Low Emission Zones (ZFE): 30 cities still need to implement them

Low Emission Zones (ZFE): 30 cities still need to implement them

Thirty French cities must still establish a low emissions zone (ZFE) before 2025. Among those having already imposed them, Paris, Lyon and Strasbourg will be the only ones to limit the circulation of Crit’Air 3 vehicles, i.e. diesel cars registered before 2011 and gasoline cars registered before 2006.

Forty-two EPZs

The low emission zone (ZFE) system provides restrictive measures for polluting cars where air quality is degraded.

The idea of ​​these zones, very widespread in Europe, is to encourage motorists to buy less polluting vehicles, hybrid or electric, or to use public transport and so-called “soft” modes of transport.

Twelve large French cities have already set up an ZFE: Paris, Lyon, Aix-Marseille-Provence, Nice, Toulouse, Montpellier, Strasbourg, Grenoble, Reims, Rouen, Saint-Etienne, Clermont-Ferrand.

Since January 1, 2024, they have limited driving times or completely banned, depending on the case, diesel cars registered before 2006 (Crit’Air 4 and 5).

Thirty cities must still put in place minimum restrictions before January 1, 2025, including Lille, Bordeaux, Dijon and Rennes.

The vehicles which will no longer be able to circulate there are “unclassified” with Crit’Air stickers, i.e. cars registered before 1997 and light utility vehicles registered before September 30, 1997.

These towns are free to take more restrictive measures.


Violators risk a third class fine (68 euros flat rate).

However, checks and fines are still very rare. Radars should arrive in early 2026 to automate them, according to the government.

Numerous exemptions are provided locally, such as for vehicles displaying a mobility inclusion card, those benefiting from a “collection” registration document (open to vehicles over thirty years old), or those used by certain professionals (markets, removals).

Paris and Lyon

Only the two largest French cities, Paris and Lyon, will be forced on January 1, 2025 to ban Crit’Air 3 vehicles, i.e. diesel cars over 14 years old and gasoline cars over 19 years old.

Marseille, Strasbourg and Rouen, which were to continue the establishment of their ZFEs, are exempt, thanks to the improvement in air quality on their territory.

In Paris, restrictions apply for cars from Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., except on public holidays, within a perimeter within the A86 motorway.

But in Lyon and three neighboring municipalities, restrictions apply 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

Strasbourg has also decided, without being obliged to do so, to extend the ban, 24/7, on Crit’Air 3 from 2025, throughout the Eurometropolis.

“Forte exclusion”

The law creating EPZs dates back to 2019, but the debate over their implementation became explosive at the start of 2023.

We were told that these were going to become areas of strong exclusion, that if we had liked the +yellow vests+, we were going to love the ZFEs“, recalled Tuesday the Minister of Ecological Transition Christophe Béchu.

In the midst of a purchasing power crisis, ZFEs have become a symbol of the exclusion of the most modest motorists, with less polluting vehicles still remaining rare and expensive on the second-hand market.

Several measures (aid for the purchase of less polluting vehicles, “social leasing”) have been put in place to facilitate the transition.

The air remains polluted

Air quality has continued to improve since the early 2000s in Europe, but it “is not yet at a satisfactory level”, lamented Christophe Béchu on Tuesday.

Pollution (mainly due to road traffic, heating and factories) is responsible for 40,000 premature deaths per year, according to Santé Publique Europe, and it aggravates certain pathologies such as asthma.

In Marseille, Strasbourg and Rouen, the concentration of nitrogen oxide has fallen below 40 µg/m3, the regulatory threshold set at European level. By the end of the decade, pollution standards will be lowered in Europe to 20 µg/m3.

At this stage, a little less than half of the 42 urban areas affected by ZFEs are below this threshold.