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Hamburg to partially ban older diesel cars

May 23, 2018

The port city has approved a ban on older diesel models from two major streets. The decision deals a blow to German automakers and the federal government, which had sought to avoid such bans.

A crossed-out sign prohibiting diesel trucks hangs at Stresemannstraße in Hamburg.
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Bockwoldt

The northern German city of Hamburg on Wednesday announced it will ban older diesel vehicles from some of its streets.

The announcement came amid furious efforts by the German government to avoid diesel cars being banned from cities despite a landmark court ruling allowing the practice.

Read more: Diesel car sales tanking in Germany
Details of the ban

  • From May 31, older diesel cars will be banned from two streets.
  • The ban affects all diesel cars that do not meet Euro-6 emissions standards.
  • About 168,000 cars registered in Hamburg are affected by the Max-Brauer-Allee ban.
  • A ban on Stresemannstrasse only affects trucks.
  • Violation will earn a fine of €25 ($30) for cars and €75 for trucks. 

Not far enough

Environmental organization BUND said the ban sends out a "good signal, but not a meaningful one." Spokesman Paul Schmid told DPA news agency: "We need nationwide driving bans that help people, not measuring stations." He said the ban would only divert traffic and harmful nitrogen oxides to other roads.

Germany's first diesel ban: The ban will make Hamburg the first major German city to block diesel cars from its streets to reign in high level of nitrogen oxide pollution. 

Read more: EU takes Germany to court over air pollution

A wider threat: Germany has been grappling with the possibility of diesel vehicles being banned from city centers after Germany's top administrative court ruled in February that such measures were legal. Cities are struggling to keep their skies within legally acceptable pollution limits and revelations that major automakers were gaming emissions tests have placed their vehicles firmly in the spotlight.

 Germany considering retrofitting diesel scandal cars: report

Hands off approach: Germany's ruling coalition has been under pressure from industry and diesel owners to avoid such city bans. One solution that was widely discussed was forcing automakers to retrofit filtering devices to the offending vehicles. But Chancellor Angela Merkel recently ruled out such measures for fear of crippling the important industry.

Why diesel? Diesel engines produce large amounts of nitrogen oxides, which have been linked to 38,000 premature deaths in 2015 worldwide.

Read more: New analysis reveals deadly scale of diesel emissions

aw/kms (dpa, Reuters, AP)

Germany: Diesel ban approved