Wednesday

27th Oct 2021

EU cautious with German diesel plan

  • "We will be looking into whether the proposed software updates will be sufficient to reduce NOx emissions below the existing limits," the European Commission said. (Photo: EULEX, Enisa Kasemi)

The European Commission has taken a wait-and-see approach after the German car industry pledged to make diesel cars less polluting.

On Wednesday, at a meeting with politicians in Berlin, BMW, Daimler, Opel and Volkswagen agreed to recall 5.3 million cars to update their software, in order to reduce the emissions of toxic nitrogen oxides (NOx).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The number of cars includes some 2.5 million vehicles already called back by Volkswagen after it was reveal that the company had equipped its diesel cars with defeat devices to cheat emissions tests.

The EU executive on Thursday welcomed an effort to "finally restore consumer trust and reduce risk to public health" in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal.

But it added that the agreement was only "a very initial step".

"We will be looking into whether the proposed software updates will be sufficient to reduce NOx emissions below the existing limits," commission spokeswoman Vanessa Mock told journalists.

She insisted that the German type approval authority (KBA), which will validate the fixes, should ensure that the emissions reduction is "measured and proven through more accurate real driving emissions testing, not just in the laboratory."

Real driving emissions testing (RDE) will be mandatory for new cars from 1 September, as a means to avoid what happened with Dieselgate - tampered laboratory tests that allow cars to go on the road with emissions levels exceeding regulatory limits.

In a letter sent to EU governments last month, EU industry commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said that "non-compliant cars" would have to be removed from the market and circulation "as soon as possible".

Commission officials noted on Thursday that since the German carmakers' initiative is voluntary, they could go further and commit themselves to fixing the existing cars so that they respect the emissions limits on the road and not just in laboratories.

The carmakers also pledged to reduce average NOx emissions by 25-30 percent. But the technical details will be designed by a working group, which will be set up by the German authorities.

Commission officials noted that it is difficult at the moment to assess to what extent the 25-30-percent target is feasible.

"We first need to better understand the details of the proposals," an official said.

Referring to car parts, such as the motor or the exhaust pipe, the official added that "hardware fixes might be needed in certain cases" and the commission would "strongly encourage German authorities to consider adding hardware measures."

"Genuinely clean diesel, producing as little air pollution as a modern gasoline engine, is technically possible for new cars but not cost-effective to retrofit into existing vehicles," Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based NGO, said in a statement.

The NGO insisted that an "important next step" would be a new standard for cars to end new diesel vehicles’ "license to pollute".

Ministers water down post-Dieselgate reform

The EU commission wanted the power to hand out fines to cheating automakers, but the council limited the instances in which the commission can do so.

Diesel cars still dirty, despite huge EU loans

The European Investment Bank lent billions to carmakers, in part to clean up diesel cars. But diesel cars are still dirty, prompting questions if the money was well spent.

Interview

Dieselgate disappointed car-loving commissioner

Industry commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska often finds herself on opposite sides to the car industry, referring to diesel engines as the "technology of the past".

German court upholds diesel car ban in cities

The ruling is bad news for the future of diesel engines in passenger cars. The EU has, however, taken a backseat on coordinating the EU's 200+ low-emission zones.

Schulz mauls Merkel as German vote nears

Merkel has “lost touch” with ordinary people, does not know how to handle Dieselgate, and is too soft on Turkey, her main election rival has said.

News in Brief

  1. US to add last three EU states to visa-waiver list
  2. German ministry gives thumbs up to Russian pipeline
  3. EU regulator foresees endless battles with Facebook
  4. UK fears three migrants drowned in Channel
  5. Israel joins EU science scheme, despite Palestine clause
  6. Upcoming flu season 'could be severe', EU agency warns
  7. Ukraine wins Dutch case on Crimea gold
  8. Most Poles want Warsaw to back down in EU dispute

EU faces long wait for full vaccine supplies

The EU is still several months away from having enough vaccines to inoculate its 450 million people, with Pfizer and BioNTech, its principle suppliers, aiming for September for delivery targets.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Environment ministers continue dogfight on energy price hike
  2. Most lawmakers unhappy with lead MEP's asylum bill
  3. More transparency on EU media owners planned for 2022
  4. Europe's deadly border policies
  5. 'Brussels So White' needs action, not magical thinking
  6. How to break the political deadlock on migration
  7. Hedegaard on the hazards of stalling climate action
  8. Belarus exiles in EU fear regime-linked murderers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us