A GERMAN court has ruled local governments have the power to ban older diesel cars from two major cities in a move that could yet sweep right across the western European nation.
If it does, as many as 12 million diesel car owners could find themselves barred from entering congested city centres, and a huge fall in the value of the biggest investment they are likely to ever make outside of home ownership.
Yesterday’s decision comes in the wake of courtroom pressure from environmental groups, which sued local governments in Stuttgart – the home of Mercedes-Benz – and Dusseldorf in an effort to force them to adhere to strict European Union standards for air quality.
The ruling, which is under appeal, will effectively stop anyone driving a diesel car built before 2015 – the year that tougher Euro 6 emissions standards for vehicle emissions came into force – will have to make expensive modifications to their vehicle to gain approval to enter city centres.
Local governments have said the diesel ban could take up to six months to enact.
Diesel vehicle sales in Germany fell seven percent in 2017, largely in response to a consumer backlash against the technology in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal, where Volkswagen Group was caught cheating on emissions tests. VW has since attempted to reinvent itself as a pioneer of electric vehicles to distance itself from the wrongdoing.
Diesel also appears to be on the nose in Australia, where private sales of oil-burning passenger cars fell 20 percent last year, while for SUVs it was a smaller 8.3 percent. However, when it comes to larger trade utes where the fuel economy of diesel makes sense, sales of light commercial vehicles grew 6.5 percent.
While diesel engines emit less carbon dioxide than petrol engines, their exhaust fumes are a more toxic mix of chemicals that can cause breathing problems, and even cancer, due to their higher levels of nitrogen oxides and fine particles.