German court could open way to bans on diesel cars

Greenpeace activists protested against diesel ahead of a landmark court judgment
Greenpeace activists protested against diesel ahead of a landmark court judgment

One of Germany's top courts will decide Thursday whether some diesel vehicles can be banned from parts of cities like Stuttgart and Duesseldorf to reduce air pollution, a possible landmark judgement for the "car nation".

Eyes have turned to the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig after years of failure by federal, state and local governments to slash harmful emissions.

Fine particle pollution and nitrogen oxides (NOx) contribute to as many as 400,000 premature deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular disease per year in the European Union.

That has brought Germany and other air quality sinners like France or Italy into the European Commission's sights for possible legal action.

Some 70 cities in Europe's most populous nation suffered from average annual nitrogen dioxide levels above EU thresholds last year, with Munich, Stuttgart and Cologne the worst offenders.

"The air is bad here, you cough and you get a scratchy throat, especially in winter," clean air campaigner Peter Erben told AFP standing beside the exhaust-blackened facades of Stuttgart's busy Neckartor main road.

"We want immediate action, and there is no more immediate action than reducing traffic."

After years of warnings, environmental campaign group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) took dozens of municipalities to court to force them into tougher action.

Thursday's case is an appeal by Baden-Wuerttemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia states after lower-level judges ruled they could impose bans on some diesels in their respective capitals Stuttgart and Duesseldorf.

An in-principle decision could be announced during the day after deliberations begin at 1000 GMT.

"It's a question of jurisdiction: can or must a state act, or is it up to the federal government to do it?" Baden-Wuerttemberg transport minister Winfried Hermann told AFP.

'Car chancellor'

In Stuttgart, local drivers and business leaders are against even limited driving bans, joined by the city branch of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).

In their thinking, "we can't limit people's freedom, we can't dispossess diesel owners," explained Hermann—himself a member of the ecologist Greens.

Some say it's people's health versus the right to drive a car
Some say it's people's health versus the right to drive a car

A ruling would affect all vehicles sold before so-called "Euro 6" standards arrived in September 2015.

To fend off bans and protect the keystone auto industry with its 800,000 jobs, Berlin has offered a cascade of initiatives, including a billion-euro ($1.2 billion) fund for cities to upgrade public transport and buy electric vehicles.

Ministers even suggested to the European Commission they could offer free public transport to cut down on urban car use, although without a detailed plan or budget.

Nevertheless, Merkel—sometimes known as the "car chancellor" for her close ties to the industry—and her government have been "too timid" in dealing with bosses, Association of German Cities chief Helmut Dedy told magazine Der Spiegel.

Experts and environmentalist groups agree government and industry efforts fall far short.

Berlin's proposals "are just a drop in the ocean" said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, of the CAR automobile research centre.

While he has called for extensive modifications to the diesel engine, a longstanding symbol of German engineering prowess, the carmakers argue they would be too costly and complex.

Instead, manufacturers Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW have offered software upgrades to millions of vehicles to reduce polluting emissions or trade-ins for newer, cleaner models.

Since Volkswagen confessed in 2015 to a global scheme to cheat regulatory NOx tests on millions of , the fuel's share of the new car market has plunged, from 48 percent to around 39 percent last year.

Right to drive?

Minister Germann expects the judges in Leipzig to confirm that "people's health is more important than the right to drive a car".

Upholding the court decisions in Stuttgart and Duesseldorf would open the way to local authorities imposing a patchwork of bans.

Stuttgart and Baden-Wuerttemberg state have called instead for a standardised, nationwide "blue badge" that would identify the least polluting cars, but so far the federal government has demurred.

A ruling from the highest administrative court would also send an important signal to other tribunals and put pressure on Berlin.

"I would be very surprised if we escape diesel bans" on Thursday, cities' association chief Dedy said.


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Germany eyes free transport to banish air pollution

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Feb 20, 2018
If Germany wants to get rid of diesel cars, they must ease the tax on gasoline, and ease the regulations on CO2 output per km on cars to allow less polluting vehicles back on the market.

However, the same regulators have ignored industry-wide cheating on the emissions tests because adhering to the regulations puts their own industries at a competetive disadvantage, increases the cost of transportation, and angers their voters.

This political cheating, combined with the regulatory push for unattainable fuel economy and populist lip-service CO2 targets, is what's caused the situation, because the regulations have forced half the driving population to switch to the more economical but poorly regulated diesel engines against the rising cost of transportation. The penalties put in place on vehicles not meeting the arbitrary CO2/km targets mean that people have to choose between ever smaller, lower performance gasoline vehicles, or polluting diesels.

Feb 20, 2018
The additional problem is that the cleaner alternative vehicles such as fuel cell cars will become practically outlawed by the same regulatory thumbscrew on CO2 emissions, so their development is in limbo and nobody wants to risk investing in it. Hence the regulations are working against their own purpose.

The only politically possible alternative of the electric car is also not panning out as expected. Fast recharging points number in 1 per million people, recharging times are 10x longer for the same range, driving ranges are 1/4, the lifespan of the main components are 1/2 and the prices of the vehicles 2x to comparable regular vehicles. In short, only rich posers are able to afford or use them - not the general public - so the EV is not a solution to the current woes.

So the situation is that the politicians are beating the public for not doing what is currently impossible to do, which is counterproductive and ridiculous.

Feb 20, 2018
Minister Germann expects the judges in Leipzig to confirm that "people's health is more important than the right to drive a car".


Yet so many peoples' health, through their income, is dependent upon their freedom to drive a car. Take away the car, you introduce poverty, and ill health.

Feb 20, 2018
If Germany wants to get rid of diesel cars, they must ease the tax on gasoline

Quite the opposite. Diesel enjoys a tax break in germany compared to other gasoline (which comes out to about 20 cent per liter). If diesel were to be taxed at the same level asother fuel then the problem would go away of its own accord.

fuel cell cars will become practically outlawed by the same regulatory thumbscrew on CO2 emissions

Erm...whut? Now THAT is a piece of 'logic' you'll have to explain.

Fast recharging points number in 1 per million people

..why post facts when you can make stuff up, right? Tesla *alone* has close to 500 supercharger points in germany (and no, we do not have a population of 500 million)

Why do I even bother taking you off ignore once in a while? It's always just lies, lies and more lies.

What do you get paid per lie? You must be getting quite rich off your lack of ethics.

Feb 20, 2018
The auso comanies were still noted as saying people could trade in for newer, cleaner diesel vehices, but the fact is diesel is a naturally dirty fuel. Clean diesel is like clean coal-a pipe dream. What companies ought to be exploring is converting water to hydrogen and oxygen in a clean and efficient manner that would enable hydrogen to be used as a dependable fuel for vehicles and heating.

Mar 05, 2018
Quite the opposite. Diesel enjoys a tax break in germany compared to other gasoline (which comes out to about 20 cent per liter). If diesel were to be taxed at the same level asother fuel then the problem would go away of its own accord.


Not really, as diesel vehicles still enjoy better fuel economy and lower CO2/km emissions, which result in lower taxes otherwise.

Erm...whut? Now THAT is a piece of 'logic' you'll have to explain.


A fuel cell car running on methane, butane, butanol etc. will still emit CO2. A fuel cell car running on hydrogen is not practical.

..why post facts when you can make stuff up, right? Tesla *alone* has close to 500 supercharger points in germany (and no, we do not have a population of 500 million)


Yes. In Germany, but what about elsewhere? Tesla counts the number of outlets, not the number of locations, which there are little over 1000 in all of Europe. Apples to oranges.

Mar 05, 2018
Correction, there's 1,045 Tesla Supercharger stations globally, with 7,496 chargers for an average of 7.17 chargers per station. Not only in Germany, but in the whole world.

That would put the actual number of locations in Germany at 71 stations. For 80 million people, that makes approximately one per million - exactly as I stated.

https://en.wikipe...rcharger
Tesla began building the network in 2012. As of December 2017, there were 1,045 stations globally, with 7,496 chargers.


Although there's further trouble in calculating the number of locations because Tesla also counts "destination charging" which is just regular 240 V outlets at hotels and supermarkets.

What do you get paid per lie? You must be getting quite rich off your lack of ethics.


You resort to special pleading to explain away inconvenient facts, and then call other people liars. Who's being unethical there?

Mar 05, 2018
Or, another number from the wiki article:

As of November 2017, Tesla operates 7,320 superchargers in 1,063 stations worldwide;[1] these included 443 stations in the U.S., 31 in Canada, 6 in Mexico, 353 in Europe, and 230 in the Asia/Pacific region.


353 stations in Europe - so how could there be 500 in Germany alone?

Meanwhile:
https://www.stati...germany/

There's an estimated number of 14,100 petrol stations in Germany, or one for every 5,800 people.

So you might argue that Tesla doesn't need so many because 90% of charging happens at home - but that's a moot point because when you're away from home and need a quick top-up, there's one petrol station in every village, but the nearest Supercharger may be 100 km away.

Mar 05, 2018
Antialias - your confusion might come from this article:

https://www.digit...ictures/

Tesla has officially installed its 500th Supercharger station in Moers, Germany.


That was when Tesla had 500 stations in total, not just in Germany.

So don't play fast and loose with the facts and complain that other people are lying. Double check yourself first!

Mar 05, 2018
https://www.teslarati.com/map/

Count yourself. I counted 62 supercharger locations in Germany.

That's a far cry from the ten thousand places where you can quickly "charge" up your gasoline or diesel car.

Anyways:

If diesel were to be taxed at the same level asother fuel then the problem would go away of its own accord.


As I already pointed out, if diesel were taxed the same per liter, it would still be cheaper to own a diesel car. Adding extra taxes on diesels to make them less affordable than gasoline cars would be a perverse situation where the government is punishing people for using less energy and emitting less CO2.

And I'm pointing to a more fundamental problem: taxing the fuels and/or cars isn't achieving the intended purpose of reducing fuel consumption or pollution. It's just taxing in order to tax, because the government wants money. This being the case, if the people should actually switch to electric cars the government would lose its cash cow


Mar 05, 2018
And:
fuel cell cars will become practically outlawed by the same regulatory thumbscrew on CO2 emissions

Erm...whut? Now THAT is a piece of 'logic' you'll have to explain.


The regulatory thumbscrew I'm talking about is the CO2/km limit which is set out to approach zero, or close enough to not allow any car that emits CO2 on the road. The regulation is concerned with the tailpipe emissions, not with where the carbon is actually coming from.

So, a fuel cell car that fills up with biomethane is out of the question, because it will run just the same on fossil fuels. Therefore, things like synthetic fuels made out of sustainable renewable resources are being outlawed by the fact that the government is effectively trying to get rid of all sorts of combustion engines. (though not really; see the tax dilemma)

A total reform of the emissions laws would be needed.

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