Driving in Germany: Green Zones


Environmental ZonesLow Emission Zones (LEZ)Umweltzonen

A 2006 anti-air-pollution law began a process that now requires drivers in Germany to have a special environmental sticker (Umweltplakette) on their car in order to enter the “green zone” of many German cities and towns.

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Driving in many German cities now requires a special sticker in order to enter the “Umweltzone,” the environmental zone.

This law applies to anyone driving in Germany, whether a resident or a foreigner. Even if the car meets German/EU pollution standards, a driver can still be fined if there is no sticker on the car’s windshield. If you have a rental car, make sure it has the proper sticker before you try to drive into a city center with environmental restrictions. You’ll see a sign similar to the one pictured above.

German lawmakers passed the 2006 law after Germany failed to meet EU pollution standards for fine particulates (Feinstaub). Three German cities (Berlin, Cologne, Hanover) first introduced restricted environmental zones in January 2008. Since then, more and more cities and towns all across Germany have been added to the list of places that have Umweltzonen, and that list will grow in coming years. (See a partial list at the end of this article.)

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Most environmental zones now require a green sticker.

Green Means Go
Currently there are three different colored emission stickers. A green one certifies that a vehicle meets the highest environmental standards. A yellow sticker is for less compliant vehicles (usually diesel or older gasoline-powered). A red one is for the lowest level. The yellow and red stickers are only temporary and will eventually be phased out. After that, all vehicles will have to have a green sticker in order to enter a city’s Umweltzone. Various cities have different deadlines for when only a green sticker will allow a vehicle to enter an environmental zone. Several German cities began requiring a green sticker for zone entry beginning in 2011. Others began a green sticker requirement in 2012.

A sign will indicate which color sticker a vehicle must have in order to enter the environmental zone. Most newer cars with a catalytic converter will qualify for a green sticker, but the sticker must be on the car’s windshield in order to avoid a 40 euro fine. Whether your car can pass a pollution test or not is irrelevant. No sticker, no entry!

How to get an Umweltplakette (Feinstaubplakette)

If you are renting a car in Europe and plan to drive in Germany, make sure your vehicle has a green sticker on its windshield. The rental agency should provide it. Even many smaller towns all across Germany now have green zones! Otherwise, the easiest way to get your Umweltplakette is from the TÜV, either at a local inspection station or online at www.tuev-sued.de (south) or www.tuev-nord.de (north). Both sites have English instructions. You will need your vehicle emissions key number (Schlüsselnummer). An environmental sticker is valid for the life of the vehicle.
Cost:
Vehicles registered in Germany: €6.00 (incl. VAT)
Foreign vehicles: €12.50
For more information, see the web links at the bottom of this page.

Cities with Environmental Zones (Partial List)
The following German cities and towns had restricted environmental zones as of early 2016 (in alphabetical order):
Aachen, Augsburg, Berlin, Bochum, Bonn, Bottrop, Bremen, Dortmund, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Erfurt (Oct. 2012), Essen, Frankfurt am Main (and area: Offenbach, Siegen), Freiburg (Breisgau), Gelsenkirchen, Halle (Saale), Hanover, Heidelberg, Herrenberg, Ilsfeld, Karlsruhe, Köln (Cologne), Leipzig, Leonberg, Ludwigsburg, Mannheim, Mühlacker, Mülheim an der Ruhr, München (Munich), Münster, Neu-Ulm, Neuss, Nürnberg (Nuremberg), Oberhausen, Osnabrück, Pfinztal, Pforzheim, Pleidelsheim, Recklinghausen, Reutlingen, Ruhr region, Schwäbisch-Gmünd, Stuttgart, Tübingen, Ulm, Wuppertal.

Many other German cities will introduce environmental zones in coming years. By 2016 almost any heavily populated area in Germany had green zones. For a current list and map of cities, see: www.umwelt-plakette.de (in English, sort of) or in German. Austria and other EU nations are also introducing low emission zones. For more, see Low Emission Zones in the EU (www.lowemissionzones.eu, includes Germany). See more related web links below.

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