European cities and automobile manufacturers start discussions on urban vehicle access regulations

07 December 2017

European cities and automobile manufacturers start discussions on urban vehicle access regulations

07 December 2017

Representatives from European cities and automobile manufacturers came together for the first time on Wednesday, 5 November, in order to explore solutions to the challenges of increasing urban road traffic.

The main purpose of this workshop, which gathered more than 70 stakeholders involved in urban mobility, was to exchange views, experiences and different perspectives on urban vehicle access regulations (UVARs), which are becoming more widespread throughout the EU. As well as cities and auto manufacturers, representatives of regions, research organisations, transport operators, motorists, shippers and retailers were present.

Discussions focused on the local societal challenges and policy drivers behind urban vehicle access regulations. Also on the agenda was how stakeholders can cooperate in the short term, for instance through the exchange of best practices or public-private cooperation for local policy making, as well as in the long term, such as conducting joint research on smart and sustainable mobility technologies.

With regard to the variety of types of UVARs in place across Europe, the stakeholders agreed on the need for more consistency and transparency. Participants called on the European Commission not only to continue funding the European initiative to centralise information on which cities apply access regulations (www.urbanaccessregulations.eu), but to provide a comprehensive analysis of these measures (what characteristics they have, which vehicles are covered by them, and so on).

The workshop paves the way for ongoing direct and constructive dialogue between all parties who have a stake in access regulation measures. It was jointly organised by Polis, the network of cities and regions on transport innovation, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), the European Council for Automotive R&D (EUCAR) and the European Road Transport Research Advisory Council (ERTRAC).

The need for a consistent approach to urban vehicle access regulations is intensifying in Europe as more and more cities consider driving bans which specifically target diesel cars, beyond the low emission zones and congestion charging measures which already exist in cities such as in London.

There are plans for Paris and 20 other French cities to ban diesels from their centres and although political parties in Germany are essentially seeking to avoid diesel driving bans in cities, the debate on how to reconcile cutting emissions and safeguarding the automotive sector continues. Given this, the spectre of driving bans for diesel cars remains in the German cities of Stuttgart, Munich and Cologne and Düsseldorf is the latest addition to this growing list.

Although there are currently no plans to specifically ban diesels in Spanish cities, bans on the most polluting cars are scheduled in Madrid and Barcelona for 2025 and 2020 respectively. These plans would affect petrol cars registered before 2000 and diesel cars registered before 2006 and do therefore convey the message that diesels are considered to be dirtier than their petrol-driven counterparts.

Although none of the proposed driving bans outlined here are confirmed, Brussels has previously warned that such bans threaten low emission plans in Europe, urging policymakers to focus instead on emissions compliance. EU industry commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska has stressed that politicians are at risk of jeopardising the EU’s progress in persuading OEMs to invest in clean technologies and that undermining OEMs' core diesel business models with bans threatens ‘a rapid collapse of the diesel market in Europe,’ undermining OEM willingness to invest. Hence the eagerness to develop a consistent approach to UVARs.