Consumers should pay for diesel hardware retrofitting says German minister

07 August 2018

7 August 2018

With German cities increasingly likely to implement diesel bans in order to improve air quality, the automotive industry in the country is suffering from continued demonisation of the fuel.

Since the Dieselgate scandal broke in September 2015, sales of the fuel have declined across Europe, while governments are attempting to ensure that air quality targets in cities are met. Carmakers are having to invest in new technologies, with electric vehicle development and hydrogen fuel cell research ongoing.

However, while these technologies have a greater environmental benefit, they are not yet advanced enough to offer the same convenience as petrol and diesel models, namely in range, availability and purchase cost. Therefore, the city diesel ban will have a big impact on the sale of new diesels, while older models may also flood the market as owners look to trade them in for vehicles that can be driven without fear of a ban.

While manufacturers have been recalling vehicles for software updates to alter emission profiles, with a total of 5.3 million vehicles available for the procedure, calls for hardware retrofitting of older vehicles have so far fallen on deaf ears, mainly due to the costs involved. While discussions of funds being made available by the government are ongoing, one minister believes that drivers themselves should be contributing.

Kiel Transport minister Bernd Buchholz has said that it is unfair that only the country’s car industry should pay for new components to be added to cars already on roads around the country. He comments: ′I see no basis for the automobile industry to go into the practice of retrofitting alone.’

Buchholz did add that manufacturers that installed cheat devices in vehicles, which has led to the intense scrutiny on diesel, should contribute 100% of the cost of retrofitting, not relying on any consumer or government funding.

“If we really want to curb nitric oxide emissions effectively and prevent driving bans like in Hamburg or Stuttgart, then we urgently need a hardware retrofit of the Euro 4 and Euro 5 models. This is the most effective way to get the inner cities cleaner,’ he added.

Buchholz also believes that vehicle manufacturers will miss their target of completing the 5.3 million vehicle software retrofit by the end of this year, and even if they were to make it, the software would not eliminate the ′root cause’ of the air pollution problem. Hardware retrofitting could include new exhaust parts, such as diesel particulate filters on older models, with the technology currently part of the Euro 6 regulations.

Therefore, Buchholz believes that consumers should share a third of the cost of such schemes, as they are aware of the emissions issues but are not willing to trade their vehicles, while any would would ultimately make their cars more attractive for sale, increasing values as they could be used in cities that have diesel bans in place.