Belgium’s Low Emission Zones: Retrofitting and Access Rules Explained

2023-11-24 08:40:00

In Belgium, only three low emissions zones are currently in place: that of Antwerp, a pioneer in this area, followed by the Brussels Region and the city of Ghent. In Brussels, all diesel vehicles not meeting the Euro 4 standard or higher are prohibited, under penalty of quarterly fines of 350 euros. And from 2025, only diesel vehicles meeting Euro 6 standards and above will still be tolerated on Brussels roads.

In Wallonia, we have decided to adopt a more lenient timetable: the first bans will not begin until January 1, 2025. And will concern diesel vehicles meeting Euro 3 standards or less, already banned from driving in Brussels since 2020.

Two choices were therefore available to the dozens of motorists affected by the future ban: either continue driving and pay the heavy fines, or sell their vehicle to buy a new one.

Recently, a third choice has become available to him: retrofit.

Low emissions zone: 24% of the Walloon vehicle fleet risks being scrapped

Kesako? This is a mechanism, a sort of heart transplant for a vehicle at the end of its life: the thermal engine of your vehicle is removed to replace it with an electric motor. No more CO2 emissions. No more trips to the gas pump, make way for charging stations.

Since June 1, this energy transformation has been facilitated in Belgium. “Retrofit was already possible in Belgium, but the absence of legislation on the subject made the projects very difficult to realize, confided, at the end of May, the office of the federal Minister of Mobility, Georges Gilkinet. It was necessary to have the modified vehicle approved abroad, then to have it undergo a technical inspection in our country. A complicated, long and expensive procedure and likely to discourage the most motivated.”

It was still necessary for the regional approval authorities, competent in the matter, to publish their own regulations. What was done last week in Wallonia. And who has been since this week in Brussels. The Brussels government has just adopted the final necessary measures to allow companies in the sector to operate within a specific framework.

Concretely, all current thermal vehicles (cars, motorcycles, buses, trucks, etc.) can benefit from the retrofit. A process which will allow vehicles banned from low-emission zones to be able to circulate there again, without fines.

Real progress for motorists? Not necessarily. Firstly, because the weight of the batteries being what it is, it will not be possible to integrate a battery into the vehicle allowing for a long range. According to the various experiences recorded abroad, we would be talking about maximum ranges of 200 km. But on average, it would be around a hundred kilometers. Perfect for motorists who only do urban routes, not ideal for those who cover the distance several times in a single day.

Fairer access rules for low-emission zones in Antwerp and Ghent

Then, the price of the retrofit is relatively high and varies depending on the model. We are talking about around 8,000 euros for a city car and more than 15,000 euros for larger cars. A cost which remains much lower than the purchase of a new electric model – €20,990 for the cheapest on the market currently – but relatively high for a vehicle whose other parts could fail later.

It is up to the motorist to think carefully. Knowing that at a fine of €1,400 per year, the Brussels retrofit would be amortized in just under six years. And that the price of transformation is set to further decrease by 2025.

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