Stuttgart administrative court rules that air pollution should also be reduced with diesel driving bans

28 July 2017

28 July 2017

The DUH (German environmental aid) has today (Friday 28 July) won its case against the state of Baden-WÜrttemberg with the federal administrative court ruling that air pollution should also be reduced with diesel driving bans if necessary, as retrofitting vehicles alone will be insufficient. Consequently, a ban on older diesel cars remains a possibility in Stuttgart. 

As previously reported, diesel bans pose a major risk as drivers would inevitably defect from the fuel and with German carmakers lagging behind in the EV technology race, they could easily see a dramatic reduction in their home market share. In an attempt to avert the introduction of diesel driving bans in cities such as Stuttgart and Munich, carmakers have therefore sought to develop software for Euro-5 vehicles which can be installed during a recall, effectively retrofitting these cars with the same diesel-cleaning configuration as newer cars have.  

The federal state of Baden-WÜrttemberg has promoted the retrofitting approach, largely due to the potential detrimental impact of diesel driving bans on the local automotive industry, with Daimler, Porsche and Bosch all headquartered in the state for example. However, the state failed in the administrative court today to prevent driving bans by reducing air pollution through retrofitting older engines instead. The judges ruled that the state’s air pollution plan for Stuttgart would need to be revised as it will not improve air quality quickly enough and is therefore inadequate.  

According to the administrative court, the protection of consumer health ranks higher than the interests of diesel drivers. Although the air pollution plan submitted by the state does include driving restrictions, they were not deemed to be sufficiently comprehensive. Furthermore, the state itself conceded that even the most effective retrofitting would only reduce toxic nitrogen dioxide (NOx) emissions by a maximum of nine percent by 2020. Ultimately, the court argued that the state should not rely on the car industry to reduce air pollution, upholding the view that driving bans are the most effective way to reduce the high exposure to NOx. 

The subject of diesel driving bans has already escalated to a national level, with an announcement of a national approach expected at the country’s national diesel forum on 2 August 2017. The verdict today therefore sends a clear message to Berlin just ahead of the summit meeting and could ultimately influence the debate on driving bans in other major cities like Munich or Berlin. At the summit, representatives of the federal government, the federal states and the car industry will discuss measures to reduce the excessively high pollution from traffic. 

The state of Baden-WÜrttemberg will decide whether to appeal before the Federal Administrative Court. ′The matter is so complex that we want to await the written justification,’ said Edgar Neumann, spokesman of the Ministry of Transport. It is therefore still not clear whether a diesel driving ban will come into force in Stuttgart from 1 January 2018.