Not even a technical update will enable diesel cars to meet emissions specifications for German cities: An internal study by the German environment agency has revived debate over the future of the automobile industry.
The federal minister for the environment, Barbara Hendricks of the SPD, has repeatedly called on German automobile manufacturers to abandon their resistance to the expensive upgrade of diesel cars. In the context of the emissions scandal, Hendricks constantly pointed out that it was surely also in the interests of the sector – so important for the German economy – to regain the trust of customers all over the world by reducing harmful emissions. Now an investigation by the federal environmental agency is calling her strategy into question.
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According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS), the paper written by the agency states that even upgrading "a significant proportion" of cars would barely reduce the concentration of nitrogen dioxide in cities. The report says that this would still be true even if the best possible calculations were applied, i.e., if fitting an improved exhaust gas cleaner meant car manufacturers succeeded in lowering nitric oxide emissions in older cars by 70 percent. Permissible limits would still be exceeded in some places over the coming years.
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And then there's the cost…
The federal environment agency also reaches "a devastating conclusion" about the expected cost, writes the FAS: Manufacturers would need to invest 3.7 billion euros in order to upgrade a sufficient quantity of cars.
The paper was apparently written after a technical discussion within the agency in June of last year, which was attended by representatives of the car industry, members of the state governments, and employees of the Technical Control Board (TÜV).
In the debate about pollution by diesel cars, Hendricks also demanded improvements to engine hardware. At a diesel summit in early August, which brought together representatives from the federal and state governments and from the automobile industry, manufacturers only agreed to software updates for more than 5 million diesel cars classified as meeting Euro 5 and 6 emissions standards, and to scrapping incentive schemes. The minister considers this inadequate. She is still hoping for the second diesel summit in the autumn with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Federal Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt from the CSU has criticized his SPD Cabinet colleague. First they should wait and see what was achieved by the measures already agreed, Dobrindt said, positioning himself as the protector of the auto industry. But the Hamburg-based news magazine Der Spiegel reports that even within his ministry there are now concrete plans for the technical modification of diesel cars.
SC/cl (FAS, afp, rtr, Spiegel)