By on February 27, 2018

Mercedes-Benz BlueTEC

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]

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49 Comments on “German Court Says Towns Can Officially Ban Diesel Vehicles Whenever They Want...”


  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    Poisonous Diesel exhaust? Hah! It wasn’t too long ago that they embraced diesel.

    There was a time these cars belonged in their cities. Why all of a sudden the change of hearts and minds?

    Sounds like they all were living a lie, for decades.

    Damage is already done! Can’t undo it.

    The heartache of tiny diesels…

    And in a few years we’ll learn that EVs cause cancer……

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      It could be that the VW diesel exhaust scandal catalyzed latent concerns about the level of particulates in the air of European cities and the effect on health. While they’re at it they also should consider not smoking as much.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “There was a time these cars belonged in their cities. Why all of a sudden the change of hearts and minds?”

      Well, they embraced diesel on the assumption that automakers had fixed the pollution problems associated with them.

      Turns out they were flim-flammed all along, as there was no solution. Seems like a natural reaction to me.

      If there’s a takeaway here, it’s that when corporations see dollar signs, most other considerations go directly out the window. But we knew that all along.

      I feel most sorry for the folks who bought these vehicles based on that lie. They’re the ones who got screwed.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The Europeans have never had as stiff emissions requirements on diesels as we have in the US. So no flim-flamming involved. Also, “emissions” depends on what you are concerned about. Because of LA, we have a hard-on in the US for NOX emissions. In Europe, CO2 has been the big evil. CO2 emissions are directly proportional to fuel economy. The concern about particulates is quite new.

        Diesels made sense in that the fuel economy is better, and the fuel was slightly cheaper in most countries. And the driving experience for a given level of fuel consumption was MUCH better prior to the advancement of turbo-direct injection gas engines, which have somewhat closed the gap.

        I do have to wonder if these diesel bans are REALLY going to happen in countries where 50% or more of the populace owns diesel cars. On the other hand, used cars in those countries in large part go out of the country already, so the value hit is unlikely to be as bad as some here think. Will be fun to watch, I’ve got popcorn!

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Yeah over here in the US, the only concern is the type of diesel exhaust that adversely affects the health of humans, cancer causing and whatnot.

          Even in the pre-emissions early ’90s I’ve been pulled over (by DOT) an cited for excessive “visible” diesel smoke on a late ’80s commercial truck, and I was nowhere near a big city. Yeah I had to fix it and pay a big fine.

          It’s just a bad scene for European midsize to big cities. I can’t believe they didn’t see this coming years or decades ago. How long did the EU think they could continue with their heads buried in the sand ignoring the obvious? What a logistical clusterfuk.

        • 0 avatar
          brandloyalty

          “CO2 emissions are directly proportional to fuel economy.”

          From what I can determine CO2 emissions per unit of volume of fuel burned is higher for diesel than for gas. The difference seems to be the same amount as the higher energy content per unit of volume of diesel. Which accounts for most of the vaunted mileage superiority of diesel. So CO2 emissions per unit of distance driven would be close.

          • 0 avatar
            TR4

            The higher energy content per gallon of diesel fuel accounts for only about 13% better fuel economy.
            The actual diesel fuel economy advantage is much higher, perhaps 30-40%.
            Major contributors are the higher compression ratio and the reduced pumping losses due to no intake throttle.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Some people used to insist smoking were good for you…..

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Yeah, but that was before they knew better.

        But this diesel-fuel thing. It just doesn’t make sense because the Germans and Europeans were the most avid proponents of diesel and considered American gasoline mentality to be backward and stunted thinking.

        EV replacements aren’t going to hack it either because electricity costs much more in Europe.

        I used to think that me paying 17-cents per KWH in NM was pretty rich, until we spent several months with my wife’s folks in Germany.

        That watered my eyes.

      • 0 avatar
        bking12762

        Well then this…..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2fYguIX17Q

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    What just happened? Was Germany annexed by California? The German market for Electric Euro-weenie mobiles is going to go through the roof.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Nothing changed. If the same question were asked of the same court ten years ago, the answer would likely have been the same. The only thing that is different is that no one was asking the question (in Germany) ten years ago.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Our condolences if you’re living east of the Atlantic and wanted to sell your diesel secondhand”

    I’d say that’s true west of the Atlantic, also. Only True Believers want second-hand diesels now since they’ve become radioactive in used car lots.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Point me to some of these radioactive diesels please, because I would LOVE to have a TDI wagon to replace the Mom-Saab. They have gotten MORE expensive where I am, not less.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        If you want some, I can sell you ones from Virginia. The misguided folks that didn’t take the buyout are finding that they have serious durability issues and that VW wants them to go away. Once people have bought a few flapper motors and spent a few months trying to address their catalytic converter warning lights, they wish they weren’t quite so foolish. Three of the owners I’ve spoken with are women with ex-husbands or baby-daddies paying their bills. That’s out of four customers who didn’t take the buyout. They are people who routinely make bad decisions and have avoided the full breadth of the consequences of their mental frailty.

  • avatar
    TR4

    97% of scientists agree that diesel cars are good for the planet. Oh, wait…

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I don’t feel sorry for anyone involved one bit. I’ve been watching for several years from some 10,000 miles away, this whole fiasco brewing, building pressure, with skies getting darker and truly I’m amazed it took this long for it to explode wide open.

  • avatar
    dejal1

    Biodiesel anyone? If only farmers could be subsidized to grow the the plants needed to make biodiesel.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Burning that stuff generally emits more NOx than European (and now the US) ULSD (ultra low sulfur diesel) diesel. Bio diesel make sense only if the motivation behind passenger car diesel itself, lowered CO2 “emissions,” make sense. OTOH if, as even the Euros start recognizing, trading soda bubbles for poisonous gasses isn’t such a great idea, diesel just doesn’t make sense, period.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “Biodiesel anyone?”

      That debate is currently ongoing in DC. And it is not going well.

      It appears the Ethanol camp is conflicted since the current administration wants to cut their Ethanol subsidies and toss those subsidies to the biodiesel lobby so the OTR crowd can get a price break.

      With so much oil being extracted in America, the slice of the pie for Ethanol and bio-diesel is getting smaller.

      And if Brazil is allowed to export its sugar-ethanol to the US, that too, will have an impact on blended fuels in the US. That’s bound to p!ss off the corn-ethanol lobby.

      Hey, these are interesting times we live in, and the current administration is changing the choices we have in the fuel landscape.

      I Love It!

      • 0 avatar
        dejal1

        I was joking. It is not going to happen without a subsidy. Which kind of makes it not viable.

        But that never stopped anybody before.

        From a energy security point of view the subsidies make sense. From an economic point of view they are pretty stupid.

        Brazil does slash and burn and creates a surplus they want to export. Then on the other side we are supposed to feel guilty about the Amazon rain forest. How about backing off on the sugar cane a bit and grow something else? My question is probably ignorant and maybe there is no “something else” replacement.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          I suspected you were joking but your comment was such a wonderful opportunity to post what I wanted to say in my comment, based on the stuff I heard yesterday on Bloomberg and CNBC.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Quite a bit of biodiesel in the US already. Much of it comes from used cooking oil.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Friends of mine recently bought a diesel motorhome for vacation use in Europe. Can’t say I didn’t warn them.

  • avatar

    This is huge. I was last over a year ago, but all of the newer fleet was diesel. Gas cars are rare, sports oriented, not the normal thing. Mom drives a minivan, yes, but with a turbodiesel.

    Gas cars were rare…it was all diesels.

    Germany will sell them “East”, and turn the fleet over again. Good boost to the economy.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      Official statistic for the proportion of diesel cars in Europe is around 50%.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        “Europe” is not one homogenous place. It’s higher in Germany and France and lower in the UK and Scandinavia. And as Speedlaw saw, the newer the car the more likely it is diesel, and Germany has the newest fleet in Europe.

        • 0 avatar
          brandloyalty

          “And as Speedlaw saw, the newer the car the more likely it is diesel, and Germany has the newest fleet in Europe.”

          https://qz.com/1183779/europes-intoxicating-love-affair-with-diesel-is-dying-out/amp/

          “In 2017, diesel sales in the UK plunged by a whopping 17%. In Germany it was 7%. In France, the share of new diesels dropped to under 50% of the market for the first time in 17 years. From making up 45.9% of the car market in Germany in 2016, they now account for 38.8%.”

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    25 years from now, everyone will realized they’ve been similarly flimflammed by the EV industry. “Oh look, here are things we chose to ignore for years! Now we have to embrace those concerns and kill all the EVs and their owners immediately!”

    tl;dr–people are stupid.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      EVs suit the progressive agenda much better, as the polluting toxins aren’t released directly into the air in progressive first world cities. But are instead “disposed of in an environmentally conscious fashion” by hip, trendy startups founded and funded (because doing so is hip and trendy) by the children of said cities’ Great Leaders.

      With the actual physical disposal (founders and funders don’t do that sort of dirty work..) being subcontracted to a Sicilian registered outfit dumping the stuff off the coast of Somalia, then whining about “pirates” and how gommiments should do something about that. Somalia being sufficiently far from New York and San Francisco, for dumping it there to be considered environmentally conscious in ProgressiveSpeak.

    • 0 avatar
      M1EK

      cue one of you jackwagons who doubtlessly has the Hummer vs Hybrid study bookmarked

      EVs are great because they can be powered by anything that generates electricity – and there are plenty of cleaner ways to generate electricity. The battery-mining-or-replacement-or-disposal issue is the same old anti-hybrid con-job spread by people who were in love with, uh, diesel at the time. Toyota showed that to be nothing but FUD, everywhere but here I guess.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        @M1EK
        Ttac has become somewhat of a backwater in that sense. Part of being a redneck is staking out territory that doesn’t belong to them. Such as trying to turn “the truth about cars” into “hangout for ignorant bad-mannered car junkies”. Of course we don’t know how many of them are troll bots, fronts for right wing interests or silly children. They tend to sound the same. Now witness JT’s confirmation.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I’ve got a 1978 book by Jan P. Norbye titled, “Modern Diesel Cars.” On page 123, under the subheading, “Safe, Clean Exhaust Does Smell,” Norbye touched on the nature of diesel exhaust:

      You often here the complaint of a stink from diesel engines. Diesel fuel has an odor that is different from gasoline, but akin to heating oil and kerosene. The exhaust gas from a diesel engine also has an odor, usually described as a stink.
      What people actually smell is the safest, cleanest exhaust from any kind of internal combustion engine in existence, but they still find it disagreeable. Diesel odor is a source of annoyance rather than a health hazard, and most apparent when a large number of vehicles are operated in enclosed spaces. Odors could be minimized by installing an exhaust catalyst to spur after-reaction in the exhaust system. But a catalytic reactor is expensive, and its effectiveness may be reduced to nothing by soot coating the catalyst surfaces.

      There you have it. Just as progressives are telling one another not to worry about forced child labor and battery material mining today, they were telling each other not to believe their eyes, noses, and lungs forty years ago about the harmful nature of diesel exhaust. It’s just a smell! The smell could even be reduced, except all the harmless soot would clog the catalyst in no time! This is why there are no old, smart liberals. If you can’t learn from witnessing history, you’re probably someone’s puppet.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        CA was a front runner in mandating state’s rights on emissions and rules on climate change, which also included car exhaust emissions.

        Then, Trump!

        https://apnews.com/ef9bccde787240d6953719276a1d7cf6/Trump's-plan-to-ease-climate-change-rules-riles-Californians

        For those who are greenweenies, this should rile them too.

  • avatar
    wsn

    They can ban VW or MB all they want. But why ban any other manufactures’ diesel offerings before they are proven to be violating the regulations? That’s not fair and not good for the rule of law.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      This isn’t about “violations”. The air has become so thick with diesel exhaust, it’s basically not breathable, never mind the smog. So the shortest route to cleaning the air is simply banning all diesels, come what come may.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        To be exact, the air noticably smells of diesel, but you can still breath it. Not that it’s good for you. I’m surprised Europeans aren’t as concerned about cigarette smoke.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Germany has had Umweltplakette (environmental badge) on their vehicles for quite a long time already. Basically the cars were rated Red, Yellow, and Green. I don’t know the exact cutoffs but modern diesels could get green, maybe 2000ish diesels often yellow, and older than that red. To my knowledge all gas powered cars got green stickers regardless of age.

    When you’d enter many German cities, they would post a sign for Umweltzone (environment zone) and then show on this sign the colors that were allowed or not.

    I would expect them to continue using this system. Last I was there I think most had banned red. So I would expect them to now ban yellow and red. And if Super hardcore, eventually the green sticker diesels as well.

    Just give gas cars pink or something and you’re all set once green yellow and red are banned. The color stickers are big and easy to see on the lower right side of the windshield.

    I don’t know German legal system but it does seem hard from an American point of view to imagine that you can buy a completely legal to sell vehicle in Germany, passing all emissions standards at the time of purchase, and eventually they can just ban you from driving it.

    But that’s Europe, right?

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      The anti-diesel restrictions are of two types. One is a prohibition from the cores of cities. European cities have lots of attractive alternatives to driving downtown. The other is a ban on sales of new diesel cars. Contrary to the sloppy thinking of some, there is no approaching ban on driving existing diesel cars.

      That’s Europe, after all.

  • avatar
    Aron9000

    And here where I live they are considering abandoning yearly emissions tests. They say its a “poor tax”, which I tend to agree with, since if your check engine light is on, its an automatic fail. They just scan the computer and don’t actually check with the sniffer what is coming out of the tailpipe. Its a huge burden to the poor to fix your car with a check engine light when it runs fine and doesn’t pollute one iota more than when it left the factory.

  • avatar
    walleyeman57

    A government big enough to give you everything- is plenty big to take it away.

    Not sure if people really wanted the oil burners to begin with-if there were no financial incentives. I owned a couple Jetta diesels a long time ago and got good service. I always thought a 335D would be a hoot with 400+ ft lbs torque.

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    The Volkswagen diesel scandal has strengthened the position of the Green Party and the Deutsche Umwelthilfe, the latter being a nobody that is sponsored by Toyota among others. Toyota has no interest in diesel technology and many here view this sponsorship as a means of eradicating their European competition and selling their hybrids, hydrogen and upcoming electric cars.

    And don‘t be fooled. These same people who pressed for a diesel ban are also passionate about banning gasoline-powered cars. Before you praise their decision, remember that these people would enjoy seeing your oversized, overpowered and fuel inefficient (polluting) pickup or SUV banned. In fact owners of older gasoline cars which have not reached a historic status are their next target. My 1995 Renault Twingo could be their next target. If that happens then I have no car to use for urban duty.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It very well could be a conspiracy co-sponsored by Toyota, but maybe this all could be pushed by folks looking to not get cancer, emphysema, blood disease, etc or just not gag, eyes watering from diesel exhaust everyday or when they’re forced to go to the city and can think of better ways to get poisoned to death.

      But your theory is good too!

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Climate believers are useful idiots to overreaching governments who use them push their agendas. The more time that passes the sillier Al Gore’s infomercial becomes, yet climate believers cite it as “settled science”. The MSM is complicit in the con, but it’s the laziness of the citizenry that allows it. The only thing a successful scam requires is willing victims. People are hesitant to stand up to a group of parrots who spew liberal talking points, why, I’ll never know. It takes only facts to disarm them. I can turn on the news tonight and I’ll be informed that a piece of the ice shelf the size of Connecticut (it’s always Connecticut with these people) has calved. This has occurred thousands of times that I can remember since the early ‘70s. The Amazon rainforest loses a million acres a day, this has been ongoing, again, since the ‘70s. It never ends.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      You and the anti-vaxxers should really be thanking Al Gore for providing you an internet platform, because without it you’d have to work a lot harder to get your dim, gentle light out from under the bushel.

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