German court to rule on city bans for heavily polluting diesel cars

German court to rule on city bans for heavily polluting diesel cars

The threat of bans has prompted a big fall in sales of diesel cars in Germany, down to just a third of new vehicle sales in January from nearly half before the VW scandal.

Thursday, February 22, the Federal administrative court of Germany will decide, had or not the right of German cities to independently ban the use of cars with diesel engines.

Diesel emissions, which contain particulate matter and nitrogen oxide (NOx) known to cause respiratory disease, have come under closer scrutiny in the wake of Volkswagen's 2015 admission that it cheated diesel exhaust tests.

Local courts ordered cities to ban non-conforming diesel vehicle but this was contested and now the highest federal court in Leipzig will rule on whether they're legal or not.

The environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) earlier this year sued nine German cities because it wants to allow municipalities to enforce clean air regulations by banning diesel cars from city centres. After a few dozen German cities adopted a corresponding decision.

Merkel's government, which has come under fire for its close ties to the auto industry, has lobbied against bans, fearing they could anger millions of drivers and disrupt traffic in cities, with public transport not in a position to take up the slack. By 2025 diesel passenger cars are expected to make up only 15-32% of new sales, with states expected to follow the lead of Britain and France banning new diesel cars completely by 2040. Among German manufacturers, Daimler and BMW have the biggest proportion of diesel cars in their fleet, well ahead of VW.

Carmakers have sought to avoid an outright ban, offering to modify engine management software on 5.3 million cars but environment groups say this is insufficient and want hardware changes to cars.

A small group of protesters from Greenpeace gathered outside the Leipzig court, with images of lungs painted on their chests and holding up signs reading "Clean Air Now".

"The outcome could be the allocation of several billion euros to an old fleet and a legacy technology, through retrofits, all at a time when the industry needs to utilize resources to stay relevant", Evercore analysts wrote.

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