up in smoke

Why a German diesel ban is just a pipe dream

diesel ban, diesel bans,
Ban me if you can. Source: picture alliance / dpa Themendie

A much-feared diesel ban might never become a reality thanks to German bureaucracy. Even a simple rule that forbids more than three signs on a single post, for example, could already stop the blockade from being implemented.

At a hearing on Thursday, the Federal Administrative court in Leipzig is expected to rule on whether cities should impose driving bans on older diesel cars to help reduce air pollution. The vehicles emit toxic gases, notably nitrogen oxide, which can cause asthma and leads to around 75,000 premature deaths in Europe.

Faced with lawsuits by environmental group Umwelthilfe, German cities are forced to make the air cleaner and comply with European regulations. A ban on diesel cars sold before 2015 could be an effective way to lower nitrogen oxide levels, but it would also hit drivers and carmakers. A total of 2.8 million German diesel drivers may be affected, according to research based on data from the Federal Motor Transport Authority.

The likes of VW, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Peugeot depend heavily on the sale of diesel cars. The possibility of a ban already pushed down diesel turnover figures last year after VW’s emissions scandal had hurt its reputation in 2016. In theory, billions of euros in sales and book value of diesel cars are at risk. The German ruling might also set a precedent for other European cities, which are grappling with the same problems.

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