The combustion engine is a marvel of engineering, but has also majorly contributed to air pollution. After all, there are over 1.4 billion combustion engine vehicles roaming the planet. That’s a whole lot of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons being released into the atmosphere.
While we wait (and wait) for the eventual rise of electric vehicles, some areas have taken it upon themselves to solve the issue of air pollution related to combustion engines by, well, banning the vehicles entirely. Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, just announced a ban on diesel and petrol-powered vehicles throughout its city center, as reported by Semafor.
The ban goes into effect sometime in 2025, so you still have more than a year to race around Stockholm in your old beat-up Dodge. The new policy will, however, continue to allow hybrid vans in the city center, in addition to combustion-based ambulances and police cars. Additionally, if you have a documented disability you’ll be able to drive whatever you want, wherever you want, as indicated by The Guardian.
The ban doesn’t impact the entire capital city. This is just for what’s called the city center, an area comprising 20 blocks at the heart of the city. Stockholm’s vice mayor for transport, Lars Stromgren, announced the move and said current conditions represented a “completely unacceptable situation,” noting that the city’s air “causes babies to have lung conditions and the elderly to die prematurely.”
Electric vehicles will, of course, be allowed to drive in the city center with no restrictions. Stockholm’s new policy joins other low-emission zones (LEZs) in cities throughout Europe, including London, Madrid, Berlin and Paris, among others. Stockholm goes further than any of the other European cities with this near complete ban. London, for instance, charges combustion vehicles to drive through its low-emission zone while Paris, Athens and Madrid just banned diesel vehicles.
Detractors are calling Stockholm’s policy too extreme. The Swedish Confederation of Transport Enterprises said that the city’s ruling political party is in “far too much of a hurry” to further reduce combustion-based emissions.
LEZs have a good track record when it comes to reducing health issues related to air pollution. A recent study by The Lancet found that five out of eight LEZs studied showed a reduction in heart and circulatory issues, with fewer hospital admissions for heart attacks and strokes. London, for instance, experienced a 19 percent drop in harmful particulate matter found in dirty air throughout its ultra low-emission zone since rolling out the program in 2019. With that in mind, Europe is about to go all-in on the concept, with more than 500 new LEZs coming by 2025.