means that vehicles with higher emissions cannot enter the area. In some low emission zones vehicles which contribute more to pollution have to pay a fee or register their vehicle if they enter the area. A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality. When a vehicle enters or moves through a Clean Air Zone, the charge will depend on the the type and age of the vehicle.

See below for our guide to low emission zones in Europe.

Low emission zones in France

The Crit’Air vignette is a new emissions sticker scheme which has been introduced for all vehicles registered in France. It will also be compulsory for vehicles registered abroad from 1st April 2017.

What is an Air Quality Certificate?
The Air Quality Certificate or Crit'Air vignette is a round sticker, which must be visibly displayed on the vehicle. There are 6 different types of certificates depending on the vehicle’s emissions. Each certificate type is denoted into 6 different colours Crit Air 1, electric and hydrogen powered vehicles for the cleanest, to black Crit’Air 6 for the older, diesel cars which are the highest polluters.

What is it for?
Air quality certificates allow local and regional authorities to modify their parking and traffic policies in order to encourage the use of the least polluting vehicles and to improve air quality. In Paris*, Grenoble, Lyon, Lille and Strasbourg, the use of the Crit'Air vignette is now compulsory. It could also be compulsory in other French cities and towns in the event of a pollution peak.

How much does the Crit'Air vignette cost?
The price is fixed at 3.70 EUR, plus postal charges. In France, this amounts to 4.18 EUR.

What vehicles are affected by the scheme?
It is for all road vehicles including cars, motorhomes, heavy goods vehicles, buses, coaches, two wheeled vehicles, commercial vehicles, etc. It does not apply to agricultural and construction machinery.

What happens if I do not purchase the vignette?
If you are driving a vehicle in a town or city that requires you to purchase and display a Crit d’Air vignette you can be fined between €68 - €135 (£59 to £117) depending on the category of your vehicle these on the spot fines can be issued by the police for failure to display the emissions vignette.

How long does it take to receive my vignette?
The Crit d’Air vignette should be with you within 30 days after your application. There is a tracking facility on the Crit d’Air website where you can check the progress of your application with your email address, registration number and order number.

Is it just Paris, Lyon and Grenoble?
Currently the only cities which require a vignette are Paris*, Lyon and Grenoble however Lille and Strasbourg have been recently added. As many as 22 other French towns and cities have registered an interested in implementing the scheme over the next three years.

Are motorways exempt?
The A480 in Grenoble, A6 and A7 motorways for Lyon are exempt from this scheme as well as the Boulevard de la Périphérique in Paris. However it would be wise to get a sticker anyway. If there are roadworks/motorway closures and a diversion is in place you may be taken off the motorway into a Low Emission Zone. Failure to display a sticker even in this circumstance would be met with a fine.

Do I have to renew the vignette?
No, your vehicle retains the same environmental classification throughout its lifetime once acquired; the certificate is valid as long as it remains legible.

Where do I buy the vignette?
Vehicle owners can request a vignette from the official website certificat-air.gouv.fr . The page can be translated into English by clicking on the Union Jack flag. You will the need to select the ‘Applying for your certificate’ tab, for vehicles not registered in France, you will need to click on the ‘Foreign Registered Vehicles’ section and complete the form. The form will require you to provide your Car Registration, Date of first registration, VIN number, Make of the vehicle and to upload a copy of the V5C Log book.

(Note that the only formats that are accepted for the documents to be uploaded are: PDF, PNG and JPEG up to a maximum limit of 400kb. If the image that you take is too large then you will need to use an image editor or compression programme in order to reduce the size under 400kb. Converting to a PDF format can also help to reduce the size)

For the vehicle drop down options on the form please note that if you have a motorhome/car & caravan to select the ‘Private Car’ option. The Crit d’Air department will see the type of vehicle that you are driving on the V5C logbook and provide the correct emissions sticker.

The service for ordering the Crit d’Air vignettes for Foreign registered vehicles has been open since the 1st of February 2017.

*Please note that for Paris the emissions zone only applies from the Boulevard de la Périphérique to the centre of Paris. The outer suburbs of Paris are not affected by this scheme.

It has also been noted that some websites (completely unrelated to the Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development) are offering the Crit’Air vignette at a price well above the real one.

Low emission zones in Germany

Low emission zones

In Germany, there is a national framework of low emissions zones that affects all vehicles (except motorcycles). The framework means that there are restrictions across the whole country, but you can comply by registering your vehicle and buying a sticker before you drive in the zone.

Purchase your low emissions sticker online for €6. (Please note that you will need to scan a copy of your V5C log book in order to purchase a sticker online).

Alternatively, you can purchase your low emission stickers at any service station in Germany for €5, as most service stations will have a TÜV (Technischer Überwachungsverein, or Technical Inspection Association) station attached to them. You will also need your V5C log at the TÜV station.

Find your nearest TÜV station for northern Germany and southern Germany.

Find out which cities which are currently under the low emissions zone scheme. If you are travelling through any of these towns in Germany, you will need to display your low emissions sticker.

Transit bans

Alongside the national framework of low emissions zones, a number of cities in Germany also have transit bans on heavy duty vehicle through-traffic. For the transit bans the exact definition of vehicle varies, but all transit bans are for heavy duty vehicles only.

Find out which cities have introduced transit bans for heavy duty vehicles (over 3.5 tonnes):

Low emission zones in Italy

Italy has several Low Emission Zones with differing rules and time periods which are determined by the local authorities and monitored by cameras and vehicle number plate recognition systems.

To find out more about these zones and other traffic regulations visit the Urban Access Regulations in Europe website.

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