VDA: Brussels’ criticism of diesels is out of place

Berlin, 10 July 2015

Diesels essential for climate protection – nitrogen oxide emissions greatly reduced in Germany – more progress on RDE

The European Commission is accusing the German Government of not complying with the air quality limit values for NO2 specified by the European Air Quality Directive in 29 areas within Germany. The main causes, according to Brussels, are the rising proportion of diesel cars on the roads over recent years and supposedly high nitrogen oxide emissions in real-world road traffic. The measures Germany has taken to achieve the limit values are criticized as insufficient. According to information from the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), annual averages for nitrogen oxide in 2014 were however kept within the limits at 75 percent of the 498 measuring points, the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) stressed.

The fact is that Germany reduced nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 56 percent from 1990 to 2013, according to the UBA. In the case of road traffic, the fall was actually more than 70 percent – despite rising mileages. The nitrogen oxide emissions from newly registered diesel passenger cars in the measuring procedure prescribed by the EU have already been brought down by 84 percent since 2000. The effect is measurable: the air quality has continually improved and was at its best since measurements began. This is also recognized by the European Commission.

The exceedances cited by the European Commission in the period from 2010 to 2013 relate to the extremely strict NO2 limit values of the European Air Quality Directive 2008/50/EC. According to studies by Bosch, diesel passenger cars cause around 10 percent of the nitrogen oxide emissions in Germany. Other non-road-traffic emitters include energy production (27 percent) and households (11 percent).

This clearly shows that in criticizing diesel passenger cars the European Commission has chosen the wrong target. The three measures suggested – prohibiting diesel vehicles from entering urban areas, higher taxes on diesels, and the introduction of a stricter measuring procedure that not only examines a car’s pollutant emissions on the roller bench, but records them in real-world road traffic (Real Driving Emissions, RDE) – are not suitable means for improving the situation. Old diesel cars are already banned from entering the low emission zones in all cities, higher taxes on diesels put burdens on motorists and are detrimental to CO2 reduction, and RDE has already been actively supported by the European automotive industry with its technical experts for the last four years. Yet European bureaucracy has been unable to put forward an appropriate, practicable and usable proposal. In any case an initial draft from October 2014 did not receive support from the majority of EU Member States. The automotive industry is continuing to work closely with the authorities to get RDE passed within the current year.

Modern Euro 6 diesels are clean and efficient. That is why they are so popular with motorists. Just as modern diesels no longer make an important contribution to particulate matter, this will also be the case with oxides of nitrogen, the VDA emphasized. Technical progress in this area is well advanced.

Diesels already make a huge contribution to climate protection. Without them the impact of traffic on the climate – in terms of CO2 emissions from newly registered passenger cars – would be 10 percent, or 13 grams, higher. Driving a diesel actively protects the climate and the environment – and saves the motorist money.

Now the first thing needed to ensure clean air at the last 25 percent of German measuring sites is to have a steady traffic flow (coordinated traffic lights). The nitrogen oxide emissions from today’s vehicles are highest in congestion and stop-and-go traffic. One major point of leverage for improving the air quality is general fleet renewal in Germany. Exchanging older cars for modern Euro 6 vehicles brings the most benefit for the environment.

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