There are different environmental zones in France. Some of the zones are permanently active, while others are only temporary. The latter are also called weather-related air protection zones, whereby the word "weather" does not refer to a specific weather condition such as sunshine or rain, but to the air quality, which often goes hand in hand with the weather.
Let us first look at the permanent environmental or air protection zones. These are called Zone à Faibles Émissions (Low Emission Zones), or ZFE for short. The rules of the ZFE are clearly defined. In the ZFE Paris City, for example, only vehicles with category E, 1, 2 and 3 stickers are allowed to enter - at night the driving ban in Paris is lifted and, for example, passenger cars are also allowed to enter at weekends. So even a permanent zone does not have to be activated continuously, but it does have set times. In the future, more and more cities are to set up ZFEs. There are currently 4 cities with ZFEs, and 7 more are to be added by the end of the year. In the next few years, the state has committed all metropolitan areas with more than 150,000 inhabitants to introduce ZFEs. That's more than 150 areas! The rules of the zones are also becoming stricter. In Paris, for example, sticker 3 will also be banned from 2022 and sticker 2 from 2024. This means that diesel vehicles will then be completely banned!
The temporary zones can be activated spontaneously in the event of high air pollution. If they are inactive, no sticker is required. When a zone is activated, it is decided spontaneously and depending on the level of air pollution which vehicles are banned. Most of the time, these are those without a sticker, and those with the worse stickers 4 and 5, but possibly also better stickers. The temporary zones are called Zones de Protection de L'Air (air protection zones) or ZPA. Heavy air pollution can occur on calm days, for example, as exhaust gases then accumulate close to their source. In winter, so-called winter smog can develop. In this case, a warm layer of air lies above a cold layer near the ground. The cold layer cannot escape, which leads to the accumulation of pollutants. In summer, extreme solar radiation can promote harmful ozone. Natural effects such as Saharan dust drift or sea spray can also cause increased concentrations of particulate matter. ZPAs allow French authorities to react quickly to harmful air quality and protect citizens by banning certain older vehicles. In Paris, in addition to the city ZFE, there is also a ZPA that, when activated, enforces stricter rules than those otherwise in force under the ZFE.
In addition to ZPAs, there are also so-called ZPAd. This abbreviation stands for Zone de Protection de L'Air Départementale. As the name suggests, a ZPAd refers to a complete department, i.e. a larger region. When a ZPAd is activated, either the entire area of the zone or only a severely affected part of the area can declare driving bans. ZPAd are often precursors of ZPA and ZFE. So if a driving ban is frequently declared in a part of a department, it is likely that a ZPA will be introduced there first and perhaps a ZFE later.
Keeping track of all these zones is difficult. Even 60% of the French don't know what a ZFE is!
By the way, the decision to activate is often made very spontaneously. Affected drivers are therefore often surprised by the driving ban. The activation of a zone is usually only announced on local radio or social media - hardly comprehensible for tourists. This is where our Green-Zones app helps! Since we always keep an eye on the information from the French authorities, our app always shows the current entry status of the French zones. An additional function of the app also offers you the possibility to see the entry status for the following day in order to be able to plan better.
The Green-Zones app helps you to keep an overview in the French zone jungle!