At least some 1.4 million drivers of polluting diesel cars threatened by the ban on driving in several cities in Germany began to breathe easier on Tuesday. The German government has approved a package of measures that includes premiums to change cars only in the most polluted cities in the country. After a meeting that lasted more than six hours and ended at dawn on Tuesday, the government has managed to agree on a package of measures to avoid prohibiting the circulation of the most polluting diesel vehicles or that will provide an alternative to their owners if that is not possible.
The measures are aimed at diesel cars that comply with Euro 4 and Euro 5, which came into force in 2005 and 2009, respectively, but could not circulate in the restricted areas of 14 large cities with the limits of polluting emissions that these cities establish or will establish. The new regulation approved by the German Government includes a new limit value for emissions of Euro 4 and Euro 5 cars, which may circulate in areas with traffic bans if they emit less than 270 milligrams of nitrogen dioxide per kilometer. So far, the limit for Euro 5 vehicles is 180 milligrams. If the car in question does not fall below this value, the owners of the vehicle must receive two alternative offers:
Discounts for another car. For those who do not meet this condition, the first offer includes discounts for the acquisition of a new vehicle. German manufacturers have committed to offer owners of diesel vehicles Euro 4 and Euro 5 an exchange program “with attractive conversion bonuses or discounts”, which can vary between 6,000 and 10,000 euros. Volkswagen has announced that it will give grants of up to 5,000 euros for owners of diesel vehicles to change their cars. Unlike most previous discount campaigns, these bonuses will now also apply to used vehicles.
Adjustment systems. As an alternative, an intervention in the mechanical or electronic components of the vehicle (hardware) will also be offered so that it does not contaminate over the established limit. According to the federal government “it is expected that the car manufacturer in question will assume the costs, including installation costs”. The manufacturers OPEL and BMW have already indicated that they refuse to update these components.
According to the Minister of Environment, Svenja Schulze, only those users residing within these 14 cities or in their immediate environment will be eligible for a technical readjustment of their vehicle or bonuses. “The costs should not fall on the drivers or be financed with public money,” said the minister during a press conference in which also participated Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer, who has been satisfied with the agreement, but has indicated that there were still differences with the industry regarding the updating of the components.
The BMW Group announced on Tuesday that all owners of a BMW and Mini Euro 4 or Euro 5 diesel vehicle will be eligible for a 6,000 euro exchange premium if they buy or rent a new vehicle. “With the environmental premium of the BMW Group we are creating additional incentives to further improve air quality in the urban regions defined by the German government as being particularly contaminated with nitrogen oxide, while at the same time guaranteeing the mobility of our customers”, said Harald Krüger, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG.
In a first reaction to the measures agreed by the Government, the Deutsche Umwelthilfe organization (DUH) – which played a decisive role in the conduct of the prohibition trials – criticized the concept as a “double zero solution” and accused the government of submitting to the whims of the automotive industry. “The exchange premium does not include clean new vehicles and the manufacturers have not committed themselves to bear the costs of hardware modernization,” said Jürgen Resch, president of DUH.
Last year 65 German cities exceeded the limit value of 40 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic meter of air, compared to 90 in 2016. The 14 cities that are “particularly polluted” Munich, Stuttgart, Cologne, Reutlingen, Düren, Hamburg, Limburg, Düsseldorf, Kiel, Heilbronn, Backnang, Darmstadt, Bochum and Ludwigsburg. A working document of the German Government opens the door for Frankfurt or Berlin to join the list.