Berlin battles back against diesel bans as vehicle retrofitting recommended again

22 January 2018

22 January 2018

As Germany battles the stigma of diesel vehicles, cities around the country are contemplating banning the technology within their limits to ensure cleaner air targets are met.

However, the country’s capital, Berlin, is doing its best to ensure that it does not need to implement such tactics. While Munich, Cologne and Stuttgart are all going down the route of bans, especially potential court enforcement of them, the capital is planning to implement other schemes to reduce pollution.

The City government is planning more electromobility, increasing the number of speed restriction zones and introducing a support program for more environmentally friendly taxies. The goal is to protect the population of the city from pollutants and at the same time ensure the freedom of both individual and commercial traffic, said Prime Minister Michael MÜller.

The city is taking action following what it calls ′sobering’ results displayed at the diesel summit held in August and November. Berlin wanted to act now to reduce the air pollution, especially with nitrogen oxides in the short term. It was often above the limit values ″‹″‹in previous years. Therefore, diesel driving bans are one of the main options available to the local government.

A ground-breaking decision in this regard is a February 22 ruling by the Federal Administrative Court. This wants to clarify whether municipalities are allowed to pronounce such driving bans. The German environmental aid had sued dozens of cities, including Berlin. The Administrative Court is expected to deal with the issue in May.

However, while Berlin looks at alternatives, the country’s government is still calling for hardware retrofits of diesel vehicles to reduce levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and prevent driving bans. A report produced also reveals arguments from automakers against the use of AdBlue systems to reduce emissions.

The report, by the Technical University of Munich and commissioned by the Federal Government, recommends hardware retrofitting of diesel vehicles with SCR catalysts and AdBlue injection to reduce nitrogen oxide levels. The news magazine Der Spiegel reports. The SCR catalysts are, according to the piece, a ′very effective measure for the emission reduction.’ Retrofitting reduces nitrogen oxides by 90% and costs around €1,300 per vehicle.

Cars with SCR catalysts could, therefore, be exempted from diesel driving bans in German city centres. Also, the report rejects objections from the automakers, according to which the installation of the cleaning system is too complicated: ′The space for an SCR retrofitting is very likely to exist.’ It states.

Hardware retrofitting was rejected by manufacturers at the diesel summit in August, with leading executives claiming that the costs to make such changes would be far higher. Instead, a program of software updates, in development since June, would be rolled out, while manufacturers made donations to the municipal environmental fund.