Madrid bets on the (sustainable) future

17 January 2023

Madrid has become one of the first major European capitals, and the largest in terms of the number of inhabitants and buses in service, that operates with a 100% petrol-free fleet of municipal buses. For Alfonso Sánchez Vicente, General Manager of the Municipal Transports Company (EMT), this is “an achievement to be proud of”.

Last month, the last diesel bus turned off its engine forever after completing its last trip. “EMT Madrid has spent many years betting on sustainability,” explains Sanchez. Indeed, the city pledged that no municipal bus powered by fossil fuel would run through the city’s streets after 2023, with the aim of reducing polluting emissions and improving air quality.

With the withdrawal of the last diesel bus, the current 100% petrol-free bus fleet of the EMT is made up of 1,915 compressed natural gas vehicles and 180 electric. As early as 1994, EMT Madrid was a pioneer in incorporating compressed natural gas buses. “That does not mean that it is easy since it requires determination, conviction, long-term vision and many resources, not only financial but technical and technological,” adds Sanchez.

Committed to sustainability, the municipal company will incorporate the first ten hydrogen buses and another 150 new electric ones this year.

Streets of Madrid

A local benchmark in innovation and sustainability

“For the first time in 12 years, the air quality in Madrid is under the European NO2 limits,” says Sanchez. “This reflects the important effort that both the Madrid City Council and EMT Madrid have been making in recent years to incorporate sustainability not only in urban transport but in all facets of urban management.”

Transitioning to a clean and innovative transport fleet is one of the objectives of the City Council’s Madrid 360 Environmental Sustainability Strategy and one of the axes of the EMT’s Strategic Plan until 2025.

The current fleet follows a path of gradual electrification that started as early as 2007 with the incorporation of the first electric minibuses and the search for alternative technologies such as green hydrogen. Electrification will reach 25% of the municipal fleet in 2025, starting by introducing ten vehicles this year. Furthermore, the first green hydrogen buses will be included in the fleet at the end of 2023.

Highlights of this transition process have been the ability to reduce adaptation periods to pass from one technology to another. For 75 years, diesel was predominant, the transition to compressed natural gas has taken 30 years, and the commitment to electrification has been 15 years, demonstrating the company’s remarkable ability to adapt and will to continue improving.

The measures to improve air quality in the Spanish capital go beyond public transportation. Short and medium-term objectives for the coming years include the expansion of the low-emission zone in place from 2023 on the main highway and its interior, which will continue to progress until accessing the city centre is impossible for any cars without an environmental label in 2025.

“For that year, the objective of reducing diesel boilers by 50% or continuing to advance with the circular economy in terms of waste management has also been established,” concludes Sanchez.

Madrid is of the EU-funded SCALE-UP project to accelerate green and inclusive mobility change in cities. As part of SCALE-UP, three advanced urban nodes – Madrid, Turku and Antwerp– team up around one main goal: developing data-driven and user-centric strategies to accelerate the take-up of smart, clean and inclusive mobility through well-connected and multi-usage urban nodes in line with EU climate and transport requirements. 


Marta Buces Eurocities Writer