German Court Says Towns Can Officially Ban Diesel Vehicles Whenever They Want
Thanks to years of governmental promotion, Europe is still awash with diesel-powered passenger vehicles. However, in the wake of emission scandals and research suggesting diesel fumes might not be all that great to inhale, the region has changed its mind. It has gotten to a point where entire countries are now aiming to ban all internal combustion engines as local municipalities try to put the kibosh on diesels as soon as possible.
In Germany, birthplace of the diesel engine, this led to many asking if towns even had the right to regulate what people drove. According to a recent ruling from the nation’s highest administrative court, they absolutely do. With a precedent now set in Europe’s auto manufacturing hub, citywide diesel bans are likely to catch on — not only in Germany, but across the continent. Our condolences if you’re living east of the Atlantic and wanted to sell your diesel secondhand.
The decision also strikes a pretty serious blow to German carmakers still leaning on new diesel sales. However, the general populace, at least those living in cities instituting bans, seem pleased with the court’s choice to legitimize them. That goes double for environmentalist groups.
“This decision opens the door to clean air,” Tim Butler, head of air quality research for the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, told The Washington Post. “There’s going to be a huge problem in figuring out how to implement and enforce these bans. But ultimately, it’s the most effective way of cleaning the air, so it has to be done.”
At present, Butler estimates diesel’s longstanding popularity has helped advance NOx pollution well about the legal limits imposed by European Union in roughly 70 German towns.
Not everyone is thrilled with the measure, though. Diesel owners along with oodles of members of Germany’s business and political establishment are seriously annoyed with the decision. Many claim the measure is tantamount to expropriation, while others accuse the government of hypocrisy after incentivizing diesel cars for so many years.
Despite fighting climate change within Germany for the majority of her tenure, Chancellor Angela Merkel openly opposes diesel bans. Her party, closely linked with the country’s automotive industry, has suggested citywide bans could be detrimental to the industry and difficult to implement.
Likewise, Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club (ADAC) backs the automakers by suggesting hardware fixes and a gradual shift away from diesel engines. “In our view, the federal government must offer incentives and support to implement alternative measures,” the auto club said in a statement.
However, the pressure to ban the vehicles may be too great to postpone. Environmental Action Germany is suing authorities in Stuttgart and Düsseldorf — hoping to convince them to impose auto bans to stay within E.U. pollution limits. Following the court’s decision on Tuesday, those bans can now go forward.
“The flooding of cities with poisonous diesel exhausts is over,” Jürgen Resch, head of Environmental Action Germany, said after the ruling. “These cars don’t belong in our cities anymore.”
It’s more than a little scary to imagine a world where someone can suddenly outlaw what you drive but no municipality has crafted a plan on how to enforce the bans as of yet. With around 15 million diesel vehicles still active within Germany, coming up with an effective solution is going to be very tricky.
[Image: Daimler AG]
A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.
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