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UK licences: What now for British drivers in Spain?

News that residents’ UK driving licences ceased to be valid on May 1st has left many Brits in Spain wondering what it means for them, if anything. The Local spoke to the UK Embassy in Spain to find out more about the hold-up in negotiations and what the driving test will involve.

UK licences: What now for British drivers in Spain?
Residents in Spain who after 6 months have either not exchanged their licence for a Spanish one or passed their Spanish driving test can be fined €200 by Spanish police if caught behind the wheel. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP)

UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott posted a last-minute announcement last Friday evening, just hours before the April 30th deadline for UK licence validity, confirming one of the worst case scenarios for British driving licence holders living in Spain.

”If you have been resident in Spain for longer than six months, your UK-issued licence will no longer be valid to drive here from May 1st (2022),” Elliott said in a Facebook video.

“We’re not there just yet. And we will not have reached an agreement in time for the end of the current grace period (April 30th),” he added about the ongoing talks between Spanish and British authorities.

How many UK licence holders resident in Spain cannot drive now?

“The majority of UK licence holders in Spain registered their intent to exchange, as they were advised to, before December 31st 2020,” the UK Embassy in Madrid told The Local Spain. 

“They are therefore unaffected.”

There are no official stats on how many Britons exactly – of the 407,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain in 2022 – are now unable to drive because their UK licences are no longer valid. This also affects people of other nationalities who are residents in Spain and hold UK driving licences.

The UK Embassy told The Local that this will primarily affect three groups:

  • UK licence holders who are long-term residents in Spain and did not exchange or register their intent to exchange, as advised, before the end of the transition period (December 31st 2020).
  • UK licence holders who did register their intent to exchange before the end of the transition period, but did not complete the exchange process by April 30th.
  • UK licence holders who have arrived as residents in Spain after December 31st 2020 and have been residents in Spain for longer than 6 months.

This also applies to Gibraltar licence holders who are resident in Spain,” embassy sources point out. 

It’s worth remembering also that this announcement does not affect visiting motorists from the UK or Gibraltar or UK licence holders who have just moved to Spain (first six months of residency), or British tourists visiting Spain. 

OPINION: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault

What will UK licence holders living in Spain have to do now?

Negotiations are ongoing so there is a possibility that UK licence holders living in Spain will regain their driving rights without having to sit their driving exam again in Spain.

However, the advice from the Embassy for those most affected is to start preparations to get a Spanish driving licence.

“If you are affected by this change and need to drive, you should not wait for the outcome of the negotiations and should take immediate steps to apply for a Spanish licence – as we have been advising for some time now,” they stated on the Facebook group Brits in Spain.

“Driving a vehicle without a valid licence is illegal in Spain,” the UK Embassy has stressed.

So if residents whose UK licences ceased to be valid in Spain on May 1st 2022 were to still drive and be stopped by Spanish police, they face a €200 fine, according to Spanish road law CON 001 1 5B.

An international driving permit is not a way to get around this problem.

What will the Spanish driving test involve for UK licence holders?

There has been some confusion over whether UK licence holders who couldn’t exchange would have to do only the practical test, or the theory as well, in the increasingly likely event that they will have to sit their Spanish driving test. 

The UK Embassy in Madrid has clarified that the Spanish driving exam includes taking both a theory and practical test, which would be applicable to UK licence holders getting their Spanish licences, as it is for other non-EU licence holders six months after they move to Spain.

“In addition to taking these tests, you will be required to provide a psychophysical aptitude report from an authorised Driver Centre and pay a fee,” the UK Embassy told The Local Spain.

“Most people choose to prepare for the theory and practical tests using the services of an official driving school. However, you are not obliged to do so.”

One of the main concerns for drivers who didn’t manage to exchange their licences, especially those who are not fluent in Spanish, is that the practical test is always carried out with a Spanish-speaking examiner. You may however find driving schools with English-speaking instructors.

The theory test can be done in English.

READ ALSO:

Why have negotiations taken so long?

The vast majority of EU nations have reached successful agreements with the UK over reciprocal driving licence recognition and mutual exchange of licences. 

But after more than a year of negotiations and four grace periods, there is still no ‘Spanish deal’ and no more extensions to give UK licence holders.

“The UK Government asked the Spanish Government for an extension in early April but unfortunately this has not been possible,” the UK Embassy told The Local. 

“We are continuing negotiations at pace and are asking for interim measures to be put in place by the Spanish, to minimise the disruption on UK licence holders.

Ambassador Hugh Elliott added that UK and Spanish authorities had agreed to “rapidly accelerate talks” during the week of May 2nd to May 8th.

So what’s the reason behind the hold-up?

“Every negotiation is different,” the UK Embassy told The Local.

“In this instance, Spain has asked for data provision to form part of the agreement. 

“This was not requested by other EU Member States and is part of Spain’s nationwide ambition to improve road safety. As such, this has naturally taken more time than all the other agreements which the UK has been able to complete.

READ MORE:

Driving licences: How does situation for Britons in Spain compare to rest of Europe?

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DRIVING

Is it worth getting an electric car in Spain?

Thinking about getting an electric car in Spain? Wondering about the costs, the efficiency, the incentives and the charging issues and deciding if it's really worth it? Read on to find out more.

Is it worth getting an electric car in Spain?

According to the latest data available from Unespa, the Spanish Association of Insurers and Reinsurers, there are a total of 674,000 electric and hybrid cars circulating in Spain. However, the real figure is thought to be even higher.

Sales of hybrid and electric cars have risen significantly in the past year and sales soared to a record high in January 2022. In that month there were 19,845 electric, hybrid or gas car sales registered, compared to 16,579 petrol and 15,404 diesel vehicle purchases.

The sales of second-hand electric cars also grew by 113.4 percent in 2021 compared with the previous year, according to figures from Ideauto, Spain’s Institute of Automotive Studies.

Only 22 percent of Spanish car buyers say they would opt for a petrol or diesel car next time they purchase a vehicle, the European Investment Bank Survey reports, while 78 percent say they will either purchase a hybrid or an electric car.

The evidence suggests interest in electric vehicles is growing rapidly in Spain. Whether it’s as a result of drivers looking for a more environmentally friendly option of moving around or that they feel they should change their car to avoid increasingly punitive restrictions for combustion engine vehicles in the future, attitudes are changing. 

So is it actually worth getting an electric car in Spain in 2022?

Price

As you probably know already, electric cars cost more to buy than traditional petrol vehicles. On average, between €5,000 and €15,000 more.

The average price of an electric car in 2021 was €26,591, which was one percent higher than that of the previous year, according to the ElectricarVO report by car website coches.net.

However, the price of an electric car greatly depends on the region you buy it in. The most expensive region to buy a second-hand electric car last year was Navarre, where it would have cost you an average of €35,579, followed by the Canary Islands (€31,469) and Valencia (€29,073).

According to ElectricarVO, La Rioja is the cheapest region to buy a second-hand electric car at €22,382, followed by the Balearic Islands at €23,148 and then Andalusia at €24,329.

But remember, it’s not all about the initial cost of the car, you need to look at the overall expenses of the upkeep and the efficiency too.

To give you an idea, travelling 100 kilometres in an electric vehicle costs approximately 13 kWh, while a conventional car that consumes five litres per 100 km would need 45 kWh to do so. 

Subsidies and incentives

There are also several subsidies, incentives and grants available in Spain for anyone wanting to purchase an electric car.

Moves III is Spain’s €800-million initiative which aims to get at least 250,000 electric vehicles on Spain’s roads and 100,000 charging points by the end of 2023. In 2022, there are grants of up to €7,000 for an electric car if you hand in your old car at the same time, or €5,000 if you don’t write it off. Meanwhile, those who opt for a plug-in hybrid will also benefit from a €5,000 grant if their old car is scrapped and €2,500 if it’s not. 

If you live in Valencia, La Rioja or Castilla y León, you can even claim the purchase of your electric car back on your annual tax return. 

Other than incentives offered for purchasing electric vehicles, there are also considerable fuel savings, which can range between €700 and €1,200 for every 15,000 km travelled. Electric vehicle owners also qualify for up to 75 percent discount on yearly road tax.

Major cities such as Madrid and Barcelona also provide electric vehicle owners with further bonuses such as not having to pay for parking.

Repairs and upkeep

The upkeep of electric cars is a lot less than traditional cars. 

You don’t have to pay for mechanical transmissions, oils or lubricants and repairs are minimal compared to what could go wrong with a petrol car.

However, the high capacity batteries that electric cars use represent a significant expense when replacing. Most sources say that these high capacity batteries will need replacing around every 160,000 kilometres. 

Distance you can cover

Distance is one factor that may concern some people wanting to buy an electric car. It’s true that there are big differences between the mileage that electric vehicles can reach compared with traditional cars.

Fortunately in recent years this gap has been closing, with electric vehicles now potentially being able to reach 400km on a single battery charge.

Charging points

This is another sticking point when it comes to deciding if an electric car is right for you or not.

In order to be able to install a charging point at your home, you need a grounded 230/400 VAC supply point, a main electrical control panel and a measuring device. However, if your garage is not located in the same place as your home, you will have to ask your distribution company for a new supply point.

Spanish law indicates that you must inform the community of owners of your building if you’re going to install a charging point, however they can’t prevent you from installing one as the electricity bill will be charged directly to you and they won’t have anything to do with it.

You may also want to research the number of charging points in your region and work out how many you may realistically need to access on your journeys.

The distribution of charging points is still uneven in Spain, with only four communities accounting for 60 percent of the points according to statistics published by the Spanish Association of Car and Truck Manufacturers (ANFAC).

With approximately 13,411 public access points, the goal set by the Spanish government of reaching 100,000 by 2023 seems unlikely to be reached.

Catalonia has the most charging points in Spain with 3,549, followed by Valencia with 1,661and Madrid with 1,601. La Rioja, Cantabria and Extremadura have the least.

Spain also has fewer electric car charging points that its neighbours. Currently, in Spain there are 0.4 charging points per 1,000 inhabitants, while Germany and France, where there are more electric vehicles, have 0.9 and 0.7 charging points per 1,000 inhabitants respectively.

However, Spanish energy company Iberdrola has pledged to install electric vehicle charging stations along all the main motorways in Spain, as well as in the public areas of main cities.

The plan will include at least one rapid recharge station every 50km.

So is it worth getting an electric car in Spain in 2022?

Spanish bank BBVA has a comparison tool which pits a mid-range fuel vehicle against an electric car. From a financial perspective, electric car buyers start to see a return on their investment on average four years after the initial purchase.

Other studies point to electric car buyers breaking even after 20,000km of use. 

Further deductions and incentives may help to convince buyers, especially as soaring prices for raw materials mean electric car parts are not getting any cheaper currently. 

Buying an electric car in Spain can be worth it in the long run but ultimately it depends on your personal circumstances, and you have to ask yourself questions such as: will you have a charging point close?, how much use will you give it?, will you need it in emergencies or for long journeys?, will it be your only vehicle?, and so on.  

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