In order to reduce urban air pollution and encourage drivers – particularly those in busy urban airs – to switch to more ecologically friendly vehicles, there are a number of ‘low emission zones’ throughout France, and all cars entering these zones must comply with emission rules, including displaying a Crit’Air sticker. Let’s take a closer look at what this means.
What and Where Are France’s Low-Emission Zones?
In France, several cities and areas are classified as ‘Air Protection Zones’ or ‘Low Emission Zones’, in which vehicles are required to display a Crit’Air sticker (more on that in a moment) indicating the classification of their vehicle based on its polluting emissions.
Within these zones, permanent or temporary restrictions can be put in place on both the circulation and speed of vehicles based on their Crit’Air ‘rating’ (i.e. high polluting vehicles may be restricted from driving and parking within certain zones, or maximum speed limits may be put in place). Any car driving within one of these zones (even if you are just passing through) must display a Crit’Air sticker or face a fine.
The exact classification of these zones and their respective rules is rather confusing (and not helped by the fact that the names keep changing!). However, there are essentially two different categories:
Les Zones à Faibles Émissions Mobilité (ZFE-m) or Low-Emission Mobility Zones
These are zones in which permanent traffic restrictions apply, and it is mandatory to display a Crit’Air sticker at all times. Up until 2020, these zones were known as ‘Zone de circulation restreinte (ZCR)’.
There are currently 11 ZFE-m in France:
Zones de Protection de l’Air (ZPA) or Air Protection Zones
These are zones in which temporary traffic restrictions may be applied at the discretion of the local authorities. For example, during certain weather conditions or air pollution peaks, such as the 2019 heatwave, restrictions may be temporarily introduced in the affected areas. If you live in one of these zones, it’s a good idea to have a Crit’Air sticker displayed on your car to avoid getting caught out.
There are also Zones de Protection de l’Air départemental (ZPAd) which refer to entire departments where restrictions may be applied temporarily.
ZPA and ZPAd in France:
Angers (+ Maine-et-Loire) : ZPAd
Annecy (+ Haute-Savoie) : ZPA
Auch (+ Gers) : ZPAd
Bordeaux (+ Gironde) : ZPAd
Chambery (+ Savoie) : ZPA
Chartres (+ Eure-et-Loir) : ZPA et ZPAd
Clermont-Ferrand (+ Puy-de-Dome) : ZPAd
Dijon (+ Côte-d-or) : ZPA
Guéret (+ Creuse) : ZPA et ZPAd
La Roche-sur-Yon (+ Vendée) : ZPAd
Marseille (+ Bouches-du-Rhone) : ZPAd
Montpellier (+ Hérault) : ZPAd
Niort (+ Deux_Sèvres) : ZPAd
Orléans (+ Loiret) : ZPAd
Pau (+ Pyrénées-Atlantiques) : ZPAd
Poitiers (+ Vienne) : ZPAd
Rennes : ZPA
Valence (+ Drôme) : ZPAd
Vallée de l’Arve : ZPA
Can you drive in a ZFE or ZPA?
Traffic restrictions in a ZFE or ZPA are dictated by the local government and are subject to changes, so it’s important to check the latest rules if you live in or plan to travel to any of the above-mentioned cities and departments. Typically, vehicles with a higher Crit’ Air rating (i.e. those with the lowest emissions) have few or no restrictions, while lower numbers may be banned completely from driving or parking within the zone.
These rules are set to become stricter over the coming years, with the final result being that only the lowest emission vehicles (Crit’air 1 stickers) will be permitted within these urban zones.
In Paris, for example, vehicles with Crit’air 5 or Crit’air 4 stickers are already banned from the low emission zone (which includes central Paris, the ring road, Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes, and all the communes in Greater Paris) from 8 am to 8 pm on weekdays. In 2022, this will be increased to include vehicles with Crit’air 3 stickers, and from 2024 to include Crit’air 2 stickers. By 2030, all vehicles in the zone will need to display a Crit’air 1 sticker, meaning that no diesel or petrol-only vehicles will be permitted within Paris.
The signs below will be displayed to mark the start and end of the emission control zones.
What happens if I break the rules?
Fines of €68 are applicable for non-compliant vehicles caught driving within the low emission zones. However, these fines can be up to €450 depending on the vehicle type or if you fail to pay the fine after 45 days.
What Is a Crit’Air Sticker?
The Crit’Air vignette or Clean Air sticker is a multi-category vignette system that classifies vehicles based on their air-polluting emissions. There are six different colour-coded stickers available, ranked from 0 to 5. The unnumbered green stickers are issued only to 100% electric or hydrogen cars, while some very old, high-emission vehicles may not be able to receive a sticker at all.
Which Crit’Air Sticker Does My Vehicle Need?
Your car will be ranked based on its type (car, motorcycle, heavy vehicle), age, energy source (petrol/diesel/hybrid/electric, etc.), and polluting emissions (based on the Euro standard). You can run a simulation here to find out which sticker your vehicle requires, but here’s a rough breakdown:
Green > 100% electric or hydrogen cars
Purple or Crit’Air 1> Gaz and rechargeable hybrid vehicles, petrol vehicles with a Euro 5 or 6 emissions rating (2011 onwards)
Yellow or Crit’Air 2> Petrol vehicles with a Euro 4 rating (2006-2010), diesel vehicles with a Euro 5 or 6 rating (2011 onwards)
Orange or Crit’Air 3> Petrol vehicles with a Euro 2 or 3 rating (1997-2005), diesel vehicles with a Euro 4 rating (2006-2010)
Maroon or Crit’Air 4> Diesel vehicles with a Euro 3 rating (2001-2005)
Grey or Crit’Air 5> Diesel vehicles with a Euro 2 rating (1997-2000)
How To Get a Crit’Air Sticker
You can purchase a Crit’Air Sticker online here for both vehicles registered in France and vehicles registered in the UK or other countries. It costs €3.67, including postage within France, or €4.51 for shipments outside of France. The entire process can be done online and can be carried out in English, French or several other languages. You will need to scan or photograph a copy of your vehicle registration document, enter your details, and give an address to which the sticker will be sent.
Your Crit’Air sticker is valid should be clearly displayed on your car’s windscreen, and there is no expiration date, so you won’t have to renew it.
Driving in France
Whether you own a car in France, travel to France in your UK or EU-registered car, or hire a rental car – FrenchEntrée has all the need-to-know info about driving in France. Our Essential Reading articles will take you through buying, registering, and insuring your car, as well as offering tips and advice on driving and car ownership in France.