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German Cars Get Diesel Filters By 2009

After years of stalling on the issue, the German car industry has decided to introduce serial production of emission filters for diesel cars. The announcement comes amidst mounting pressure from environmentalists.

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Diesel gas may be cheaper, but it's a lot more deadly.

While their European neighbors are already driving diesel cars outfitted with emission filters, Germans have been wondering why their own carmakers haven't introduced the technology given the government's pro-environmental stance. Activists from within the Greens party and other campaigners for clean air and the reduction of green-house gases had been arguing for years in favor of serial production of filters in new diesel model.

They claim diesel cars emit more carcinogenic sooty particles than traditional fossil-fuel burning cars and are linked to increases in lung cancer and adverse respiratory problems: A study conducted by the Federal Environmental Agency, showed that 14,000 people die prematurely each year as a result of diesel pollution.

Filters on the cars can reduce particle emissions by 99 percent, and yet the German automobile branch has in the past adamantly resisted introducing the technology, saying that outfitting smaller cars with the filter would be much too expensive.

Now the makers of Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes are reversing their position. They vow that by 2008/2009 all domestic diesel cars will contain a filter.

"Diesel cars will be practically emissions free by the end of the decade," said Bernd Gottschalk, president of the Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Diesel-Partikelfilter von Bosch

Diesel particle filter from Bosch

Government support

The German government was integral in implementing the change. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who had previously resisted calls from the Greens to reduce diesel emission limits, is now offering tax breaks for owners whose cars fall under the more restrictive EU emissions standards of Euro 5, expected to be introduced in the fall. Currently, all cars with the Euro 4 limit of 0.025 grams of particles per kilometer are eligible for tax reductions.

Given the guaranteed tax breaks in the future, Gottschalk said that by the end of 2006 nearly a quarter of all new diesel cars will be outfitted with the filter; by the end of 2007, some 75 percent of all new diesel motors will have filters.

Meeting customer demand

By offering the filters on all new models, the carmakers are responding to the demands of their customers, Gottschalk said. DaimlerChrysler recently announced that more than 80 percent of all its Mercedes owners were requesting the inclusion of a built-in emissions filter at purchase. German Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin, one of the strongest advocates of tighter restrictions on emissions welcomed the "insight of the German car industry that they can contribute significantly to the reduction of emissions in the environment."

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