It all started with one street three years ago. But by 2025, the low-emission zone in Stockholm that will ban all vehicles on gasoline and diesel will expand to twenty living zones and cover 180 000 square meters in the heart of the Swedish capital. The ruling parties call it one of the most ambitious bans in Europe, but the opposition calls it a blow to local businesses.
The decision was defended by the Counselor of Transport, Lars Strömgren, who waved with a scientific probe from Karolinska Institutet, claiming that babies living near the metropolitan arteries show signs of affected lung capacity from six months. He claimed that the capital must take these measures to reduce lung diseases and prevent accelerated death tolls among the elderly.
A starting point
Therefore, the city is upgrading its current Environmental Class 2 zone to Class 3, meaning ICE cars on gasoline and diesel must remain out in a designated area in the city center as of 2025. Strömgren points out that these measures cover the zone with the highest density of cyclists and pedestrians.
The area seems large by numbers, but as the city layout of Stockholm is horizontally biased, it’s rather a starting point than an all-comprehensive measure impacting every citizen from the capital.
That’s why Strömgren also says the area is planned for expansion in a later phase, which will be announced during the course of next year. The goal is to meet emission-free traffic in the wider city center by 2030.
The scheme and implementation remind us in many ways of the London Ultra-Low-Emission Zone (ULEZ), which pursues one of the most ambitious plans in the world. Still, the Swedish commitment is more strict as drivers aren’t offered the possibility to pay a charge when they fail to meet the standards.
Natural gas? Well, yes
The Class 3 zone is valid round the clock and only allows battery-powered and low-emission cars on natural gas. The latter means not all ICE models are affected by the ruling. As for heavy transport, the ruling doesn’t apply to hybrids, unlike cars. Together with priority vehicles and vehicles for disabled people, motorcycles and scooters are exempt from the ban. There’s no exception for oldtimers.
The opposition parties in the city of Stockholm reacted with strong disapproval. They called the new LEZ zone an expensive blow for local businesses and tourism and a wrong policy priority.
The KD (Christian Democrats) point at the marginal improvements measured from the earlier LEZ zones and how the police, ever on a tighter budget, denounced that it couldn’t spend time chasing “eco-cheaters”.
To meet the needs of local businesses, the city government, elected last year, launched the Vinnova project, which looks at opportunities and solutions to improve zero-emission urban logistics and deliveries.