German carmakers to offer retrofitting as two cities implement diesel bans

08 November 2018

German carmakers to offer retrofitting as two cities implement diesel bans

8 November 2018

Germany’s Transport Minister and the country’s automotive industry have found a compromise in negotiations on hardware retrofits for older diesels.

The news comes as courts in the country have ordered diesel driving bans in the cities of Cologne and Bonn, something the government talks were being held to avoid. This means a total of five major German cities will have some form of ban, with one in Hamburg already active, while Stuttgart and Frankfurt will activate theirs in 2019.

Following his meeting with carmakers, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer said that the industry has ‘moved very much’ on its position concerning hardware retrofitting, where new exhaust technology will be added to older diesel vehicles to reduce the levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and other dangerous pollutants they emit.

According to Scheuer, manufacturers have agreed to support owners of diesel vehicles with up to €3,000 per vehicle, in each of the 15 cities in the country where air pollution limits are particularly strong.

The measures should apply to those who do not use the manufacturer ‘exchange premiums’ to trade in their vehicles for newer and cleaner models. During the talks, carmakers suggested that higher discounts could be introduced. However, the compromise over retrofitting offered the best solution to avoid bans in these cities.

However, Scheuer was keen to highlight that it may take some time until the technical requirements for hardware retrofitting were met. Manufacturers need to source parts, investigate the impact on vehicles and ensure they do not cause more harm. Currently, carmakers are offering software retrofits, which is a much cheaper option.

The news has not come in time to prevent a court ruling on bans in Cologne and Bonn. These must be implemented in April 2019, covering Euro 4 vehicles, before including Euro 5 from September 2019.

Environmental lobby group DUH had filed complaints against the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, home to Cologne and Bonn, saying the cities needed to ensure their pollution levels stuck to permitted limits and calling for a ban of diesel vehicles in those cities.

Attorney Remo Klinger, who represents the DUH in the proceedings, says: ’Now that we have won ten trials in a row, no one should think that driving bans are disproportionate and will not come. All the courts that have dealt with the subject so far see it differently. The courts continue to be irritated by the diesel chaos triggered by the federal government. Federal and state governments should finally clear the way for cleaner air in cities ‘  

Cologne had exceeded the EU limit value for the harmful nitrogen dioxide (NO2), instead of the permitted 40 micrograms per cubic meter a year; it was up to 62 micrograms in 2017. In Bonn, the value was up to 47 micrograms.