The Government is studying a formula to implement a pay-per-use system for highways and highways. A year and a half after raising the barriers in certain sections of some expressways, such as the AP-7 between Tarragona and La Jonquera and the AP-2 between Zaragoza and El Vendrell, the Executive is considering making drivers pay for the use of state roads following the example of other European countries.

The measure aims to raise the more than 9,000 million euros per year that the maintenance of the roads costs and is part of the commitment made with the European Union to access community funds. Although at first it was planned that this new toll system would be implemented throughout 2023, finally it will not be until next year when drivers will have to scratch their pockets for driving on Spanish roads.

The Government of Pedro Sánchez has not yet defined how this new toll system will be articulated. But everything indicates that the regulations will take into account the level of vehicle emissions to align with the environmental policies of the European Union. In this way, it is likely that the rule of “whoever pollutes the most pays the most” will be applied to positively discriminate the most sustainable mechanics, as is currently the case with the privileges enjoyed by electric cars compared to gasoline and diesel cars.

One of the methods to analyze vehicle emissions in real time and, therefore, to establish a fairer toll system based on polluting gases, was recently tested in Guipúzcoa. The test took place on the AP-8, next to the Orio tollbooth, under the supervision of the Gipuzkoa Living Lab, a test laboratory for smart mobility.

The test consisted of remotely measuring the emission levels of each car that was circulating at that time on the highway without having to stop. Thanks to a device from the Opus RSE company placed next to the road, emissions were measured using a system associated with reading license plates as if it were a radar.

The device deployed alongside the AP-8 has the ability to analyze multiple components. Some of the substances analyzed were the following: carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrocarbons (HC), nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide (NO and NO2 separately or combined in NOx), ammonia (NH3) and suspended particles (PM).

This system not only allows a higher toll to be applied to the most polluting vehicles, but also serves to identify large emitters. This is stated by Josefina de la Fuente, general director of Opus RSE, the company that she created 15 years ago and that markets this technology throughout the world. “Between 1 and 3% of vehicles have an average of extremely exaggerated emissions, up to 20 times above the average, and contribute up to 40% of emissions. It is very important to detect them and inform them about their high emissions or apply a rate to them”.

He also explains that the system makes it possible to calculate the specific effort of the vehicle at the time of measurement and to detect components as harmful as nitrogen oxide, which leave no trace.

De la Fuente rejects that this system based on emissions ends up harming people with fewer resources, who are the ones who generally drive the most polluting cars. “Although at first it would seem that this is the case, this system also acts as a mechanism to implement fairer policies. What it is about is that instead of establishing universal subsidies for the renewal of the fleet, the aid is more powerful for those people with a lower purchasing power”.

There is no doubt that the current system of environmental labels of the General Directorate of Traffic (DGT) is not fair, as the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) has been denouncing for some time. “There are a lot of vehicles with relatively recent standards that are getting economic benefits and are big emitters. On the other hand, other vehicles that have a low Euro standard are emitting very little and should be rewarded”.

“On the issue of labels there may be exceptions, as in everything. The differences in emissions can be up to 20 times between the vehicles of the same label due to maintenance, ways of driving, use… It is something that should be reviewed”, concludes the general director of Opus RSE.