Outlook for ZFE development in France

23 January 2024

Since their inclusion in the French Mobility Orientation Act in 2019, France’s Low Emission Zones (ZFE-m) have been the subject of much popular and political protest. To help you find your way through the mass of information about France’s ZFE-m, this article provides an overview of upcoming developments.

There are currently 11 active ZFE-m zones in France, in the following conurbations: Greater Paris, Rouen, Reims, Strasbourg, Greater Lyon, Grenoble, Saint-Étienne, Toulouse, Montpellier, Aix-Marseille and Nice. The law also sets out a deployment schedule to be followed by local authorities. This schedule includes a first series of restrictions in 2023 for unclassified and Crit’Air 5 vehicles, followed by two series of restrictions in 2024 and 2025 applicable to Crit’Air 4 and 3 vehicles.

A major change is planned for January 1, 2025, in accordance with Article 119 of the 2019 Mobility Orientation Law. On this date, the ZFE-m will be extended to all French communes with a population of 150,000, resulting in the creation of 33 new ZFE-ms across the country. This will affect 42% of the population living in a ZFE and 30% of the French car fleet.

However, the government has already introduced derogation measures for conurbations able to demonstrate that their air quality regularly complies with World Health Organization (WHO) standards. All conditions are detailed in Decree 2022-1641 of 12/23/2022.

Beyond 2025, we are looking at potentially more radical measures to improve air quality in urban areas. One envisaged development of the ZFE-m scheme is the creation of the Zero Emission Zone (ZZE), which would involve totally banning all non-electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles from entering an urban center. However, the ZZE is not currently considered a viable measure by local authorities, with the exception of Paris City Hall.

In order to clarify the discourse and accompany this change for the French, a parliamentary information report makes a series of recommendations to make the deployment of ZFEs fairer for citizens:

  • Reinforce information and facilitate access to information on EPZs at local and national level.
  • Create a portal.
  • Harmonize deployment schedules.
  • Offer mobility alternatives in urban areas.
  • Adapt measures to support the purchase of clean vehicles.
  • Extend zero-interest financing solutions offered by the French government for the purchase of clean vehicles.
  • Adapt measures to the needs of professional mobility.
  • Revise the Crit’Air system and restrictions to include weight and fuel consumption criteria, and integrate port and industrial zones into the ZFEs.

Following the conclusions of the parliamentary information report, at the end of June 2023 the government announced the reclassification of EPZs as “vigilance zones” for municipalities with 150,000 inhabitants with pollution levels below European standards. The ZFEs will be maintained by legal obligation only in 5 French conurbations (Greater Paris, Greater Lyon, Rouen, Strasbourg and Aix-Marseille) that regularly exceed the European regulatory threshold.