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Our Cities Could Be Off Limits For Diesel Cars and Vans Within Five Years

Our Cities Could Be Off Limits For Diesel Cars and Vans Within Five Years

Congestion and pollution charges may make driving into major cities unaffordable by 2025.

Driving a Euro 5 diesel car or van into the centre of London now costs around €26 a day – and that’s before you’ve found a parking spot. 

The UK capital’s €12.50 congestion charge – which has been in place for 15 years – has now been supplemented with a €13.75 Toxicity or T-Charge.

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Pure battery electric vehicles are currently exempt from these charges and to avoid these rigidly enforced fees, an increasing number of London-based fleets are switching to electric vehicles.

Logistics and delivery firms like DPD and Royal Mail are planning a huge shift to EVs over the next five years and many smaller courier fleets are trialling EVs and electrically assisted cargo bikes.

Even London’s iconic black cabs are making the switch, with a number of incentives available to encourage taxi drivers to go electric.

London’s lead looks likely to be followed by other European capitals in the next few years and some analysts predict that it will become prohibitively expensive for fleets to operate conventional diesel and petrol vehicles in urban areas.

But it’s important to be clear about the difference between congestion charging and pollution charging. Even though EVs are currently exempt from both the Congestion and Toxicity charges in London, these exemptions are due to be phased out by 2025. 

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Most European cities now accept that traffic volumes need to reduce or at least remain static and congestion and/or pollution charges are increasingly seen as an important tool in managing traffic levels – and some of these could hit electric vehicles.

But when it comes to tackling urban air quality and greenhouse gases, many urban authorities look set to take a more proactive role in discouraging diesel vehicles from city centres while taking a less punitive approach towards electric vehicles.

Hamburg has banned older diesels (Euro 5) from two of its main streets and many German cities now require older diesel vehicles to purchase a Green Sticker before entering Urban Low Emission Zones.

Paris recently introduced a Crit’Air sticker scheme within the Greater Paris region with tougher emissions standards required in the city centre and the power to introduce emergency measures to restrict vehicle use during periods of poor air quality. Electric vehicles are not exempt from these requirements.

Governments in Helsinki and Amsterdam are both considering wider-ranging bans which could reduce the number of city centre parking spaces in order to curb vehicle use within the city limits.

While in Madrid, city centre parking is regulated by emissions criteria to favour less polluting vehicles and while EVs need a Distintivo Ambiente emissions sticker, they can park for as long as they like for free in the city centre.

In Norway, where sales of electric vehicles are exceeding conventional cars, Oslo has a combined congestion charge and low emission tolls which vary according to the time of day to discourage motorists from entering the city during the rush hour (06.30 – 9.00 and 15.00 to 17.00) but electric vehicles are exempt from these charges. However, in Bergen while electric vehicles get a discounted rate, they are no longer exempt from the city’s combined congestion and low emissions charges.

In Sweden, Stockholm and Gothenburg both have variable tolls designed to discourage peak hours commuting which electric vehicles must also pay.

So across Europe, the picture is complex and potentially confusing for fleet managers trying to plan ahead for the introduction of more comprehensive road tolls.

Electric vehicles may not escape tolls forever, but the charges they pay are likely to remain lower than those levied on diesel cars and vans in the short to medium term. 

For fleet operators, the risk in delaying adoption of EVs is that if the next phase of emissions legislation makes the switch unavoidable, demand for EVs may outstrip supply, leading to serious availability issues which could impact on fleets’ operational ability in the urban environment.

So fleets operating predominantly in urban environments need to formulate emissions reduction strategies that will see them replace a portion of their fleet with electric vehicles.

The timing of this decision could be the defining strategic choice facing fleet decision makers over the next three years.

For more information on road charging, low emissions zones and tolls across Europe, visit

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