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Explained: how to obtain a Low Emission Zone (ZBE) sticker for your vehicle in Spain

From this year, a total of 149 Spanish towns and cities with a population over 50,000 will start to restrict the most polluting vehicles from their urban centres

J. ROIG VALOR / N. HESKETH MADRID / MALAGA.

Spain’s Climate Change Act sets the deadline of 2023 for municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants to implement their Low Emission Zones (ZBEs). This, in practice, means that 149 towns and cities will need to define an area in their urban centres where over-polluting vehicles cannot enter. Places whose town centres are to be affected in Malaga province include Benálmadena, Estepona, Mijas, Fuengirola, Malaga city, Marbella, Torremolinos and Vélez-Málaga.

In preparation for the new rules, the DGT, Spain’s traffic authority, developed four eco-stickers - B, C, Eco and 0 (zero) - which classify cars, vans and motorbikes according to their efficiency.

B (yellow) applies to petrol vehicles between 2001 and 2006 and diesel vehicles between 2006 and 2015. C (green) is the best that internal combustion vehicles can aspire to. It applies to diesel vehicles registered after 2015 (Euro 6) and petrol vehicles after 2006 (Euro 4 and above).

Element of electric

For those with an element of electric power, there are two stickers, Eco (two-tone green and blue), which covers conventional hybrid cars (HEV), plug-in cars with less than 40 km of zero-emission range (increasingly rare) and those powered by gas, either natural gas (CNG) or petroleum gas (LPG). Lastly, the Zero (blue) sticker is intended for 100% electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids with more than 40 km range and extended-range electric vehicles, which use a combustion engine as a generator for their zero-emission driving.

Using these four stickers, the authorities have ruled out from entering ZBEs the rest of Spanish vehicles, the most polluting, which amount to about half.

Not compulsory

Almost all affected municipalities in Spain have yet to implement their plans or publicly state what the controlled zone in their densest areas of the towns will be, so it is likely to be a slow roll out throughout 2023 to give time for monitoring cameras and similar to be installed and for the general public to be properly informed.

Having a vehicle sticker is not compulsory but municipalities that use them as identifiers under local bylaws for their new ZBE zones can limit access to vehicles that do not have them. The DGT advises placing them on the lower right-hand side of the front windscreen and failure to do so here means could mean a fine of 200 euros. Rental cars also fall under the new rules so holidaymakers will be affected as well as residents, although hire companies are expected to fully equip their fleets with stickers where applicable.

Five euros

There are several ways to get an environmental sticker which costs five euros. The main routes are from Correos post offices or repair garages affiliated to the Cetraa network and other authorised repairers. The vehicle registration paperwork and personal identification will need to be shown. Reports on social media this week said that Correos offices had sold out of stickers. although they can be also be ordered from the Correos website.

Vehicle owners can also consult which sticker applies to them on the DGT traffic authority website by entering their registration number. In time, the DGT will also publish an online summary for Spain of which areas in affected towns are covered by ZBEs but this is not available yet.

Foreign cars

Environmental labels are only valid for driving in Spain, but other EU countries also have other equivalent environmental labelling systems, which can be consulted on the DGT website. Foreign cars cannot apply for a Spanish sticker, but national authorities should know which one corresponds to a particular vehicle.

Foreign cars cannot apply for a Spanish sticker and towns may ask these to register individually, as has happened in Barcelona.