Keep Your Clunker in the Suburb: Low-emission Zones and Adoption of Green Vehicles


  • I thank Maximilian Auffhammer, Maureen Cropper, Lucas Davis, Sumeet Gulati, Shanjun Li, Paulina Oliva, Lisa Perry and Elaina Rose for helpful discussions. The article especially benefited from very detailed comments and suggestions by two anonymous referees and the editor. We further like to thank the Umweltbundesamt of Germany to providing the air pollution data and the Kraftfahrtbundesamt of Germany for help discussing the vehicle emission categories. I am grateful for the research grant provided by the Royalty Research Fund of the University of Washington. All remaining errors are mine.


Spatial distribution and leakage effects are of policy concern and increasingly discussed in the economics literature. We study Europe's most aggressive recent air pollution regulation: low-emission zones (LEZs) are areas in which vehicular access is allowed only to vehicles that emit low levels of PM10. Using new administrative data sets from Germany, we assess the effect of LEZs on air pollution and the spatial substitution effects in green versus dirty vehicles. Back of the envelope calculations suggest that health benefits of roughly 2 billion dollars have come at a cost of 1 billion dollars for upgrading the fleet of vehicles.