‘Social crisis’: Italy delays regional ban on old diesel vehicles

The Italian government on Thursday postponed a ban on older diesel cars in the Piedmont region of the heavily polluted north, following protests by motorists.

Cars, Italy
Italy's northern Piedmont regions has long been under pressure from the EU to cut pollution levels in over 70 municipalities. Photo by Jure Makovec / AFP

The region of Piedmont had blamed pressure from the European Union for its plans to introduce a daytime, weekday ban on so-called Euro 5 standard vehicles in Turin and more than 70 other municipalities starting on September 15th.

But environment and energy minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin revealed this would be pushed back to October 1st, 2024 and the number of affected areas would be reduced.

READ ALSO: Why Italy is fighting EU plans to limit vehicle emissions

“The government has intervened […] to avoid a social and economic crisis for families and businesses,” he said, while insisting EU commitments on cutting pollution would be met.

Piedmont’s regional president, Alberto Cirio, said the region had been “forced” into the ban by a European infringement procedure.

He said the central government decree now allowed them to re-evaluate measures already taken to cut pollution, including boosting energy efficiency and scrapping 700 polluting buses.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: These are the most polluted towns in Italy

Further action would be taken to increase the use of public transport and replace the most polluting heating systems, Cirio said, insisting the region remained “fully focused on the protection of the environment and health”.

The European Court of Justice ruled in 2020 that Italy had “persistently and systematically” breached EU rules on small-particle air pollution.

Since then, Meloni’s nationalist government has led the revolt against EU plans to tighten emissions limits, saying it wants to defend the automotive industry in a country still attached to the combustion engine.

Her hard-right coalition, which came into office last October, tried and failed to block EU plans to ban the sale of new cars running on fossil fuels by 2035.

READ ALSO: Why electric cars aren’t more popular in Italy

But in May the government took the fight to planned Euro 7 standards on pollutants, joining forces with seven other EU member states – including France and Poland – to demand Brussels scrap limits due to come into force in July 2025.

Member comments

  1. The air pollution in Turin is so thick on some winter days that you can feel it in your mouth. This is bad news for everyone in the region. Even those who own the most polluting vehicles.

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Reader question: Can I drive a minicar in Italy without a driver’s licence?

The new Fiat Topolino minicar is being advertised as a vehicle that "doesn't need a licence". Is this true and could it benefit Italy’s international residents who need to retake their test?

Reader question: Can I drive a minicar in Italy without a driver’s licence?

The Fiat Topolino, a fully electric two-seat minicar that’s set to hit the market in January of next year, is currently being advertised by a number of national media outlets and car magazines as a “vehicle that can be driven without a licence”. 

The announcement hasn’t gone unnoticed among some of The Local readers, who have asked us whether there is indeed any truth to the statement. 

Some have also pointed out how much of an advantage a ‘licence-less’ vehicle would be for non-EU residents whose countries of origin (US, Canada, Australia and South Africa, just to name a few) don’t have licence-exchange agreements in place with Italy, meaning that they must retake their driving tests in order to get an Italian licence. 

So, is the upcoming Topolino (literally, ‘little mouse’) really a potential game changer for foreign nationals living in Italy?

Well, not quite, unfortunately. 

Under Italian law, the Topolino is a quadrociclo leggero (‘light four-wheeler’) as it weighs less than 425 kilograms and ‘only’ reaches a maximum speed of 45 kilometres per hour. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one?

The same goes for two other compact two-seaters that have already been in the market for a while now, namely the Citroen Ami and the Opel Rocks-E.

This means that while you won’t need a patente B (the licence needed for most types of cars and motorcycles up to 125 cc) to drive these minicars, you’ll still have to hold a valid patente AM (Italy’s licence for light two-, three- and four-wheel vehicles) to get behind the wheel.

If you’re wondering whether getting a patente AM (also known as ‘patentino’) may be significantly easier (or quicker) than getting a patente B, that isn’t really the case as the steps to obtain either licence are mostly the same.

Candidates have two shots to pass a 30-question theory test within a six month timeframe. If they pass it, they then have 12 months to complete the practical test, with a maximum of two failures allowed.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What’s in the Italian driving licence theory test?

The AM licence does however present two non-negligible advantages compared to the patente B.

While you have to be at least 18 years old to apply for a patente B, the patente AM is available to anyone aged 14 or over.

Also, while applying for a patente B through a local driving school generally costs between 800 and 1,200 euros, applying for a patente AM through an autoscuola costs around 400 euros.