A recent court ruling requires that the city of Frankfurt ban older diesel cars that comply with the Euro 4 and Euro 5 standards. Current cars must comply with the Euro 6 standard, which is about to be tightened yet again in the very near future. The court ruling requires Frankfurt to act by February of next year.
Diesel is almost a religion in Germany. Despite similar court rulings in other German cities going back as far as 2012, local officials have often refused to abide by those decisions, leading to speculation that some of those courts might resort to jail terms to enforce their orders.
According to a report by Funke Media Group and republished by Handlesblatt, if all German cities with the highest air pollution levels decide to implement similar bans, up to 1.3 million diesel cars could be prohibited from driving in those urban areas. According to the Ministry of Transport, there are currently 475,000 cars that comply with the Euro 4 emissions standard registered in the 43 most heavily polluted German cities. There are another 840,000 cars that meet the Euro 5 standard.
That figure only includes cars owned by city residents. Adding in the vehicles driven into those cities by commuters would raise the total number of cars affected considerably. According to Benjamin Schulz, CleanTechnica’s head of the German desk, the result of the bans could be a decrease in the market value of those cars of about 50% — a painful result for their owners. He speculates these bans could give an immediate boost to electric car sales in Germany.
The talk of diesel bans has sparked controversy about what should happen to those older cars. Green traffic expert Oliver Krischer maintains, “Only a hardware retrofit of Euro-5 diesels can now prevent the worst.” And who should pay for such retrofits? “They have installed cheap technology in the exhaust gas purification and thereby increased their profits,” Krischer says, meaning the manufacturers should foot the bill for any retrofits.
No More BMW Diesels In US
Meanwhile, BMW has announced it will not sell any more diesels in the US. Instead, any models that now have a diesel option will be replaced by plug-in hybrids. BMW diesels are only a tiny percentage of US sales, but removing the oil burners from the lineup is one more indication of the headwinds that are gathering for diesel engine proponents. BMW spokesman Alexander Schmuck tells the press, “We are putting all our eggs in the PHEV basket.”
Curiously, American manufacturers rededicated themselves to diesel engine technology just this week. Unlike the BMW models, though, those diesel engines are primarily aimed at larger vehicles like pickup trucks and large SUVs.
Diesel engines continues to have allure for automakers because they are more fuel efficient that gasoline engines. But they also spew more nitrogen and sulfur emissions, especially the fine particulates that are known to have a negative impact on human health, setting up the classic capitalist confrontation — people versus profits.