Barcelona to Ban Older Cars

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More and more cities across Europe are placing ever-stricter controls on cars and pollution.

Barcelona is the latest city to bring in new regulations on car pollution which will come into effect in 2019.

Under the new plan cars built before 1997 and vans and trucks built before 1994 will not be allowed to drive in the city on weekdays.

Barcelona is also setting up an observatory to monitor air pollution and its effects on public health.

Other taxes being imposed in the region include a new fuel tax to fund public transit as well as a congestion charge zone.

Barcelona is following the lead of cities, such as Paris who introduced a similar weekday ban on older, more polluting vehicles this January.

Vehicle pollution ban's originally started in London and Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City has also said they will be banning all diesel vehicles by 2025.

The difference with Barcelona’s scheme is the scale of the ban proposed. Paris city hall only has jurisdiction over the city’s historic core, which contains 2.2 million of Greater Paris’s 10.5 million people. London’s congestion charge zone likewise covers only the city centre but Barcelona’s ban on older cars, by contrast, will cover most of the Barcelona metro area.

This means pollution bans will be introduced across a 40-municipality region, spreading far beyond Barcelona city centre.

This will mean that 4.3 million people of the 5 million living in or around the Barcelona area will be affected which will make it the most comprehensive ban on older vehicles that any European city has implemented thus far.
    • 106,000 cars (7 per cent of the city’s total fleet)
    • 22,000 vans taken off the roads.
    • 40 municipalities—the entirety of the city’s wider metro area.
It is hoped the ban will have a major effect on particulate dispersal and NO2 emissions.

Although most of the older cars and vans will most likely have left circulation by 2019, the 128,000 drivers forced to give up their vehicles is no small number.

There is one minor exception to the new rules and that is of vintage cars but for everyone else, the authorities are providing a welcome sweetener for people to up their older cars.

Anyone relinquishing an older and high-polluting vehicle will be eligible for a three-year pass for the region’s transit (provided they commit to not buying a similarly polluting vehicle during the same period). The plan can also count on a degree of popular support due to grim recent statistics, which estimate that 3,500 people are dying prematurely thanks to air pollution in the city every year. Josep Rull, chief of the Land and Sustainability Office at the Catalonian government, has gone on record to state that older cars contribute heavily to this problem: The European average car produced before 1997 emits 11.6 times more NO2 than a vehicle built to contemporary standards.

There’s another highly significant fact couched in that last statement. The new laws’ advocates don’t just come from Barcelona’s left-leaning city hall, they are also to be found in the wider regional government, which has considerable political influence in Spain’s devolved system of government.

This matters. In Paris, plans to remove older cars risk turning into a stand-off between the urban core and it's more car-dependent suburbs, with each side’s needs being played off each other. As such, Paris is mirroring similar battles between city and periphery that have played out in recent decades from Warsaw to Toronto.

If Barcelona goes ahead with these policies and if they are accepted by the people across the entire region, the city could truly be blazing a trail that many more cities will follow.


Justin Kavanagh
Justin Kavanagh is a recognised leader in automotive intelligence and vehicle data supply to the entire motor industry. He has almost 20 years experience in building systems from the ground up. As the Managing Director of Vehicle Management System, he understands the need and importance of trustworthy and reliable vehicle history and advice to both the trade and the public.
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