A 2006 anti-air-pollution law began a process that now requires drivers in Germany to have a special environmental sticker or badge (UK, Umweltplakette in German) on their car in order to enter the “green zone” of most German cities. Austria has similar requirements in Vienna and some other parts of the country.
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. You’ll see a sign similar to the one pictured here, but almost every German city or town of any size now requires a green-zone sticker.
German lawmakers passed the new 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.)
RENTAL CARS IN GERMANY
If you’re driving a rental car in Germany, make sure it has the proper sticker before you try to drive into a city center with environmental restrictions. You’ll pay 10 euros to a TÜV agent to affix an official sticker to your windshield. See Renting or Leasing a Car in Germany for more.
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. NOTE: As of 2016, hardly any German city with a green zone allows entry with anything other than a level-4 green sticker.
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!
The Blue Euro 6 Badge or (Nitrogen Oxide) N Ox Sticker
In early 2016 an EU environmental conference proposed the introduction a new Europe-wide blue Stickoxid (nitrogen oxide) sticker, but it has been stalled for various reasons. The German environmental agency wants to come up with alternatives to fight the nitrogen oxide smog-creator – particularly in Berlin, Cologne, Aachen, Düsseldorf, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Frankfurt am Main, Stuttgart, Munich, and Darmstadt. Since diesel-powered vehicles are among the biggest offenders, the blue sticker would effectively ban 13 million diesel vehicles from entering most large German cities. Germany and the EU have failed to deal with the problem of CO2 and NOx emmissions. Green zones currently only control fine particulates, but not carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide (a ground level ozone precursor). However, the EU blue sticker and other solutions are on hold for now.
How to get an Umweltplakette (Feinstaubplakette)
If you are renting or leasing 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: €10.00 (incl. VAT)
Also 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.
Next | Driving in Germany
AT THE GERMAN WAY
- Driving in Germany
- Driving in Europe
- The Autobahn
- Snow Tires and Winter Driving in Germany – Learn about the “O-to-O Rule”!
- Renting a Car in Germany
- Getting a German Driver’s License
- For Expats: Living in Germany
ON THE WEB
- Environmental Sticker (TÜV) – General information from www.tuev-nord.de, in English
- Order Online (TÜV) – English instructions for ordering your environmental sticker from TÜV
- Environmental Zones in Germany – Information and maps in English and other languages from www.umwelt-plakette.de
- Low Emission Zones in the EU – Germany is not the only EU country that has “green zones.” This site, in English, tells you about low-emission environmental zones across Europe.
- Umweltbundesamt: Umweltzonen – in German
- Umweltbundesamt: Transport – in English
- Luftreinhaltung – Verkehr – From www.bmu.de (in German)
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