Madrid is known as one of Europe’s more polluted capitals. Locals describe the daily smog–three quarters of which comes from cars–as a “boina” (or beret), because it hangs like a hat over the city.
But now city officials are fighting back with an innovative new measure: differential pollution pricing. From next month, if you want to park a dirtier vehicle in the city center, it will cost more than if you drive an electric hybrid.
The city is introducing “SER Intelligente” parking meters that change prices depending on a vehicle’s nitrogen dioxide levels, engine type, and the zone the meter is located in. For example, drivers of large diesel cars could pay 20% more than a gasoline car with a lower emissions profile. Full electric cars go free.
“The SER is an instrument to deter people from the use of private vehicles, above all in the center of the city, and boost the use of public transport,” says a spokesperson at Madrid city hall.
The age of the vehicle isn’t necessarily important, but rather the level of nitrogen dioxide emissions. A gasoline vehicle from 2006 could pay the same rate as a diesel vehicle from 2012. To get a price, drivers enter their license-plate number. The meter then looks up a database, and makes an assessment.
Madrid claims the scheme is a world-first, though other cities also have pricing based on pollution levels. For example, London charges low-emission vehicles nothing to enter its Congestion Charge zone. Berlin has a “low emissions” zone that’s only open to certain vehicle types. Madrid plans to introduce the SER Intelligente meters in the city center to start with, before deciding whether to expand the idea further afield.