Low emission zones have become the new norm in many major European cities. In many larger cities, you must display an environmental sticker to drive legally in a low emission zone. In this article, you can read about the low emission zones (LEZ) in several European countries and what these zones mean to you as a car driver.
General information about low emission zones
There is no need to worry if you have a petrol car from the year 2000 onwards (Euro 3) *. If you have a diesel car, it must be from the year 2014 onwards (Euro 6) *. In the vast majority of countries, only vans, buses, and lorries are under significant monitoring. However, petrol and diesel cars that are older than the aforementioned must be aware of prevailing local conditions. As a car driver, you should be aware that many major cities require either pre-registration or an environmental sticker. Below you will find LEZ guidelines for specific European countries.
Since 2007, Germany has focused on low emission zones in its cities. As a result, you have to have an environmental sticker placed on your windscreen when you enter many German cities. These areas are marked with signs. If you drive without a sticker in a low emission zone, you risk a fine of 80 euros.
In some German cities, it is forbidden to drive diesel cars that do not live up to the Euro emission standards 5 or 6. For petrol cars, it is at least Euro 3.
Germany uses a green, yellow or red sticker based on European emission standards (Euro). You can see the environmental classification for all vehicles here.
France has two types of low emission zones - permanent and temporary (environment dependent). When driving in the permanent ZCR/ZFE zones, your car must live up to the emission standards. France uses six different environmental stickers.
The temporary zones (ZPA) depend on the weather and air pollution. Therefore, these zones can be inside and outside cities. You should be aware that the ZPA zones can change within 24 hours. This means that one day, you are driving legally in a low emission zone and the next you are driving illegally if your car does not live up to the temporary requirements. If this is the case, the French police can impose large fines and driving bans.
At the time of writing, there are six low emission zones in Austria. These zones apply not only to cities but to entire regions. Heavy-duty diesel lorries, buses and older vans without a particulate filter must not drive into the areas. If you have an N1, N2 or N3 car, you must buy an environmental sticker or you risk a fine of 2,200 euros.
Italy has also introduced low-emission zones. These are primarily found in northern Italy. The rules for the low emission zones vary from zone to zone, depending on standards for emission and what time periods it is allowed to drive. In Italy, cameras are used to scan number plates at low emission zone boundaries. Therefore, fines are imposed on all cars driving into a low emission zone without a permit. This also applies to older districts, where the number plate of the car must be registered to get permission to drive into the district.
If there has been more pollution than usual in certain areas of Italy for four days (some areas three days), certain vehicles with a certain Euro emission standard may not enter the area. If the pollution is above the limit value for ten consecutive days, the rules for certain vehicles will be further sharpened. In both situations, there is a ban on driving in certain time periods. These vary from low emission zone to low emission zone.
Since 2015, Belgium has had low emission zones. All zones are marked with signs and number plate scanners. You must not drive into a LEZ without being approved. Each zone has its own guidelines for which cars are allowed to enter. Therefore, your car must be pre-approved for the specific zone you are going to enter. The fine for not being registered is 350 euros.
The Netherlands has 15 low-emission zones. These are permanent and apply all hours of the day. Weather and emissions can affect whether a zone is temporarily closed to certain vehicles. The fine for driving into a low emission zone without registration is 2,250 euros depending on the vehicle.
We encourage you to check the city or town you want to visit to stay up to date on the applicable rules.
Spain has three types of low emission zones. These include temporary, permanent and zero-emission zones. To drive in the zones, you must have a sticker on the windscreen with the eco-label/Euro emission standard of your car.
If you are going to Prague by car, you must have pre-registered your car to drive legally into the city. The fine for not being registered is 100 euros. The low emission zone in Prague was established back in 1999.
There are 17 LEZs in Hungary, all of which have different requirements for car emissions. The time periods for when vehicles can enter the zones may vary, and the weather can also have an impact on which cars are allowed to drive in the zones. The fine for driving illegally in a zone is 97 euros.
In Norway, the low emission zones in Bergen and Oslo are enforced when poor air quality is observed. In both cities, the temporary closure applies to almost all cars. The fine for violating the temporary closure is 150 euros.
In Sweden, there are eight low emission zones that apply around the clock. You must be aware of the rules that apply in each individual zone. The fine for driving into a zone in a car that does not meet the emission requirements is 100 euros.
There are four low emission zones in Denmark. Copenhagen, Odense, Aarhus and Aalborg all have LEZs. This means that heavy-duty diesel lorries, buses and older vans without particulate filters may not drive into the areas. The fine for older vans violating the rules is 200 euros. The areas are marked with signs.
* Euro emission standard is stated in your car registration certificate.
NOTE: The above is indicative and may change. Saphe recommends researching the environmental requirements if you are going to a major European city in your own car. Low emission zones in Europe are generally evolving, which means that legislation can change rapidly.