Germany Bans Polluting Cars from City Centers

by , 01/15/08

germany, transportation, city, centre, berlin, pollution, ban, traffic

Different cities are taking different approaches to reducing both pollution and car usage. While Londoners are charged a fee for entering the central district of the city, certain German cities are now banning the most pulluting cars from downtown areas. Next time you’re considering driving your black smoke-spewing clunker into central Berlin, Cologne, or Hanover, think again!

Cars in the three cities are now required to wear a colored pollution index (green, yellow, or red) to show the vehicle’s pollution levels. The fourth and worst option, vehicles whose pollution levels are worse than the red label, are the ones which are no longer allowed to enter the city center. These vehicles are an estimated 1.7 million vehicles. Those vehicles caught entering the city will face a fine.

The reform “is the most serious attempt until now to get to grips with the most serious source of air pollution, which causes 75,000 premature deaths per year,” said German green group Deutsche Umwelthilfe. Anything that will get people to use public transportation, and that ensures that the worst polluting vehicles are slowly taken off the roads is fine by us. 20 more cities in Germany will follow suit this year.

+ Germany begins ban on polluting cars in city centres

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  1. Catherine January 23, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Where do you get these coloured badges from? As we would be driving over from England to Cologne and wondered where you would get these badges so we don’t have a penalty fine.

  2. fALk January 17, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Sadly there are a few things to consider before “praising it skyhy”. I am from a Berlin Suburb so I kinda know the insides out. First of all this bill has “car lobby” written all over it. Its not against “gas muzzlers” as someone wrote before me – its more about “older” cars – mainly diesels and cars without catalytic converter – means mainly older cars. There is nothing in the bill that prohibits you to drive your 25l/100km SUV through Berlin.
    The problem is that this affects ONLY people who have a Diesel that is more then 2 years old or a normal gasoline car that has no catalytic converter (my 1986 VW bus does have one and I got a green sticker means I can go inside the city with it). In the end it affects people who have small bussinesses most – people who need to drive small vans – which are 99% diesels here in germany or people who have gotten onto the cheap diesel bandwagon that has hit germany in the mid 90s – mostly poor families or budget aware people. While I think its an alright measure it does not nearly go far enough (I was willing to not drive into the city with my age old vwbus). I would have liked to see a ban on all cars that exceed a minimum l/100km norm (like all cars above 6 Liters).
    The law is about air pollution coming from fine particels and not CO2 emission – which benefits only the people living in the city but not so much the environment. Its meant to give the german automotive industry a bump (hey we have an ultra conservative government without greens or such in power what you expect?) because its struggling thats all thats coming out of it…

  3. Anke Larkworthy January 16, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    I support this initiative…the bad side of it is though – that it mostly effects people who cannot effort a NEW eco-friendly car… But at least they have the alternative of a working public transportation system.

  4. Tim January 16, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    “..the stickers are not mandatory outside the citycenter and that’s where most of the pollution is created.”

    By this I mean of course the Berlin ring which contains huge amounts of traffic in and out of the city,

  5. Tim January 16, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    This is a great way of attempting to fight pollution, I was in Berlin for New Years and yes every car within the S-Bahn ring had a sticker. Note that this was within the S-Bahn ring, the stickers are not mandatory outside the citycenter and that’s where most of the pollution is created. On top of that, many old buildings in Berlin use coal burning for heating, now that causes a huge form of pollution. Some of us in the Netherlands fear that when they start evaluating the German method they will say it didn’t work because of high levels of pollution, whereas the method of stickers is in fact very good but because the other problems aren’t (yet) handled results may not be as promising as expected. So it may affect our policymaking as well.
    But in spite of this I am glad that they do at least something!

  6. Oscar January 16, 2008 at 12:00 pm


    Yes, the psychological effect is there: red means you are driving on borrowed time (anyday your permit will be cancelled), yellow means you will be next on the line and green means you are ok.

    If you own a fairly new diesel (2-4 years old) then you will most likely get a yellow dot and you need to install a particle filter to upgrade your car to a green dot. Again, using that psychological effect to modify behavior in the right direction.

  7. Hugo January 16, 2008 at 5:21 am

    There won’t be any green or yellow dot cars in North America, so the red dot will be fastly accepted ;-).

  8. Nick Simpson January 15, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    Sounds fair, another blow for the gas guzzler…

  9. Warren Brooke January 15, 2008 at 4:07 pm


    This is kindof the Scarlet Letter approach to greenhouse gas reduction. There would be a stigma against driving a red-dot car. I wonder if this type of scheme could be implemented in North America?

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