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A ticket to greener driving?

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Generic: pollution of environment by combustible gas of a car , cars, traffic, jam, ©ssuaphotos/shutterstock.com

Generic: pollution of environment by combustible gas of a car , cars, traffic, jam, ©ssuaphotos/shutterstock.com

(Relaxnews) – Madrid, in its attempts to cut air pollution, has hit upon a novel idea – smart parking meters that can automatically adjust their hourly rates.

How much a driver will need to pay to park their car is based on the vehicle’s emissions and fuel consumption. So a Nissan Leaf driver will be financially rewarded with cut-price rates while a Ferrari or Range Rover owner might want to consider taking the metro instead and leaving the car at home.

The network of meters —  touted as the first of their kind in the world, according to Bloomberg Businessweek – is also connected so that they can add extra surcharges to rates based on supply and demand. Regardless of how environmentally friendly a car may be, if it’s the last space in a street it won’t come cheap; the idea being that it will discourage congestion in that particular area of the city.

The Spanish capital is by no means alone in trying to wrestle with the growing issue of air pollution and the negative impact it can have on city dwellers. London, which currently breaches EU air pollution levels more often than any other western European capital, has its congestion charge and Paris has its Auto’Lib network of electric cars that can be rented hourly for inner-city driving.

And while Madrid’s approach sounds great in theory, in practice things aren’t so straightforward. According to El Pais, using the meters can be very complicated as a driver’s parking fee is based on his or her car’s license plate and that information has to be keyed in by hand. And as the publication reports, very few drivers seem to know their car registration by heart.

Though London’s congestion charge has been criticized by many, the system is completely automated, and uses license plate-scanning cameras to decide if a car is liable for the charge.

Nevertheless, Madrid should be applauded for its approach and it will be interesting to see how the system evolves over time. In March, Paris was forced to ban cars from its streets after pollution levels hit 180 micrograms of PM10 particulates per cubic meter for five days in a row (the safe limit is 80). And although PM10 particulates are emitted by heavy industry and heating systems, they are also emitted by cars.

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