Government report says diesel retrofits are feasible

Government report says diesel retrofits are feasible

In the fight against polluted air in german cities, a report provides arguments for technical retrofits of older diesel vehicles.

Modifications to the engines of euro 5 vehicles are "possible by contractual agreement," writes professor georg wachtmeister of the technical university of munich in a study commissioned by the federal ministry of transport.

Costs of around 3,000 euros per car are mentioned. For months, there has been a heated debate in the government about whether carmakers should technically retrofit older diesel vehicles in order to avoid driving bans in cities. The auto industry has so far rejected this outright.

The "best and safest solution" would be for carmakers to make their own retrofits, says the study, previously reported by "spiegel" newspaper. A technology could be installed that reduces the emission of nitrogen oxides (nox) with a urea solution.

Only the manufacturers had the chance to make retrofits "without a significant worsening of the fuel consumption. It is "highly probable" that there is room to build the engines, as vehicles with this design are available for the u.S. Market. Alternatively, it would also be possible to install technology from suppliers.

The head of german environmental aid, jurgen resch, said: "the wachtmeister report is a debacle for the diesel companies, since their entire chain of arguments is now collapsing like a house of cards."

The greens accused federal transport minister andreas scheuer (CSU) of keeping the report drawn up at the beginning of january secret. This is "another low point in the chumminess between transport ministers and car bosses," said parliamentary group leader anton hofreiter. He again called for hardware upgrades at the expense of industry. Scheuer has no other effective plan to avoid driving bans, said FDP transport politician oliver luksic.

The ministry of transport reiterated its "legal, technical and financial concerns" about engine modifications. The report was one of several commissioned by the ministry. The formation of opinion in the government is not yet complete, he said. Chancellor angela merkel (CDU) expressed skepticism. On the other hand, environment minister svenja schulze (SPD) is calling for retrofits at the expense of manufacturers. This is needed above all for highly congested cities, she told the newspapers of the funke mediengruppe.

Germany is threatened with a lawsuit from the EU because the air in dozens of municipalities is too polluted with nox, which is harmful to human health. But the commission has postponed its decision, which was expected at the end of april. So far, carmakers have promised new emissions software for an additional 2.8 million cars.

Whether this will be enough to comply with limit values in all cities is disputed. In the coalition agreement between the union and the SPD, "technical improvements" are tied to one condition: they had to be "technically possible and economically justifiable".

Several cities, including hamburg, berlin and munich, are threatened with driving bans for diesel cars. In february, the federal administrative court ruled that such driving bans are permissible in principle, despite the threat of a loss in value of older diesels. However, the judges had insisted on the sustainability of the bans and demanded transitional periods.

To tackle the problem, the federal government makes one billion euros available for an "immediate clean air program. This is to be used, for example, to move buses that are on the road in the inner cities. Better traffic management is also supposed to help reduce nitrogen oxide pollution. From 2016 to 2017, the values in many cities have improved. In about 70 cities, however, they are still too high, according to preliminary figures from the federal environment agency.