Wednesday

15th Jul 2020

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

Support quality EU news

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.

Investigation

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. EU Commission loses case against Apple tax ruling
  2. EU drops environmental rules to speed Covid-19 vaccine
  3. MEPs close gap between lab and real car-emission tests
  4. Serbia and Montenegro off EU's safe travel list
  5. Saudi millions put Spanish royal family in spotlight
  6. EU says no state aid to tax-haven linked firms
  7. First elections in North Macedonia since name change
  8. Protests in Belarus after Lukashenko challengers barred

Regions urge EU to act on 'green hydrogen'

The EU's regions urged the unlocking of the potential of hydrogen produced from renewable sources, so-called 'green hydrogen', to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

France shuts oldest reactor amid Macron climate pledges

France's oldest nuclear power plant finally closed on Tuesday, one day after president Emmanuel Macron pledged to speed up the country's transition to a greener economy responding to the proposals from the French citizens' convention on climate.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Orban raises summit stakes with 'blackmail' conditions
  2. Antwerp's Uigher refugee from China: where's my family?
  3. UK bans Huawei from 5G network in major U-turn
  4. Four tweets broke Facebook - good news for EU regulators
  5. Good news on the European Citizens' Initiative
  6. EU prepares response to China over Hong Kong
  7. EU to keep corporate sponsorship of presidencies
  8. 'Passengers' became 'lenders' to airlines hit by pandemic

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us