The RAC is advising UK motorists driving to France to be aware of a new vehicle emissions sticker system which has been introduced in Paris, Lyon and Grenoble to tackle pollution.
The Crit’Air scheme, which came into force in Paris on Sunday, January 22, requires all vehicles – cars, lorries, motorbikes and buses – to display a windscreen sticker, or vignette, according to how much they pollute. Grenoble and Lyon introduced the scheme on January 1.
Vehicles registered abroad will be allowed to drive in central Paris without the Crit’Air vignette until March 31. Stickers cost around £3.20 each (€3.70) – or £3.60 (€4.18) including postage, and come in six categories ranging from the very cleanest (Crit’Air 1) – electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles – to the dirtiest (Crit’Air 6).
The penalty for failure to display a sticker while driving in Paris is an on-the-spot fine of between €68-135 (£58 to £117). The categories correspond to the six European Union emission standards for cars – dating back to 1992 when Euro-1 was introduced.
RAC European breakdown spokesman Simon Williams said: “Anyone caught without a sticker risks a fine of up to £117, although we understand the French police are likely to be lenient in the early days.
"While the stickers only cost around £3.20 to buy, the website is currently only in French. An English-language site is, however, due to be in operation as of February 1.”
He added: "We are aware of third-party websites already selling stickers for substantially more than French drivers are being charged by the French government, which motorists need to be wary of.
"From the beginning of February, the onus will be on UK car owners to check the Euro emissions standard of their vehicle by checking this table, visit the official Crit'Air website and apply for a sticker. We'd recommend drivers do this well before they intend to travel so they don't run the risk of driving without one."
In order to apply for a sticker online, drivers will need to know the European Emissions Standard of their vehicle.
For newer vehicles, covered by Euro 5 and Euro 6 standards, the information you need may be found in section D2 of your DVLA V5C registered keeper form.
For older vehicles, motorists will need to find out when your vehicle was manufactured and check it with the emissions bands on this webpage.
Ultimately, those vehicles with the highest emissions face not being allowed to drive in the city on days where pollution is particularly high. In the future vehicles may be banned from driving in Crit’Air areas on certain days based on which sticker have, or which emissions category they fall into.
Somewhere in the region of 600,000 vehicles are driven in the French capital every day and pollution has been so severe on occasions that the authorities have banned vehicles from driving in the city based on whether their number plates are odd or even.
Paris, along with Madrid, Athens and Mexico City also have wider plans to ban all diesel vehicles from the city by 2025.