Crit’Air scheme designed to show the most polluting vehicles

UK drivers planning to go to France in the coming months are going to require new ‘clean air’ stickers or face on-the-spot fines for failing to display them.

Paris, Lyon and Grenoble introduced the new Crit’Air scheme in January to tackle vehicle pollution in their city centres, with another 22 towns and cities said to be planning to follow suit over the next few years.

The scheme requires all vehicles to clearly display an air quality certificate windscreen sticker, or vignette, according to how much they pollute.

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How does the Crit’Air scheme work?

The new Crit’Air system is used on high pollution days to prevent the worst polluting vehicles from driving in the affected cities. In future, however, vehicles may be banned from driving in Crit’Air areas on certain days based on which emissions sticker they have.

Air quality certificate stickers, which cost £3.60 (€4.18) each, including postage, come in six categories and cover the very cleanest electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles, which is designated by a Crit’Air green sticker, to the dirtiest, which is a Crit’Air 5 grey sticker.

These relate to the six European Union emission standards for cars, dating back to 1992 when the Euro 1 emission standard was introduced.

The scheme applies to every road vehicle, including two- or three-wheeled vehicles, quadricycles, private vehicles, commercial vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, buses and coaches.

The penalty for failure to display a sticker is an on-the-spot fine of between €68-135 (£58 to £117).

More details are available from the official Crit’Air website.

Warnings over timing

However, it may not be straightforward to order and receive the stickers in time for a planned French trip.

According to reports in Fleet News, the RAC ordered one of the new clean air stickers on February 6 but it did not arrive until six weeks later on March 16. The website states that stickers should be delivered within 30 days.

The RAC is now concerned that anyone ordering a new sticker for a trip to France in the next few weeks may face a lengthy wait. Leaving without it may put them at risk of an unwanted encounter with the French authorities.

“We strongly urge people planning to drive to these cities at May half-term and beyond to order their stickers now to avoid any issues,“ said an RAC spokesman.

“We would hope the French police would not fine anyone that has ordered a sticker and has email proof of that. However, those motorists who don’t order stickers are in danger of being fined up to £117.

“People concerned about the progress of their stickers can track their orders on the Government’s official Crit’Air website,” he added.

How do I order one?

To apply for a sticker online, drivers must know their vehicle’s European Emissions Standard. For newer vehicles, covered by Euro 5 and Euro 6 standards, the category may be in section D2 of the V5C registered keeper form.

Where the owner is a leasing company, however, it may be necessary to contact them directly to gain the relevant information.

For older vehicles, motorists will need to find out when their vehicle was manufactured and check it with the emissions bands on the Crit’Air webpage.

The RAC has also warned of the risk of third party operators offering the same service but for significantly more money, and urges drivers to only use the official French Government website.

Another important point to be aware of is the requirement to upload an image of the vehicle’s V5C. However, the maximum file size allowed is only 400kb which isn’t very big at all and drivers should be ensure that they don’t save the file in too large a format.

Prior to the Crit’Air system being introduced on heavy pollution days in Paris, the French authorities banned vehicles from driving in the city based on whether their number plates were odd or even.

Paris, along with other world capitals such as Madrid, Athens and Mexico City, also has wider plans to ban all diesel vehicles from the city by 2025.

A total of 22 other French towns, including Bordeaux, Cannes, Dunkirk and Le Havre, may decide to introduce the Crit’Air scheme by 2020.

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