There are more and more cities introducing emergency air quality traffic bans. There is lots of news in the press about Diesel Bans. This page looks at the current schemes in more detail. 

The schemes include emergency diesel bans, alternating number plate schemes, complete traffic bans, calls for less travel by car.

Which cities have emergency air quality schemes?

Do odd even schemes work to reduce pollution?

Which cities have diesel bans?

Which cities only allow Electric Vehicles in ?


Cities with emergency air quality schemes:

An increasing number of cities have emergency air quality schemes in Europe. These are in operation at times of very high pollution, or when very high pollution is predicted:

  • Stuttgart request to not drive during pollution episodes, and cheaper public transport. If the voluntary requests do not have enough impact in 2017, then from 2018 there will be mandatory regulations
  • Paris tightened low emission zone, cheap/free public transport
  • Grenoble emergency low emission zone, cheap/free public transport
  • Lyon odd and even scheme and emergency low emission zone
  • Bergen odd-even numberplate scheme
  • Oslo a diesel ban (for pre-Euro 6 diesel vehicles) or an odd-even numberplate scheme
  • Madrid odd and even numberplate scheme
  • Milan traffic ban 
  • Rome odd and even number plate scheme
  • Florence traffic ban
  • Pavia traffic ban
  • Perugia & Ponte San Giovanni: emergency LEZ scheme in Umbria 
  • Athens an odd and even car ban from September to June every year
  • Barcelona during episodes of high pollution no vehicles without emission sticker are allowed to circulate
  • Budapest during smog vehicles must be at least Euro 5


Cities with diesel bans:

While diesel vehicles emit less climate gases, they generally emit more of the air pollutants that are harmful to our health. This can be an issue in cities where pollution is high. The difference between diesel and petrol emissions is reducing. There is evidence that current diesel cars still generally emit more particulates and nitrogen oxides on city roads than petrol.

Many LEZs require different Euro standards for diesels than petrol. The Euro standards have been usually less strict for diesel vehicles than petrol vehicles. For example, the German LEZs are mostly Euro 4 diesel, and Euro 1 petrol. The planned Norgegian low emission zone in Oslo, Bergen, and Trondheim charges more for diesel vehicles than petrol vehicles. The Amsterdam car LEZ affects only diesel vehicles during 2017 (extends to mopeds, diesel taxis and coaches in 2018).

There is a lot in the press about diesel bans in cities. The cities of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens have stated they wish to ban diesel vehicles by 2025.

Sometimes the headline is given as diesel ban, where the emissions standard required is eg Euro 6. You will find information on these schemes either on the individual city pages, or as an overview on the Quick Guide. Some of the cities that operate, or have confirmed plans for schemes nearest to a diesel ban are listed below.

  • London will ban pre-Euro 6 diesel vehicles from 2020, with it's Ultra Low Emission Zone (Petrol vehicles require Euro 4).
  • Oslo has a diesel ban (for pre-Euro 6 diesel vehicles) or an odd-even numberplate scheme in times of high pollution.
  • Brussels and Antwerp in Belgium will ban pre-Euro 6 vehicles from 2025 (Petrol vehicles require Euro 3).


Cities with entry for Electric Vehicles only:

  • Milan's Area C currently bans all delivery vehicles, except Electric Vehicles between 08:00-10:00

There are likely to be more of these type of regulations over the coming years. They work to reduce both pollution and climate gases. They also work towards the EU goal of reducing conventionally fuelled vehicles in urban areas (find out more about this here). 

  electric van Electric car van charging and charging point


Do emergency air quality traffic schemes work?

What impact do alternating even schemes have on pollution?

There is evidence that they can have an impact in the case of temporary measures in cases of high pollution. They may reduce traffic, but often not by the half that would be expected.

There is considerable evidence that they do not have significant impact if implemented permanently. This is because people either have two cars anyway, and ensure that they have both an odd and an even numberplate, or they buy a cheaper (and therefore older and more polluting) car with the other numberplate type.

A number of cities that have had the impact of their emergency schemes assessed, and the results are summarised below.

The impact of Paris's emergency odd even traffic scheme in March 2014

Airparif (the Paris air quality monitoring agency) estimates that the emergency measures to reduce pollution in cases of high pollution works. Implementing the measures during the event in March 2014 led to an estimated 2% PM10 in average on the day for the urban background. Close to major traffic routes, the reduction was 6% and during rush hour on the Paris ring road particulate levels fell by 20%. Rush hour levels of nitrogen oxides fell by as much as 30%. 

Impact of Bergen’s emergency odd even traffic scheme in January 2016.

Bergen had odd even traffic restrictions on two days in January 2016, and a report was undertaken. In summary, the report said:

It was as hard to say anything about what effect the date driving has had on air pollution in Bergen. Pollution reduced during the measure and increased after the measure. It can be assumed that the pollution after would have been even higher without the scheme.  Fewer vehicles within the toll road will give fewer emissions within the ring road, but potentially higher pollution outside due to drivers diverting.

A TOI report after a similar measure in the winter 2010, showed the measure only had an impact on the day itself, with a 27% reduction of traffic on the Friday of the measure compared to Fridays later in January.

In the 2016 case as comparison, there was a traffic reduction through the toll booth of approx. 14.5%. It is also worth mentioning that other measures against poor air quality were undertaken before and during the measure, such as dust binding and washing of the roadways, urging not to fire in the oven if you have other heating sources, these measures will have an effect on PM10 and PM2.5-pollution.

Source: Bergen city


 Madrid emergency scheme, 3rd December 2015

"Data from yesterday and the day before yesterday have been extraordinary, with an average of 73 km/h. That means that there is a very important citizen response without practically put fines" as highlighted Mayor Carmena. Who pointed out that in the previous episode of high pollution they were implemented with the intention of raising awareness rather than punishing measures. In that episode, only with the restriction of car parks in the Centre (filled with 20% of car parks) and the limitation of speed, managed to reduce the level of nitrogen dioxide emissions down to normal levels.

Source: Madrid city website


Stuttgart, January 2015

Stuttgart's first smog (Feinstaub) alarm ended on Friday the 22nd January 2016, having started on Sunday 17th January. There are questions about how much impact it had, discussions about 3% traffic reduction.


Beijing 2008 

Results show that during the traffic restriction period, although more than 50% of vehicles were forbidden to travel in Beijing, the traffic volume was only reduced by 20% and 40% while the travel speed had been increased by 10% and 20%. Smoother travel in cities can reduce emissions.

This suggests that such traffic restriction policy may be an effective short-term management measure in dealing with increased transportation demand and congestion during major events, such as the Olympic Games. Results also indicate that vehicle travel demand does not decrease with the same proportion as the total vehicles forbidden, at least for the expressway and main arterials in a city.

Source: Scientific paper


Delhi impact odd even scheme January 2016

Delhi operated an emergency odd-even numberplate traffic ban between January 1-15, 2016. Additional public transport was provided, and schools had an extended holiday.

We measure the impact of the odd-even program on PM2.5 concentrations in New Delhi using a difference-in-differences (DiD) approach. To do this, we compare air pollution levels before and after the program, within and outside Delhi in the National Capital Region, where the program was not implemented.

The estimated reduction in PM2.5 concentrations was about 35-47 μg/m3, or 10-13% on average.

A statistically significant additional 10% reduction in emissions is estimated on average between 8am-8pm; however, air quality levels in the evening after 7pm are relatively unaffected.

Sources: Scientific paper, Also see animated map of differences, and summary on the Forbes website.

Guangzhou China, 2010 

Guangzhou operated temporary traffic control measures during the Asian Games in 2010. The restriction was with different levels (both ‘Green Labels’ or not and odd-even), and different timings.

Emissions were reduced by an estimated 38-52% during the first stage of the scheme and 28- 36% for the second stage. During the Asian Games, NOx and PM10 emissions were reduced by an estimated 26%, and 30%, respectively, compared with those before the Games.

Source: scientific paper    


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