EU Low Emission Zones (LEZ) – Emission Reduction

12 Nov 2009

Across Europe there are now a number of low emission zones (LEZ). These zones have been put in place to try to increase air quality in some of the most polluted areas. What this means is that certain vehicles must avoid entering these low emissions zones or that they must pay a fixed amount to enter the zones.

310,000 deaths across Europe every year are directly attributed to bad air quality. The cost to the European economy is estimated to be 427 to 790 billion euros every year. In order to meet targets a number of countries have created low emission zones in certain cities. London was the pioneer of this idea, schemes are also in place in Oxford and Norwich. Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland and Italy all now have L.E.Z. in place. Unfortunately there is no unifying principle behind the zones; they are implemented differently in every country.

Generally in order to enter a LEZ your vehicle must fall below the required emissions targets or you must pay a toll, in certain places some vehicles are banned. The age of your vehicle and the type of engine it has contribute to your emissions rating. You can discover your emissions rating by looking at your vehicle registration papers, if your vehicle is registered in the U.K. or in the Netherlands you can find this information on line. In order to align your vehicle with the Euro Standards you can buy a newer vehicle, retrofit the engine including placing filters on the engine, or reorganise your travel plans to avoid these zones, there are also certain exemptions in place for example on very old vehicles, check with your destination for details.

All of the schemes penalise heavy goods vehicles weighing over 3.5 tonnes, many diesel vehicles are affected but the treatment of other vehicles varies quite considerably. You will need to find out prior to travel what the restrictions are at your destination. In most cities the restrictions will not apply to caravans being towed by a moderately weighted vehicle, but some motor homes are likely to be affected. There are a high number of low emission zones in Germany, their policy can affect any vehicle and you must have a window sticker before you enter an LEZ city to avoid being fined (currently 40 euros).

This scheme is not likely to go away any time soon, there is evidence that suggests that it is having a positive affect on air purity which means that it is likely to continue to expand to new countries and cities. Always check before travelling to see if you are going to be affected.

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