To fight against air pollution, cities must set up “Low Emission Zones” (ZFE). This is a perimeter in which the most polluting vehicles are prohibited from driving, either permanently or temporarily. But how are vehicles classified? Which cities are affected and what are the penalties? Automobile Propre answers your questions.
What is an EPZ used for?
Traffic restrictions have existed for decades in many cities across Europe, with the aim of reducing air pollution from road traffic. Their implementation has accelerated in recent years to stem the major health and environmental consequences of tailpipe emissions.
The most famous of the restricted traffic zones is undoubtedly the “Ultra Low Emission Zone” of London, which imposes a tax on the most emitting vehicles. They are classified according to their category (motorcycle, passenger vehicle, heavy goods vehicle) and the “Euro” standard of their engine. Cameras and agents scan license plates to verify payment of this tax and issue fines to potential violators.
EPZs in France
In France, “Low Emission Zones” (ZFE) are less strict and do not require the payment of taxes. While the principle is rigorously applied among our European neighbors, it remains unpopular and poorly understood in France. France is also regularly sanctioned by the European Union for its delay in setting up EPZs in the most polluted metropolises. Thus, only Paris, Lyon and Grenoble currently have an active ZFE. The future areas of Marseille, Lille, Strasbourg, the Arve valley and many other metropolises are still being developed.
All EPZ projects are expected to be effective by 2022, in order to avoid frequent exceedances of regulatory thresholds for pollutants in the air. The levels of nitrogen oxides (NO²) and fine particles (PM2.5 and PM10), mainly emitted by diesel engines, are particularly targeted.
Which vehicles are prohibited from entering the ZFE?
Each community is free to set the perimeter, criteria and modalities of access to their EPZ. The only requirement is that entering and exiting the zone must be indicated by “B56” signs similar to the “Zone 30” signs. Upstream, signage must also inform local ZFE rules and offer an alternative route to excluded vehicles.
Thus, the Greater Paris metropolis uses Crit’air vignettes to determine the categories of vehicles prohibited from entering. HGVs and coaches with sticker 5 or not classified are not allowed to enter the ZFE, 7 days a week from 8 am to 8 pm. The other vehicles are from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. except on public holidays. The criteria will gradually be narrowed down over the years to reach the goal of 100% clean vehicles by 2030 in the capital.
However, exemptions allow certain specific vehicles to continue to access the area, such as vintage cars, those adapted for people with reduced mobility (PRM), intervention vehicles and certain heavy goods vehicles with a certificate.
The Lyon and Grenoble ZFEs are also based on the Crit’air vignettes, but only concern commercial vehicles and heavy goods vehicles and apply permanently. Access remains free for private vehicles regardless of their engine. If Crit’air 4, 5 and unclassified vehicles are the only ones excluded in 2020, the others will be gradually until 2025, or access to EPZs will only be allowed to Crit’air 1 and zero vehicles. program.
What fines if we do not respect the EPZ?
Violating heavy goods vehicles are liable to a 4th class fine (€ 135). The other categories are sanctioned with a 3rd class fine (€ 68). The absence of a Crit’air sticker properly affixed to the windshield is also punishable by a 4th class fine, even if the vehicle benefits from an exemption. Note that the metropolis of Greater Paris is more lenient: the establishment of the ZFE being recent, no ticket will be applied before the end of 2021 in order to accustom users.
What if you are prohibited from entering the EPZ?
If your vehicle does not have the authorized Crit’air sticker and you must drive in the ZFE, you must find alternatives. First, check if your vehicle can possibly benefit from an exemption (moving, specific professional activity, etc.). The metropolises detail all the modalities of access to their ZFE on their website.
Consider moving around the EPZ via another mode, such as cycling, personal mobility devices (electric scooter and skateboard, single wheel), and public transport. If the use of a vehicle is essential, consider replacing it with an electric model. Ultimately, zero-emission vehicles will be the only ones to be able to circulate freely in certain EPZs. There is local aid for the purchase of such a vehicle, which can be combined with the government bonus and conversion bonuses. The total amount of these grants can be very high depending on your profile: up to € 19,000 for example in the metropolis of Greater Paris and € 17,000 in Bouches-du-Rhône. The purchase price of an electric car is thus greatly reduced. The installation of a plug or charging station can also be aided by a tax credit and bonuses.