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Most-polluting vehicles in Barcelona down 50% compared to 2017

Council attributes drop to introduction of Low Emission Zone on January 1


05 February 2020 02:50 PM


ACN | Barcelona

One in two of the most-polluting types of cars no longer travel within Barcelona, compared to 2017.

The reduction was announced on Wednesday by Eloi Badia, of Barcelona council’s Climate Emergency department.

The oldest, most-polluting vehicles are ones that the traffic authority did not issue with environmental stickers when Barcelona’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ, or ZBE in Catalan) came into force on January 1.

The LEZ is an anti-pollution measure that restricts access to most of the city for some polluting vehicles. It began functioning on January 1, with an initial three-month grace period to allow drivers to adapt to the new measure before fines are introduced.


According to the council’s analysis, in 2017, 20% of vehicles within Barcelona were in the most-polluting category, while in January 2020 they made up between 8 and 10% of vehicles.

The analysis also estimated that there has been a 19% reduction in NOx emissions in the last two years.

The council is mainly attributing the reduction of the most-polluting vehicles to the introduction of the LEZ, which has forced drivers to rethink how to get around the city.

"We could talk about 40,000 polluting vehicles from 2017 no longer on the roads," said Badia, mentioning the fact that between 2018 and 2019 many had changed their cars, with the process accelerated by the introduction of the LEZ. 

Rail and bus passenger increases

The city council did not give figures on how many people who previously opted for private vehicles now use public transport. Badia pointed out that this was a first analysis of the LEZ and that in April they will do a more detailed evaluation.

Catalan Rail (FGC) said they had noted a “small increase” in passenger numbers since the introduction of the LEZ at the beginning of the year, while Public transport operator TMB reported a 0.8% increase in demand for its bus services


Outside of Barcelona, the city of Mataró will ban cars at certain times of day from its historic centre of La Riera from February 10. Local councillor Núria Moreno said the time had come to "regain public space for people and restrict non-essential journeys in private vehicles".

These environmental measures come as Catalonia attempts to address the climate emergency.



  • Workers installing a ZBE sign in Hospitalet, December 23, 2019. (by Àlex Recolons)

  • Workers installing a ZBE sign in Hospitalet, December 23, 2019. (by Àlex Recolons)