British holiday makers planning to drive to France this summer are being warned to check their car meets emissions regulations, or they could find themselves fined up to £117 (€135) for entering some of the nation’s most popular city destinations.
Drivers attempting to visit Paris by car are most likely to be affected by changes to the Crit’Air anti-pollution scheme.
Previously, diesel cars that were built before 1997 were banned from cities, including the nation’s capital, due to their poor levels of toxic emissions.
Now authorities have introduced tougher minimum standards. No diesel car registered before 2001 will be permitted to enter Paris during weekdays. Other cities, including Lyon and Grenoble, are expected to follow its lead, which came into force from July.
What is the Crit’Air anti-polution scheme?
The programme was launched this year, on 22 January, by Anne Hidalgo, the first woman to be appointed mayor of the French capital.
Its job is to restrict the most polluting vehicles from entering cities when levels of toxic emissions in the air become dangerously high.
France’s ministry for the environment says it must take drastic action to tackle a growing air quality crisis, which it says costs the nation between 20 and 30 billion euros a year.
The Crit’Air system operates on weekdays, between 8am and 8pm.
Vehicles wishing to drive in Paris, Lyon or Grenoble during these times must display a special vignette, or sticker. To obtain it, drivers apply online, using the dedicated Crit’Air website.
French authorities have based the sticker system around European Union vehicle emissions standards. These dictate the maximum level of pollutants that vehicles may emit to be certified for sale, and were introduced in 1991, as ‘Euro 1’. The latest, Euro 6, came into force in September, 2015.
All drivers wishing to drive into Paris, Lyon or Grenoble need to check which emissions legislation their car conforms to, and then must buy the corresponding sticker and display it on their windscreen.
When pollution levels become dangerously high, authorities can choose to ban the dirtiest vehicles from entering the city.
Which cars are affected by the latest rule changes?
The models affected by the latest blanket ban meet what is known as ‘Euro 2’ emissions standard, and fall into Crit’Air band 5. The standard applied to all new diesel cars sold between 1997 and 2001.
However, petrol cars that meet Euro 2 and Euro 3 emissions will be permitted to drive into Crit’Air cities. These are vehicles sold new from 1997 until the end of 2005.
What is the Crit’Air boundary around Paris?
The boundary is the Périphérique, the capital’s main ring road. So British motorists travelling through France via the ring road, who don’t intend to enter Paris, do not need to have a Crit’Air sticket on their car.
Where can I apply for a Crit’Air vignette and how much does it cost?
Use the dedicated website to make an application, which will open if you click here.
Drivers will need to know their vehicle’s European Emissions Standard – which will be detailed on the V5C registered keeper’s document.
Cars that fail to meet any emissions standard aren’t eligible for a vignette. They will not be permitted to drive when restrictions are in force.
Applicants must upload an image or scan of their vehicle’s V5C form. This must be uploaded in JPEG, PNG or PDF format and the file size must be under 400KB.
However, some users have commented on the Green Flag blog that they have experienced problems with the website.
How much does a Crit’Air sticker cost?
One sticker for a foreign-registered vehicle costs around £4.20 (€4.80).
How long does it take for a Crit’Air vignette to arrive in Britain?
Applicants have warned of lengthy delays of up to six weeks before a sticker arrives in the post. So those planning a road trip through France this summer should make haste with their application if passing through a Crit’Air city.