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German court allows ban on diesel cars in cities

27 February 2018

Germany’s Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) ruled that cities can ban diesel cars to reduce air pollution. The decision follows legal suits brought by the environmental group Deutsche Umwelthile (DUH), who took the cities of Stuttagart and Düsseldorf to court to force them to implement diesel bans. The lower courts in Stuttagart and Düsseldorf both decided that driving bans for diesel vehicles would be effective in controlling air pollution and should be considered. The German states of Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia appealed the regional court rulings—arguing that air pollution control measures should be based on national legislation—but the country’s highest administrative court upheld the right of German cities to impose local driving restrictions on high polluting diesel cars.

There are more than 15 million diesel cars registered in Germany. About 6 million of those are Euro 6 vehicles that would likely be exempt from driving bans by cities, leaving as many as 9 million diesel cars that could be potentially affected by the verdict, if more cities implement driving restrictions for diesels.

The judges said cities can exempt people who use diesel vehicles for work from the ban. However, diesel owners have to accept a loss in value of their cars and will not be entitled to compensation from the government.

The emission problem is primarily related to NOx emissions from diesel cars. A number of studies have shown for many years that real driving NOx emissions from diesel cars can significantly exceed the respective laboratory NEDC emission limits. The EU ambient NO2 limit of 40 µg/m3 is regularly exceeded in many German cities including Munich, Stuttgart and Cologne. As much as 60% of the urban NOx inventory has been attributed to the transportation sector.

The excessive diesel NOx emissions are expected to be controlled in the newest Euro 6 models that undergo Real Driving Emissions (RDE) testing as part of the type approval process, effective from September 2017. Diesel particulate emissions have been controlled to very low levels—significantly below PM levels from gasoline cars—using particulate filters which are installed on every diesel car sing the since the Euro 5b stage (2011/2013). However, pre-Euro 5b diesel vehicles can be also a significant source of particulate pollution.

Source: DUH | The Guardian