Energy transition

Green goal: europe increases low emission zones

  • 13/12/21
  • 5 min

While Paris is changing its traffic criteria within its Low Emission Zone (LEZ) by banning the circulation of Crit’air 4* vehicles on June 1, 2021, Europe is speeding up in terms of low emission zones. A look at the latest news on Low Emission Zones (LEZ) in Europe.


In 2021, nearly 250 LEZs will be concentrated in Europe, covering 13 countries: England, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Sweden.

Sweden, the leader, launched the movement in 1996 in order to reduce the number of diesel trucks and buses over 3.5 tonnes in its cities. Faced with major health challenges, particularly those related to air quality, other European countries are starting to set up restricted areas, each with its own standards and criteria.


Soon to be 11 active EPZs in France and many more by 2025

In France, it is Paris that is introducing its traffic restriction policy by setting up its Zone à Circulation Restreinte (ZCR), now called ZFE (Zone à Faibles Emissions), via a vehicle classification system with Crit’air : air quality certificate is a secure document that classifies vehicles, from 0 to 5, according to their age and engine.

Olivier Dutrech, Director of Innovation and Fraikin Business Solutions, reviews the current status of the EPZs. “Currently, there are four active EPZs: Paris, Greater Paris, Grenoble and Lyon. Many other EPZs will be set up by the end of 2021/beginning of 2022, namely: Aix Marseille, Nice, Toulon, Toulouse, Montpellier, Rouen and Strasbourg. By 2025, there will be an obligation to establish an EPZ in all French agglomerations with more than 150,000 inhabitants. For each EPZ, France will implement the Crit’Air sticker, based on the Paris model.”


LEZ: more and more green zones in Europe

Germany is a good example, with almost 60 LEZs, known regionally as Umweltzones. Most of these zones are located in the western Länder of Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia. All these zones are also regulated on the basis of a green, yellow or red environmental sticker (Umweltplakette). The colour indicates the level of particulate emissions, green being the lowest level (diesel vehicles from EURO 4, petrol from EURO 1, hybrid and electric vehicles). The red sticker, (EURO 2 or older diesel vehicles, petrol vehicles without catalytic converter) is already prohibited in all zones. Without a sticker, drivers risk a fine of 80€. Some cities have already taken the step of banning diesel vehicles. This is the case for Berlin, Darmstadt, Hamburg and Stuttgart.


ULEZs flourish in England: ultra-low emission zones

In England, London has drastically tightened its traffic policy by introducing a congestion charge at the entrance to the city. Since 2019, a zone with even more restrictive entry conditions has existed within this perimeter: an ultra-low emission zone called ULEZ (Ultra Low Emissions Zone). The English government has named this program Clean Air and is deploying Clean Air Zones (CAZ) in several English cities. Any offender is liable to a daily tax of about €16. In ULEZ in London – fines vary from £500 to £1000 per day.

Lorna McIlroy, marketing strategist at Fraikin UK , explains how these zones have impacted their work across the UK: “With these changes in compliance our customers rely on Fraikin to keep them updated and informed ahead of time.The introduction of these new zones meant that customers had to look at their fleet and see if the vehicles were compliant, some had to change/update their fleet or part of it. (…) Our branches within the London region had to change to make sure that only compliant vehicles were retained or sent out. “ This also impacts on our rental fleet based within any CAZ – they also have to remain compliant for our customers.”

(With all of these changes, our customers rely on Fraikin to keep them informed and assist them with the requirements of these changes. The introduction of these new zones meant that customers had to see if their vehicles were compliant; some had to change their entire fleet or part of it. (…) Our branches in the London area had to change to ensure that only compliant vehicles were retained. This was particularly relevant to our rental fleet. Now not all rental vehicles can be used anywhere in the UK.”)


Low emission zones in Italy: very limited traffic

In Italy, the ZTLs (Zona a Traffico Limitato) came into force in the 1970s. Initially created to limit traffic and noise pollution in order to improve the quality of life of local residents, these zones have taken on a new meaning with the reality of global warming that the whole world is facing. These ZTLs allow the circulation of public transport, emergency services and local residents; leaving the possibility for other vehicles to circulate in them, at 30 km/h, in well-defined time slots that vary from one city to another. Driving in these limited traffic zones without being authorised to do so can result in fines of over €200, with the offence being recorded on entering and leaving the zone.


LEZ and EPZ: What concrete impacts?

The implementation of LEZs in Europe makes it possible to act directly on the renewal of vehicle fleets so that each organisation can move towards the energy transition.

As far as health is concerned, we note that the health benefits are remarkable : reduction in the development of cardiovascular and respiratory pathologies and cancers for people exposed to polluted air. These improvements in air quality would also have a positive impact on reproduction, child development, endocrine and even neurological diseases, and ultimately on life expectancy.


In brief: LEZs are gaining ground in Europe, innovation plays a crucial role

While the challenge of renewing all fleets for green vehicles is on the line within the next thirty years, there is a real European dynamic to install more and more LEZs (Low Emission Zones) in strategic locations. Timetables differ and each country is working on its own legislation, making it difficult to understand the global deadlines. However, the beneficial results are already noticeable and the momentum is making us look forward to the future with greater confidence. In this suspenseful series, innovation plays the main role in imagining every day how to motorize vehicles more intelligently.

Crit’air 4: i.e. diesel cars registered before 1 January 2006, diesel trucks registered before 1 October 2009, motorised two-wheelers registered before July 2004.

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