Update 27/03/2012: There are now too many low emission zones in too many European countries for me to document here, especially as there is already a publicly-funded website dedicated to this cause: www.lowemissionzones.eu.
The Low Emission Zones In Europe website is the most comprehensive and widely updated source of information on LEZs – I highly recommend that you check it out if you are planning a trip to Europe.
At the time of writing, the countries covered are:
- Czech Republic
- United Kingdom
Old article (dating from 2009):
You might think that paying road tax (sorry, Vehicle Excise Duty), fuel duty, MOT fees, tolls when required and VAT when you buy a vehicle would be enough to allow you use it without restriction.
Of course, you would be wrong to think this. As the owner of a motorhome with a diesel engine, you are responsible for noxious particulate emissions that are increasingly the subject of an additional round of restrictions and fees. These are generally known as low emission zones. These zones do not generally affect petrol vehicles, except sometimes those without catalytic converters. This is because the main purpose of the zones is to reduce particulate emissions in urban areas – predominantly a problem caused by diesel engines.
London was one of the pioneers, with the London Low Emissions Zone (LEZ). Currently, the LEZ only applies to vehicles with a gross weight over 3.5 tonnes. These vehicles (including motorhomes) must meet the Euro III emissions standard or pay an extortionate daily charge to enter the LEZ. Fortunately this does not affect the majority of motorhomes, which have a maximum gross weight of no more than 3.5 tonnes.
The plan was for this scheme to be extended to include motorhomes with a gross weight of between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes from October 2010, but London Mayor Boris Johnson announced his intention to postpone this indefinitely in February this year.
Visitors to Germany are not so lucky. The Umwelt Zone restrictions in many of Germany’s major cities mean that you must have purchased an Umweltplakette before entering into the signposted Umwelt Zones – usually an area of the city centre. At present, there are three types of plakette – Euro II , Euro III and Euro IV. You are automatically issued with the correct one for your vehicle and can then drive into areas in which your level of emissions is permitted. Failure to have a permit when entering an Umwelt Zone may result in a €40 fine.
The Germans have not yet banned Euro II vehicles from entering any of the Umwelt Zone areas but they are considering it – meaning that a large number of middle-aged motorhomes would be prohibited.
Low emission zones are fast becoming a Europe-wide phenomenon. Countries that are either operating or planning low emission zones include:
- Czech Republic
Of course, you can guarantee that each country will implement the system differently…
In many cases, motorhome owners will not want to drive into city centres – but there are times when it makes sense, so checking on low emission zone requirements will become another part of holiday preparation for motorhomers.
Useful Links – EU Low Emission Zones
The most comprehensive source of information on EU low emission zones that I can find is www.lowemissionzones.eu.
If you are planning a trip to Germany,you can buy an Umweltplakette from any TUV service centre (a bit like MOT stations) in Germany for €5. You’ll need your vehicle registration document. Alternatively, you can order an Umweltplakette before you go and have it delivered by post for a little more money.
TUV SUD (www.tuev-sued.de) offers an online service for €14.99 – you will need to provide a photo/scan of the main page of your vehicle registration document. You can go direct to the appropriate page by clicking on this link:
http://www.tuev-sued.de/car_vehicles/services/emissions_stickers_from_tuev_sued (credit card ordering link is near the bottom).
I have used this service for my motorhome and can recommend it.
London Low Emissions Zone website: www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/lez/