German city prepares to ban older diesel vehicles

Exhaust emissions from tailpipe [photo: Simone Ramella, 2005, used under Creative Commons 2.0]

Hamburg is poised to become the first major city in Germany to impose a ban on older diesel vehicles. The city has begun erecting signs indicating the vehicles will not be allowed to pass through various streets.

According to a report published Wednesday, Hamburg officials anticipate the ban will go into effect this month.

Right now, the officials are waiting on a court decision over whether cars with engines that fail to meet the 2014 “Euro 6” standard or a small number of cars that don’t meet the 2009 “Euro 5” standard will be barred. A German court ruled in February that cities are entitled to impose such bans.

This week, the city put up 100 signs to tell motorists where the cars will not be welcome. They will also offer alternative route suggestions.

Not everyone is onboard with the diesel ban, and it’s not just motorists. Environmentalists have said the ban doesn’t go far enough because the alternative routes will make motorists drive even more and produce greater emissions. The streets that will not accept diesel cars feature air quality monitors. A spokesperson for the Environment and Nature Conservation Association said the air quality limits are often breached in numerous parts of the city, not just where the monitors track emissions.

Other solutions to the air quality problem have been considered, such as electric buses, but officials concluded the partial diesel ban will be the most effective solution.

While Germany works on banning older diesel cars, other European countries are taking things further. The United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, and Norway all have proposed plans to ban vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines by 2040 at the latest.

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