Madrid targets polluting cars: They'll pay more at smart parking meters

Spain's capital city has a problem with nitrogen dioxide, thanks in large part to car exhaust systems on the estimated million vehicles that enter the city daily. But starting July 1, Madrid is getting tough on older model polluters and giving citizens financial incentive to switch to more efficient electric or hybrid vehicles.

The city is installing a smart parking meter system that bases what a motorist will pay to park at a city smart meter on the engine type and model year of the car. Electric cars will park for free; hybrids will get a 20% reduced rate and the worst offenders – a diesel car made in 2001, for instance, -- will see a 20% mark-up, according to a report in The Guardian.

The rates will also vary dependent on how busy the street is; parking on an empty street will cost less than a street with few remaining spots available.

The city's sustainability lead Elisa Barahona tells The Guardian that the smart parking meters are just one facet of Madrid's initiative to reduce pollution levels which consistently rank above the European Union average and at times soar well above the rates considered safe. The city is also working on more energy efficient buses and a bike-sharing program to help improve air quality.

More on smart parking:

Smart parking on the rise: 1 million spaces by 2020
Report: Yes, smart parking apps can reduce congestion, pollution and other city woes