Zona de Baja Emisiones (ZBE) - Low Emission Zone
by Chris Chaplow and Fiona Flores Watson
What is a ZBE?
In December 2022, a new Spanish law came into force that requires towns and cities of a certain population to create low emission zones (Zonas de Bajas Emisiones, or ZBE) in their centres. This initiative is intended to help improve the air quality in towns and cities, and the health of their inhabitants.
Following the European Directive 2058/50/EC of the European Parliament on air quality, the Spanish central government passed the Royal Decree 1052/2022 Cambio Climático y Transición Energética (Climate Change and Energy Transition) in December 2022. All towns in Spain with a population of more than 50,000 were supposed to introduce low emission zones before 2023.
Certain vehicles, depending on their fuel type and year of first registration, have restricted access to town and city centres at certain times and on certain days (usually weekdays during the daytime); some older vehicles are, or will be in the near future, completely banned.
The key information you need to know is a) where the restricted access area is located, b) the restricted hours/days, and c) which emissions label your vehicle has. Then you will know which areas your vehicle can (and cannot) access, and when.
Estepona’s ZBE (Low Emission Zone)
Estepona is one of the many towns across Andalucia that is introducing ZBEs.
The Estepona Town Hall approved this ordinance on 19 January 2023, and it was expected to be introduced in October 2023 but has not done so by the 31-12-2023 deadline.
In Estepona the Low Emission Zone covers the ‘old town centre’, an area of 0.6 square km. This is the area bounded by the inner ring road - Avenida de Andalucía and Calle Tajo, Calle Pilar de Farinós, Avenida de San Lorenzo (alongside Avenida Juan Carlos II) and Avenida España, the pedestrianised seafront. These roads are not inside the zone themselves, but they mark its limit. Most of this area of Estepona is already pedestrianised.
The Low Emission Zone (ZBE) in Estepona will be introduced in three phases:
Phase 1: 2023 This phase is focused on initial implementation: vehicles without one of the environmental labels mentioned above will not be allowed access between 8.00 and 21.00.
Phase 2: 2024 Those vehicles with environmental Label B will be restricted between 8.00 and 21.00, while vehicles without an environmental label will be totally restricted.
Phase 3: 2025 Vehicles with environmental Label C will also be totally restricted.
Vehicles registered in Estepona, loading and unloading vehicles, all vehicles accessing public car parks, and all those going to hotels will be exempt from the restrictions.
According to the town hall analysis, after full implementation, the reduction of traffic in the zone will reach 65%. However we believe it will be much less, since the exceptions are wide-ranging, and few non-local non-deliveries currently access this mainly pedestrianised area.
Vehicle Emission stickers
Although no law requires the sticker to be placed on the car windscreen, the Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT) recommends that it be placed on the lower right-hand side of the front windscreen. It will be required to be displayed by local town halls if you want to drive into their Low Emission Zones.
The different categories of labels, according to EU regulations, are:
- 0/Zero (blue) – electric cars, extended range electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids (PHEV) with a range of more than 40 km, and fuel cell vehicles (battery-powered BEV and REEV class vehicles).
- Eco (blue and green) – plug-in and non-plug-in (HEV) hybrid cars, 8-seater and goods delivery vans with maximum range of 40km, and natural gas vehicles (CNG, LNG and LPG class vehicles).
- C (green) – petrol cars registered since 2006, diesel cars and light vans registered since 2014, and petrol or diesel 8-seaters and goods delivery vans registered since September 2015.
- B (yellow) – petrol cars which meet Euro 3 standards and diesel cars which meet Euro 4 and 5 standards. Petrol cars and light vans registered from January 2001 up to and including 2005; diesel cars and light vans registered from 2006 to August 2015; and petrol and diesel 8-seaters and goods delivery vans registered since 2005.
No Label / Label A: Vehicles that are not able to obtain any label (also known as Label A) are petrol passenger cars and vans registered before 2000, and diesel passenger cars and vans registered before 2006.
Approximately 30% of Spanish cars (10 million vehicles) are without an environmental sticker.
For more information see the DGT website. Clasificación de la DGT de Vehículos por Emisiones | ITV
If you do not have a sticker for your vehicle, you can request one from the DGT. Visit https://www.pegatinas-dgt.com/ and enter any car’s registration to see its emission class. To obtain a sticker for the nominal postage cost, upload a scan of your ID or driving licence and the vehicle’s green permiso de circulación document.
Other towns and cities in Andalucia
Currently Seville and Cordoba are the only cities in Andalucia that have a Low Emission Zone (ZBE).
Seville Low Emission Zone (ZBE)
Seville’s first ZBE was introduced on 1ts January 2023 in La Cartuja (the former Expo 92 site) across the river from the city centre.
The area is divided into:
- Cartuja Norte: north of Calle Marie Curie and the biosphere, and including Isla Magica theme park (Avenida Amérigo Vespucio, Avenida Juan Bautista Muñoz, Calle José de Gálvez, calle Matematicos R Pastor y Castro, and calle Marie Curie) and
- Cartuja Sur: south of Çalle Marie Curie, and including La Cartuja Monastery (the area bordered by Avenida Carlos III, Avenida Amérigo Vespucio, Camino de los Descubrimientos, Calle Francisco de Montesinos, calle Matemáticos R Pastor y Castro, and calle Marie Curie).
The restrictions apply to all B or no label cars (see above), and are active from 7.00 to 19.00, Monday to Friday. Exemptions include residents, users of parking garages, trade deliveries.
The previous Socialist mayor of Seville had planned to create new ZTR (Zonas de Tráfico Restringido) in the old city centre (within the ring road) and the area of Triana closest to the river. This area was going to be restricted to residents only, but with a long list of additions – guests of residents, vehicles with PMR (disabled) permits, users of parking garages. Hotel and tourist apartment guests, school parents, and various other vehicles would have had limited access, while other drivers would be allowed 100 accesses per month, with an annual maximum time limit.
The plans of the city’s new PP mayor (elected in May 2023) have yet to be announced.
Cordoba Low Emission Zone (ZBE)
Cordoba’s Low Emission Zone (ZBE) was introduced on 18 February 2023 and covers most of the city’s historic centre. It is effective all day, every day. Only vehicles with 0 and Eco stickers can enter, as well as residents, hotel guests, vehicles with PMR (disabled) permits, delivery drivers etc.
There are two areas: the area bordered by San Basilio/Puerta de Sevilla, Plaza de Colón, San Andres-San Pablo, La Palma and the river, containing the Cathedral-mosque and Alcazar; and the area, to the north-east, between Calle Carcamo and Calle Montero.
Other towns and cities in Andalucia
In total 149 towns and cities in Spain, including 29 in Andalucia, are required to create a Low Emission Zone. This is an update on the ZBE status of the towns in Andalucia with population over 50.000 that are required to introduce ZBE zones by 1 Jan 2024.
Torremolinos - Introduced 1st January 2024. No fines for 6 months.
Marbella - Signage and Cameras active in Dec 2023 for testing period.
Estepona - Published details in Oct 2023 but signage and cameras have not been introduced.
Málaga city - Town Hall approved ordinance in December 2023. Operation before Easter 2024.
Vélez-Malaga - Plans underway, likely to be two areas: historic centre of Velez-Malaga and centre of Torre del Mar,
Fuengirola - No published plans, three zones mentioned in 2021, consultation process awaited.
Benalmadena - No published plans.
Mijas - No published plans, ZBE included in May 2023 election manifesto of all parties.
Sevilla city - active ZBE introduced in Isla Cartuja 1st January 2023. Plans for city centre ZBE under discussion.
Alcalá de Guadaira
Algeciras - Initial proposals opened for public comment on 20th April 2023.
Cádiz city - Town Hall confirmed on 23rd May 2023 the consession company who will manage the project.
Chiclana de la Frontera - Town Hall confirmed on 4th Nov 2022 the consession company to manage the ZBE project. 23 Apr 2023 Next Gen EU grant confirmed.
El Puerto de Santa María - Ecologistas en Acción, the enviromental group publically complained on on 30th Jan 2023 that El Puerto de Santa Maria had not made any ZBE plans public, nor answered their written requests.
Jerez de la Frontera - No ZBE plans published, 45 cameras being installed as a phase one.
La Línea de la Concepción - ZBE II Parque Princesa Sofía is operative; no motor vehicles permitted. ZBE I is avenida de España y las calles, Salvador Dalí, López de Ayala, Granada, Clavel y plaza de la Constitución. To be introduced in 2025 restricting A sticker vehicles, in 2026 restricting B sticker vehicles and 2027 restricting C sticker vehicles.
San Fernando - Proposed area between Observatorio de Marina and Hornos Púnicos roundabout.
Sanlúcar de Barrameda
Granada city Plans published, ZBE active from 1st April 2025. Testing from Oct 2024.
Almería city - ZBE area has been defined, however since tested air quality is good, there are no current plans to impose restrictionunless.
El Ejido - Plans published not yet introduced.
Roquetas del Mar
Córdoba city - active ZBE introduced 23rd Feb 2023.
Huelva - Huelva Town Hall reviewing plans made by previous administration before May 2023.
Jaén city - ZBE public comment document published November 2023.
Linares - Project advanceed, cameras and sinage underwway in historic centre. Ordinances to be published.
The access and restrictions of each ZBE depend on each municipality, but as a general rule C and B label cars can access these zones as long as they park in a public or private car park. There are no restrictions for ECO and 0 cars.