Germany Acts To Cut Diesel Emissions And Clean Up Testing

Germany moving to reduce pollution from diesel vehicles and to make emissions testing more realistic as regulatory pressure mounts.

The transport ministry spoke Monday with automakers on updating engine management software to reduce emissions from up to 12 million diesel vehicles in Germany. On Tuesday, the transport and environment ministries launched a “national diesel forum” to coordinate reductions between automakers and regional governments.

Another action was taken by the transport ministry – setting up a new institute to improve vehicle testing, to ensure “more transparency and reliability.” This coalition will include consumer organizations, environmental groups, local governments, auto industry, and government ministries.

As the country’s Sept. 24 election approaches, two years after the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal broke in the U.S., the national government has been under greater pressure to reduce emissions. Cities around the country are taking actions to ban diesel vehicles, and want to see the national government adopt strict policies.

The first meeting of the national diesel forum has been set for Aug. 2.

“We want emissions to fall across Germany,” said transport minister Alexander Dobrindt.

Dobrindt has been criticized for being too close to Germany’s powerful auto industry, and for not doing enough to reduce vehicle emissions.

It will cost automakers to fix the problem, which impacts Volkswagen the most after paying down settlements around the world. Government sources said it could cost automakers 1.5 billion to 2.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion to $2.8 billion). However, HSBC analysts said that hardware might be needed that could cost up to 10 billion euros ($11.3 billion).

The new institute for testing vehicle emissions will be testing about 70 car models per year using the range of driving conditions seen in Germany. That will be more reliable and accurate than previous laboratory tests, and results would be made public to help consumers make better comparisons for purchase decisions.

The KBA motor vehicle authority, which reports to the transport ministry and currently oversees vehicle testing, will be removed from testing but will remain responsible for licensing new models.

The transport ministry had conducted carbon dioxide emissions of 29 models after the VW scandal broke. On Tuesday, the ministry reported that 17 models had passed the test, and that 10 models still needed to be tested in the near future. Some verions of an Opel Zafira and a Smart ForTwo are emitting more than they should and are being discontinued.

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German automakers had invested heavily in diesel powertrains in the past decade. VW’s turbocharged direct inject (TDI) had been a big part of the company’s sales in Germany and the U.S. With cities like Stuttgart and Munich considering banning some diesel vehicles, VW’s diesel car sales have taken a plunge.

Environment minister Barbara Hendricks said the diesel forum presents an opportunity for automakers to win back lost trust and improve air quality.

The European Union had previously endorsed diesel cars with their technology improvements as a way of fighting climate change, with fewer emissions coming from diesel cars than gasoline-powered cars. Environmental groups, and eventually regulators, had cast doubts over what diesel vehicles have been emitting before the VW emissions reporting scandal broke.

Reuters


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