German city bans to include Euro 5 vehicles and can be implemented immediately

21 May 2018

21 May 2018

German cities are allowed to ban older diesel vehicles from their roads with immediate effect to bring air pollution levels in line with European Union rules.

The ruling comes from Germany’s high court and comes following the news that Hamburg is planning to be the first locality in the country to implement a ban in certain streets. The details of the ruling will also add pressure to manufacturers who are doing all they can to clean up diesel’s reputation.

In another blow to the industry, the court has ruled that bans should apply to Euro 5 engines and below, rather than ending at the Euro 4 stage. Of the 15 million diesel cars on Germany’s roads, only 2.7 million have Euro 6 technology, which was phased in during 2014.

For wider city areas encompassing a multitude of main roads and side streets, the court recommended a phased implementation of bans, starting with older cars that meet Euro 4 emissions standards. The Euro 4 standard was replaced by Euro 5 beginning in 2009.

A statement on the ruling was published by the Court in Leipzig and stated that there should be no grace period for driving bans.

′Such restrictions, in their intensity, do not go beyond other passage and stopping bans as justified by road law requirements, which motorists always have to reckon with and which they principally have to accept,’ the court said.

Germany’s VDA automotive industry body urged cities to keep a sense of proportion when deciding their course of action, noting that NOx levels should fall significantly in coming months as more Euro 6 models are sold, and the emissions-control software of older models is updated.

′What is at stake are not blanket driving bans but an assessment as to whether local measures are even necessary to meet the legal air quality targets,’ VDA President Bernhard Mattes said.

The court had said in February that Euro 5 vehicles should not be banned until 1 September 2019. Tradespeople and some residents too should be exempted, it said at the time.

Germany’s second-largest city, Hamburg, said it had started putting up signs to enforce driving bans of older diesel cars, with local authorities expecting restrictions to start taking effect at the end of this month.

Vehicle manufacturers have been doing all they can to ensure their vehicles will not be subject to any bans, by recalling 5.3 million vehicles for software retrofits to alter their emission profiles. However, following the initial court ruling in February allowing cities to implement restrictions, there has been further pushing for hardware retrofits, which are more costly.