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One out of five passenger cars and one out of four vans will not be able to circulate in the event of an environmental episode

19/09/2017 - 15:59

Vehicles with a DGT label emit between 32 and 80% less NO2 and between 69 and 94% less PM than a vehicle without any label. Diesel is still the most common fuel, although new acquisitions are changing this trend in favour of petrol-driven vehicles. Hybrids are appearing in significant numbers in the urban area, while electric vehicles still have only a testimonial presence.

Barcelona City Council, the Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB) and the Royal Automobile Club of Catalonia (RACC) have analysed the vehicles circulating in the metropolitan area, the urban area and fast metropolitan roads in order to calculate their real impact on air quality.

The study identified 176,365 vehicles (45.2% on fast roads, 51.5% in the urban areas of municipalities, and 3.3% in other areas). The emissions of over 92,365 vehicles were accurately measured, in strategically chosen samples, using 31 measurement points in the metropolitan area, which were distributed in order to obtain a complete picture of metropolitan mobility.

According to the study, in general terms, the vehicles without any DGT (Department of Traffic) label make up between 20 and 25% of the total traffic in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area. These are the vehicles that emit the most polluting particles and which will therefore be subject to restrictions in the low-emission area during a pollution episode, starting from 1 December 2017.

The vehicles with an Eco or 0-Emission label make up 4.3% of total traffic in the urban area, partly due to the city’s fleet of taxis.

Distribution of environmental labels

The areas with the highest proportion of the most polluting vehicles (without labels) in circulation is in the outskirts of Barcelona, which has the oldest pool of vehicles. This is because the city centre’s traffic has the highest number of taxis, which lowers the ratio.

In the urban area, a total of 20% of vehicles do not have any DGT environmental label (without label). 43.10% of vehicles have the yellow B label. 23.80% of the vehicles in urban traffic have the green C label. And lastly, 4% of the vehicles have the ECO label (basically petrol hybrids), while only 0.3% have the Zero-Emission label.

Meanwhile, on the city’s fast roads, 24.5% of vehicles do not have any DGT environmental label (without label). Therefore, there are 4.5% more vehicles without labels than in the urban area. In this case, 1.2% of the vehicles have the ECO label and only 0.1% of them have the Zero-Emission label. Both of these figures are lower than in the urban area.

Diesel, the most common fuel

According to the study, there is only a testimonial presence of electric vehicles, but there are now a significant number of hybrids in the urban area (3.3%). However, diesel is still the most common fuel, both in the urban area (65%) and on fast roads (72%), followed by petrol, which fuels approximately 34.3% of vehicles.

Nevertheless, sales of diesel are down, and for the first time since the 1990s, the sales of petrol rose above diesel in June 2017.

Even so, on the city’s fast roads, the proportion of diesel-driven vehicles rises to 72%. This is basically due to a greater proportion of family cars, with fewer motorcycles and a lower number of taxis (hybrid vehicles).

In the urban area, family cars make up 57% of traffic, although this figure goes down by 10 or 15 points in the centre of Barcelona, due to a greater proportion of motorcycles and taxis. In metropolitan traffic, after family cars, 13.5% of vehicles are vans, 11.5% motorcycles and 10.2% taxis. On fast roads, however, the proportion of family cars increases to almost 73%.

Pollutant emissions

The study also clearly shows that the diesel vehicles in the metropolitan area emit more pollutants (NOx and PM) than petrol-driven vehicles.

The study also confirms that the various EURO regulations (except EURO-5) have led to a progressive decrease in vehicle emissions.

Comparing the types of vehicle and average number of occupants, the (NOX and PM) emissions per kilometre and passenger show a clear advantage for collective public transport, followed by family cars and motorcycles.

Vehicles with a DGT label emit between 32 and 80% less NO2 and between 69 and 94% less PM than a vehicle without any label.

An ageing traffic pool

The average age of all the vehicles on fast roads is 8.4 years, compared to 7.9 years in the urban area. In this sense, the greater number of taxis in urban areas helps to lower the average age of vehicles.

Breaking the figures down by type of vehicle, in the urban area, the oldest vehicles are lorries and buses, with an average age of 10.3 and 8.8 years respectively. They are followed by family cars and vans, with an average age of 8.4 and 7.7 years respectively. However, taxis and service vehicles have an average age of only 4.2 and 3.5 years, respectively.

According to the study’s results, and compared to a similar analysis carried out in 2009, only in the municipality of Barcelona, traffic has aged by nearly 2 years, due to the economic crisis. In the City of Barcelona, the average age has risen from 5.66 years in 2009 to 7.5 in 2017. Lorries show the highest figures, with an average increase of 3.3 years.

The study also shows the difference between the registered pool of vehicles (using municipal and DGT data) and the pool of vehicles which actually circulates around the metropolitan area. In this sense, it can be seen that the newer vehicles are used much more than the older ones. This is particularly notable in the case of family cars.

How do we move around?

The results of the study also highlight inter-municipal journeys made by vehicles.

55% of the vehicles circulating in the City of Barcelona are not registered in the city (vehicles from outside the city). The 2009 data for Barcelona from shows that 8 years ago this figure was 52%, indicating that the number of vehicles from outside the City of Barcelona has increased.

Meanwhile, in the other cities subject to the analysis, 46% of the vehicles were not registered in the same municipality.

Considering that traffic is the main cause of low air quality in dense urban areas, this study improves our knowledge of the environmental impact that the current metropolitan pool of vehicles has on air quality, differentiating by type of vehicle, fuel and Euro regulation (age).

Therefore, using these results, it is possible to evaluate the impact of measures to improve air quality in the metropolitan area and, where necessary, the implementation of new actions.