Capital Gain

Emissions-based fines are lurking in plenty of European cities, ready to catch out unwitting Brits abroad. Jack Carfrae reports on where they are.


It’s a terrible pun, but vehicle emissions are hot property these days. We’re all well aware of the drive towards cleaner, lower-emitting vehicles, and the resultant benefits that brings.


And it’s those living, working and driving in London that are more aware of it than most. But our capital city isn’t the only place in Europe to implement low emissions zones and congestion charges.


The majority of our neighbours on the continent have done the same thing, all with the same intention of slashing CO2 and NOx levels and encouraging drivers to steer clear of the traffic hotspots.


It’s a noble pursuit, but it’s also one that makes driving in Europe even more of a minefield. If you’re heading abroad on four wheels, it’s worth knowing what rules and regulations are where if you’re planning to take in a capital city or two.


After all, you wouldn’t hop across the Channel and drive on the left, would you? The good news for car drivers is that most continental low emissions zones are similar to our capital’s current system in that they’re targeted at diesel-engined HGVs, so your average holidaymaker isn’t going to be affected.



However, some countries and cities are more stringent than others, and tighter regulations that affect passenger cars are cropping up. Suffice to say, petrol cars get off easier than diesels in most cases, as they either dodge the system or settle for a relatively light Euro one emissions rule.


Thankfully, if you can prove your car has been modified and its emissions have dropped to within compliance levels, you should be alright in a lot of cases, so a swift diesel remap will usually do the trick.


Diesel Car has dug the dirt on the most up-to-date legislation for oil-burning cars, but it’s worth checking with your travel agent or on the corresponding embassy website before you hit the road to find out exactly what applies and where. More information can also be found at www.lowemissionzones.eu.




Cities affected: Lisbon

Look out for a sign that says: Zona Pré – Euro 1/2/3

Details: Capital city Lisbon’s low emissions zone is quite new, but if anything that means the authorities are likely to be hot on cracking down on offenders.

The good news is that the levels aren’t too hard to meet, spanning only Euro one to Euro three. Modifications to meet lower emissions standards aren’t recognised, though.




Cities affected: Oslo, Trondheim, Bergen

Look out for a sign that says: Lavutslippssone

Details: The number of cities affected may be fewer than those of Italy and Germany, but the Norwegians are coming down hard on diesel car emissions.

Of the three locations in question, drivers will receive a ‘significant charge’ for pre-Euro six vehicles.

The good news is that these rules don’t come into force for another year and a bit, but that still means that any diesel car entering the city will have to conform to the September 2014 emissions standards.

Modifications aren’t allowed either – harsh indeed.




Cities affected: Virtually all of them!

Look out for a sign that says: Umweltzonen

Details: The Germans are well ahead on the emissions zone front.

There are too many cities with low emissions zones in place to list here, so the advice is to check before you go.

How low your car’s emissions have to be varies depending on the location, but German towns range from a relatively light Euro two to more stringent Euro four for diesel-engined cars, so it can be confusing, particularly if you’re touring multiple cities.

Remapping/modifications to cut emissions are allowed in all cases.




Cities affected: Graz

Look out for a sign that says: Umweltzone, Fahrverbot or Stmk. Luftreinhalteverordnung

Details: As of 15th October this year, all diesel vehicles will have to meet Euro three emissions standards in order to enter the city.

Retrofitting is allowed, so if your vehicle has been remapped or modified to meet the required standards and you can prove it, then you’re allowed in.




Cities affected: Virtually all of them!

Look out for a sign that says: Zona traffico limitato ambientale

Details: Like Germany, Italy has gone mad for low emission zones.

It isn’t quite as uniform here though – the rules are subject to bigger changes depending on where you are.

Acqui Terme, Asti and Moncalieri for example have pedestrian only zones for air quality reasons, which operate at different times of the day – a bit like bus lanes in the UK.

More conventional low emission zones around the country range from Euro one to Euro four depending on exactly where you are.

Most but not all of them allow emissions-based modifications, Rome, Naples and Palermo being a few significant exceptions.

Jack Carfrae



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