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The CO2 emissions tax in Germany



What will it imply for road freight?

The German Federal Government is planning to expand the road toll by introducing a CO2 emissions tax. This will come into force on Dec 1, 2023. The purpose of this tax is to reduce CO2  emissions in the long term and to accelerate the adoption to more climate-friendly driving technologies in the transport sector.

According to the Chemnitz Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the changes in the toll law are expected to result in additional annual costs of around €7.62 billion for the German economy, taking into account that the coalition agreement stipulated the avoidance of a double burden through the CO2 price.

What type of costs will be part of the CO2 emissions tax?

A CO2 toll is expected to be introduced in Germany from December 1, 2023, based on the vehicles’ CO2 emissions. An additional partial toll rate of 200 euros per ton of CO2 will be charged. This means that vehicles that emit more CO2 will have to pay higher tolls. Emission-free trucks will be exempt from the toll until the end of 2025. The exact toll rates vary depending on vehicle type and size, emission class and the type of road being driven on.

The toll is made up of the following four components: 

1. Air pollution costs

2. Noise pollution

3. Infrastructure

4. CO2 emissions

For example, the toll rate for a vehicle in the Euro 6 emission class with an axle and weight class of more than 18 tons and up to 3 axles is 30.50 cents per kilometer. This is made up of 2.2 cents for air pollution, 1.6 cents for noise pollution, 14.3 cents for infrastructure and 12.4 cents for CO2 emissions.

To provide a concise illustration of the effects of the toll increase, see below example with a route from Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen to Hamburg. The route covers a total of 660.1 km. If we consider a semi trailer truck with 5 axles, a total weight of up to 40 tons and emission class Euro 6, the following picture emerges: the current toll costs are 125.45 euros. The expected “new” toll costs as of December are 229.77 euros.

This corresponds to an increase of an impressive 83.2%. This example illustrates the significant additional financial burden that transport companies will face. For more environmentally friendly vehicles that are better than the Euro 6 standard, the toll rates are significantly lower. For example, a G5 category vehicle with more than 18 tons and up to 3 axles pays only 5.20 cents per kilometer, with the cost of CO2 emissions set at 0 cents.

This cost factor is intended to create an incentive to purchase environmentally friendly vehicles. A detailed overview of the toll rates from December 1, 2023 can be found in this document: Toll rates from 01.12.23.

What are the changes in detail?

Introduction of the CO2 toll: From December 2023, a new tariff feature will be introduced, the CO2 emission classes. For each ton of CO2 emitted by a truck, a surcharge of €200 will be levied. This means that all vehicles with a technically permissible total mass of more than 7.5 tons will have to pay a partial toll rate for CO2 emissions in addition to the existing toll.

Exemptions from the CO2 toll: Emission-free heavy-duty vehicles are exempt from the toll until December 31, 2025. After that, they are to pay a toll rate reduced by 75 percent.

Change in weight class: With the introduction of CO2 emission classes, the basis for assignment to a weight class changes. Previously, the maximum permissible gross weight was used, but now the technically permissible gross weight of the truck and, if applicable, the trailer is used. This means that vehicles can fall into a higher weight class than before.

Toll obligation for natural gas-powered vehicles: From January 1, 2024, vehicles powered by natural gas (CNG/LNG) will be subject to tolls according to a classification into pollutant classes, similar to vehicles powered by diesel. The current toll exemption will therefore continue to apply until December 31, 2023.

Truck tolls for vehicles of 3.5 tons and over: From July 1, 2024, all vehicles with a technically permissible total mass of more than 3.5 tons will have to pay tolls for the use of federal highways.

Exceptions apply to zero-emission vehicles with a technically permissible total mass of up to 4.25 tons. These are permanently exempt from the toll. Similarly, so-called craftsmen’s vehicles with a technically permissible total mass of less than 7.5 tons are exempt from the toll.

What revenues does the German government expect?

With the new toll rates, toll revenues of more than 71 billion euros are expected by Dec. 1, 2027. Truck tolls have been levied on federal highways in Germany since 2005. In several stages, the toll was extended to all federal highways and vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 7.5 tons or more. In 2022, revenue from the truck toll amounted to around 7.4 billion euros.
The use of the toll revenue is also being reorganised. Half of the toll revenue will continue to be reserved for improving the transport infrastructure for federal highways. The remainder may and will now be allocated to mobility in general and to railways.

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