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What is an environmental zone?

An environmental zone is an area in which only certain vehicles are allowed. If your vehicle does not meet the conditions of the zone, you are not allowed to enter. Environmental zones are primarily designed to regulate the exhaust gases emitted by cars and thus improve air quality. Therefore, the rules of an environmental zone are often linked to vehicle emissions.

But how do you know if your car is allowed to enter a zone? Of course, you don't necessarily need to know the emissions of your car. In order to be able to compare and regulate the emissions of cars with each other, the EU already marked the emissions at the beginning of the 1990s using so-called Euro standards. Initially, there was Euro Standard 1. Over time, the standards were tightened and the vehicles became cleaner and cleaner and received higher or even better Euro Standards. Currently registered vehicles must comply with Euro standard 6.

These Euro standards are used for the rules of the environmental zones. Older diesel vehicles with Euro standards 1 to 3, for example, are banned in German environmental zones. Petrol cars with these Euro standards, on the other hand, are still allowed to enter because they are cleaner than diesel vehicles. So the rules are not only linked to the Euro standard, but also to the fuel. In some countries it also depends on what kind of vehicle you have. For example, there may be different rules for cars, lorries and buses.

Environmental zones are often located in city centres and densely populated areas where air quality is poor due to traffic. Their size can vary greatly. Some zones extend over entire urban areas, others cover only individual streets. There can also be environmental zones on motorways. In addition, a distinction is made between permanently valid and temporary environmental zones.

One of the craziest environmental zones is in the municipality of Abbiategrasso, Italy. There, the environmental zone is only active if an air pollutant such as particulate matter exceeds a certain limit value - after 1-3 days. However, this only applies from October to March. If the zone is then active, no cars or motor homes with diesel Euro Standard 3 are allowed to enter. But only between Monday and Friday from 07:30h to 08:30h and 18:30h to 19:30h. Between 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Euro 4 is also prohibited. On weekends, there is only the ban between 08:30 and 18:30. If you drive a van or lorry, the rules are completely different. At weekends, the ban only applies until 12:30 a.m., but only with Euro Standard 3. However, if you are transporting foodstuffs such as noodles or flour, you have special rights. And if there are at least three of you in the car, none of this applies and you can drive freely. If that's not crazy enough for you, you are also completely exempt from the driving ban if you hold a clerical office, i.e. if you are a pastor.

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