TALLINN - Hybrid car owners will no longer receive free parking in Tallinn after the city council decided to phase out the eco-friendly program.
When it was introduced, Tallinn's free hybrid parking scheme was hailed as a breakthrough initiative to encourage drivers to switch to low emission vehicles.
But Tallinn Deputy Mayor Jaanus Mutli said the growing popularity of hybrid vehicles meant the initiative had now fulfilled its purpose. From Jan. 1, 2008, the owners of larger hybrid vehicles 's those that emit more than 125 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer 's will no longer receive free parking.
Other hybrids will continue to receive free parking only until January 2010. After that, only vehicles using ethanol, compressed air and electric engines will be given free space.
Mutli insisted that the parking policy was not becoming less eco-friendly, but was in fact now "greener".
"Larger hybrid cars produce the same amount of CO2 as a small normal car. This is giving the signal that people have to think even more about their choices if they want to park for free," he said.
"With this regulation, two-wheeled vehicles can also park for free in the city center, in order to promote the use of mopeds and motorcycles. This will help us solve the parking problem in the city center, as two-wheeled vehicles take less parking space than cars."
Initially, the Tallinn City Council sought to do away with the scheme completely.
Estonian Greens MP Marek Strandberg said his party lobbied the council to rethink the decision.
"The question is about fuel consumption. The larger powerful hybrids consume the same amount of fuel as a small normal car, or even more. This allows smaller cars to still park for free, which is better than nothing," Strandberg said.
Hybrid car dealer Joel Mitt, who manages the Tallinn Amserv Toyota and Lexus showroom, said hybrid drivers would be disappointed when the privilege expires in 2010.
"It wasn't the only argument for someone to buy a hybrid, but it was good for them to get something extra. It showed that someone respected your choice, that you get something for doing something good for the environment," Mitt said.
He said hybrids were becoming increasingly popular, particularly in the luxury car market, with strong orders for the new Lexus 600.