Earlier this year, a German court ruled that cities in that country could ban heavily polluting diesel powered cars from their urban areas. This was a blow to the Government who dislike bans and they were looking at other restrictions to ease pollutant levels.
The whole issue around the VW emissions test work-around has had wide ranging repercussions. Governments reacted in a way that you expect from politicians looking for future votes – they made sweeping changes to what could be sold although they did provide many years for the manufacturers to lobby them to ease the changes. We have seen in the US recently that the current administration has tried to ease emissions standards quietly, however it has gained widespread commentary.
Germany, for one, has been a strong supporter of diesel engines and I suspect that is because for many years it was a vote winner on the jobs front. It is also known that Britain new of the VW issue some years before it became public knowledge and were persuaded by the German Government to keep quiet – they didn’t want sales of their cars to drop. Having a city ban is certainly a blow to the local industry.
The court ruled that Stuttgart and Dusseldorf must amend their anti-pollution laws immediately and not wait for the Federal Government to act. An environmental group, Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), had sued both cities after finding that over 70 cities exceeded the European Union Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) limits. The issue centres around the most recent Euro standards that are much stricter – and the ones that VW tried to work around: Euro 6. Only about 20% of the diesel cars in the country are built to this standard – and the VW models are currently being fixed to actually meet it.
That means that 80% of diesel cars would be affected by the ban although those cars are spread far and wide across the country. In May, another court ruled that all German cities should implement their own bans soon after the EU had lodged a legal complaint against the various levels of Government because they had ignored the limits defined.
The interesting thing about this problem is that diesel engines were encouraged to be used in an effort to reduce carbon emissions yet they spew out more NOx which is just as bad for humans! The bans will start with Euro 4 compliant cars and then move to Euro 5 and this means that car owners will need to understand what set of rules their car should comply with. I can see this as a money maker for some cities! Meanwhile the DUH has extended their lawsuits to 28 more cities after their first wins.
Diesel sales have been falling in recent years as people move back to petrol or electric vehicles and this trend is clearly going to continue unless more bio-diesel can be pushed into the market. This will put more stress on the manufacturers as they try and move away from carbon-based diesel to electric power. In recent months, Porsche has taken a stake in Rimac from Croatia who have been at the forefront of electric power technology and perhaps the licensing of this type of kit will speed up the delivery of cars into the marketplace.
To me the lawsuits are a waste of time and energy – sure a city can put up signs, maybe even fit some road tolling technology for older diesels, however I think it will be very difficult to police. The cities will simply do what they can to avoid the lawsuit and nothing much will change in reality.
It really is up to the Federal Government to offer a buyback scheme or tax advantages to move car owners to electric power, however the problem with that is where the money comes from. Governments can only work with taxpayer funding, so in effect it is a circular money flow and then at a given point in time, tax has to be raised on electric car usage, or another tax has to be created to replace the oil sourced revenues.
Other than a handful of other cities, I haven’t seen these bans spread across the world, however …. if income is raised from fines or taxes, I’m sure it will spread quickly!