Barcelona’s congestion charge
Low Emission Zones (ZBE) were established permanently in Catalonia in 2020 with a clear objective: to reduce pollution. This established the system of environmental badges that allow you to circulate, or not, depending on the pollution generated by your vehicle.
Since last September, and with a delay due to the pandemic, only vehicles with an environmental badge can circulate in the ZBE. This restriction is limited to Monday to Friday from 7am to 8pm and may result in penalties for vehicles that do not comply. Let’s review everything you need to know about environmental badges and their application.
Is it compulsory to wear the sticker?
The regulations state that it is not compulsory to have the badge on the windscreen, so it is not subject to a fine, although it is highly recommended in order to facilitate the police’s control work. If you do not have the sticker, you will have to prove that the vehicle is roadworthy with the car’s documentation.
We can be fined, but only if our vehicle is not authorised to circulate in this zone on the specified days and hours.
Therefore, it is not compulsory to have the sticker attached and visible on our vehicle, but there are moratoriums that affect professional vehicles and lorries. Van drivers have been able to drive without a sticker until 1 April 2021, lorries can still do so until 1 January 2022, and when it comes to buses and coaches the moratorium ends on 1 July 2022.
Are there any exceptions?
There are authorisations to circulate even if our badge says otherwise. You can ask for up to ten per year, and they cost €2 (except for low income families). However, they will be revoked in the event of a pollution episode.
Exceptions also apply to special or essential services and to people with reduced mobility or low income, subject to prior justification.
Which badge do I get?
The Dirección General de Tráfico has created four badges, classified according to fuel, emissions level and year of registration: Zero emissions, ECO, C (green), or B (yellow). All of these will be able to circulate without restrictions in the ZBE. Therefore, petrol vehicles and vehicles prior to 2000, or prior to 2006 in the case of diesel, will be excluded.
If you have not received your sticker at home free of charge, you will have to go to the post office. Only some post offices will be able to give it to you on the spot, otherwise you will have to make a request, either in person or online, and wait between three and five days, for a €5 fee.
Are the regulations already in force?
The ZBE came into force in January 2020 to restrict the circulation of vehicles within the city, specifically the area within the Ronda de Dalt and Ronda Litoral, which means that Hospitalet de Llobregat is also affected, as well as the part of Esplugues, Cornellà and San Adrià del Besòs that are within the area of the ring roads.
The restriction is permanent on weekdays between 7:00 am and 8:00 pm, and you have to be alert because it can be extended on days with high pollution, a circumstance that can also mean an extra restriction on driving in this area.
In short, we cannot be fined for not having the badge attached to the windscreen, but we can be fined if we drive in an unauthorised zone for our vehicle without authorisation. Therefore, knowing the regulations ad complying with them is compulsory for everyone.