Fleet replacement and measures by the German vehicle makers are effective – Lower nitrogen oxide levels measured in Stuttgart, Munich and Berlin – Particulates no longer an issue
The air quality in German towns and cities is evidently undergoing constant improvement. Even at Stuttgart’s “Am Neckartor” the limit value for particulate matter (PM10: 50 µg/m3) was exceeded on only 45 days in 2017. In 2016 the number of days with exceedances was 63, i.e. 40 percent higher. No exceedances of the daily mean value were measured during the first two weeks of January 2018, whereas there had been a total of 17 days with exceedances in the same month last year. The EU’s PM10 limit value – in force since 2005 – of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air may be exceeded on a maximum of 35 days per year – and has still not been reached at Neckartor, although the trend is obvious, as emphasized in December 2017 by Stuttgart’s mayor, Fritz Kuhn: “We are moving towards the limit value.” In addition, in 2005 the number of days with exceedances was 187, equal to a good six months.
The annual limit value for nitrogen dioxide is 40 µg NO2/m3. On this parameter, too, Stuttgart (at Neckartor) has greatly improved as compared with 2016/2017 – with a reduction of 9 µg to
73 µg NO2/m3. Progress is even more marked for the hourly levels (the hourly limit value of
200 µg NO2/m3 may be exceeded no more than 18 times per year). In 2017, measurements produced excellent results and complied with the limit value for the first time, there being only three hours with exceedances.
Developments in Munich are just as positive. Here, too, particulate matter (PM10) is no longer the problem, and in 2017 levels complied with the limit values even on the especially critical “Landshuter Allee.” Modest progress has been made on nitrogen dioxide emissions since 2016, although the annual mean value came to 78 µg NO2/m3 which was still over the limit value. On the other hand, the requirements for the hourly mean were satisfied.
The air in Berlin – which is generally much better than that in Stuttgart or Munich – is also making progress. According to the Berlin’s Senate Department of Health, Environment and Consumer Protection, the annual mean for particulate matter did not exceed the limit value at any time during the last ten years even at the measuring point with the highest value. Some Berlin measuring stations recorded nitrogen oxide values that are above the annual limit value but still a long way below those at hotspots in Stuttgart and Munich.
These examples show that the air quality in cities is gradually improving. Obviously vehicle replacement and the German OEMs’ wide-ranging package of measures agreed at last year’s diesel summit are having good effects. The measures include software updates for over 5 million vehicles from German makers, individual trade-in bonuses for older diesel vehicles, and participation in the German Government’s “Sustainable mobility for the city” fund.
For the manufacturers these measures entail investments of billions of euros, especially given the fact that some activities go beyond Germany. In addition to the commitment by the OEMs, extensive packages of measures are necessary to control air pollution. A needs-based infrastructure policy is also required, both in and outside of towns and metropolitan areas, and rapid replacement of fleets of older taxis and buses. Furthermore, the potentials of digitization in towns and cities must be exploited to the full and traffic flow must be improved. The German automotive industry’s “Platform for Urban Mobility” initiative also pursues these objectives in cooperation with towns and cities.
Progress over the long term is even more marked. According to the German Environment Agency, nitrogen dioxide emissions from road traffic in Germany have come down by 70 percent since 1990 despite the rising volume of traffic.