Low emission zones were introduced in many German cities to mitigate air pollution caused by particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. Low emission zones are identified by traffic signs and additional signs. The Thirty-fifth Ordinance on the Implementation of the Federal Immission Control Act (Ordinance on the marking of vehicles) stipulates that vehicles have to be marked with stickers (on the windscreen inside the vehicle) and lays down the criteria vehicles have to meet for the different kinds of stickers. Stickers are valid for all low emission zones in Germany.
An overview of low emission zones in Germany is available at the Federal Environment Agency's website.
Furthermore, cities provide important information about their low emission zones on their websites (size, exceptions, service, practical advice).
Vehicles are divided into emissions groups according to their particulate emissions and they receive a sticker of the colour marking the respective emissions group:
- red for emissions group 2,
- yellow for emissions group 3 and
- green for emissions group 4.
Only vehicles displaying the required stickers may enter low emission zones. Stickers are only mandatory for cars driven within these zones. They are not necessary for crossing the border into Germany.
Section 6 of the Ordinance on the marking of vehicles clearly lays down which vehicles belong to which emissions group. If registration papers do not identify the European emission standard of a vehicle, the date of the vehicle's first registration is used as a basis for classification. Vehicles with diesel engines can generally reach the next higher emissions group if they are retrofitted with an emission control device such as a particulate trap. Proof of the standard achieved through retrofitting (stipulated by the Ordinance on the marking of vehicles) must be provided in form of a certification issued by the garage. Vehicles with a drive other than a combustion system (for example electric vehicles) are categorised under emissions group 4 and receive a green sticker.
Where to obtain emissions-control stickers
Stickers can be obtained from the local licensing authorities or other competent bodies designated under Länder law. Another option are bodies authorised to carry out exhaust gas examinations (garages, service stations with garages and inspection agencies such as Dekra and TÜV (Technical Inspection Authority) in Germany or even their offices abroad).
Stickers will be issued by any of the above-mentioned bodies upon presentation of vehicle registration papers.
It is also possible to order stickers from one of the above-mentioned bodies before driving into a low emission zone. Registration papers may be submitted (generally speaking copies do not need to be officially certified) via fax or e-mail (scanned document) or as copy by post. The sticker will then be sent by post. The issuing bodies charge between five to ten euros for one sticker. Costs for shipped stickers, including postage, may be higher.
Exemptions are possible in accordance with Section 1 (2) and Annex 3 to Section 2 (2) of the Ordinance on the marking of vehicles. It is not permitted to enter a low emission zone without a sticker or special exemption (there will be a fine).
Overview of emissions groups for vehicles
(exceptions may occur in individual cases)
|European emission standard||Emissions group||First registration passenger car||First registration truck||Sticker|
|Diesel engines||Diesel engines|
|Euro 1 or less||1||before 1 January 1997||before 1 October 1996||none|
|Euro 2 or Euro 1 with retrofit||2||from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2000||from 1 October 1996 to 30 September 2001||red|
|Euro 3 or Euro 2 with retrofit||3||from 1 January 2001 to 31 December 2005||from 1 October 2001 to 30 September 2006||yellow|
|Euro 4 and higher or Euro 3 with retrofit||4||from 1 January 2006||from 1 October 2006||green|
|petrol engines||petrol engines|
|Euro 1 or less (vehicles which do not meet group 4 criteria)||1||before 1 January 1993||before 1 January 1993||none|
|Euro 1 and higher or Annex XXIII to Road Traffic Registration Regulations (StVZO) or equivalent or 52nd Ordinance on derogations to the StVZO or equivalent||4||from 1 January 1993||from 1 January 1993||green|