BERLIN, April 10 (Xinhua) -- Leading German carmakers have discretely given up resistance against the introduction of a "blue placard" system of partial diesel driving bans, the magazine SPIEGEL reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, automotive industry lobbyists have expressed support for a watered-down version of "blue placards" as a means to shore up falling diesel sales. Until recently, German carmakers had still vocally resisted any calls for driving bans on diesel vehicles in cities as an excessively radical means to lower urban nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution.
Following a recent landmark ruling by the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, municipal governments in Germany have gained the right to ban diesel vehicles fitted with Euro4 or older motor-types from their streets to protect citizens' health. The ruling envisioned a phased tightening of regulations which would be extended to Euro5 diesel motors from September 2019 onwards and could ultimately also affect the newest Euro6 generation of diesel vehicles on the basis of their actual emissions levels.
Automotive producers are now keen to prevent this worst-case-scenario with a long transition phase and a maximum emissions threshold of 378 milligram of NOx per kilometer to grant vehicles access to densely-populated areas with a "blue placard." The system would allow carmakers to rely largely on cheaper motor software updates to meet the identified threshold and would help allay fears among customers of depreciations in the value of diesel vehicles.
However, SPIEGEL cited information that the automotive industry proposal was flatly-refused by Berlin as it would enshrine an emissions threshold which was still more than four times as high as existing regulatory limits set out in the European Union (EU) clean air legislation.
Speaking at a mobility conference in Berlin, German Economic Affairs and Energy Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) emphasized on Tuesday that the federal government would drive "alternative propulsion systems and electric mobility" forward.
The CDU politician admitted that policymakers had taken risks associated with urban NOx pollution "too lightly" in the past and vowed to speed up the process of improving air quality in the worst affected cities. Earlier, The European Commission warned that Berlin could face legal prosecution for failing to comply with binding regulation on vehicle emissions.
Altmaier noted that aside from being a public health issue, successfully modernizing the European automotive industry was also crucial to preserving German jobs in an era of digitalization. He consequently proposed directing public funds to the establishment of independent battery cell production on the continent.
Battery cells are a critical component in the manufacturing of electric-powered vehicles and are currently largely produced outside of Europe due to high energy and labor costs. While Altmaier estimated that such a project would cost up to 100 billion euros (123.5 billion U.S. dollars) in total, Germany would nonetheless be "willing to take money into its hand" to assist with such an endeavor.