About a week ago, European Union Commissioner of Industry Elzbieta Bienkowska sent out a letter urging against bans on diesel engines in general, and city-level bans in particular, and now it seems that Germany is joining Bienkowska on the diesel “Please no ban” wagon by holding what it called the “Diesel Summit,” inviting the major German automakers, minister presidents of German states, and trade groups to Berlin.
Once there, the collected officials discussed different ways to create cleaner air, while also re-winning the hearts of the people for diesel-burning engines.
The summit had a few outcomes, but perhaps the most important one was a proposed software update for more than a third of Germany’s 15 million diesel vehicles, which would increase emissions control effectiveness under a wider range of cases—this specifically targets one of the large criticisms of diesel vehicles, which turn down or off their emissions controls at lower temperatures (although not that low, as one study found that many turned them down or off at around 65 degrees Fahrenheit).
This is done ostensibly to protect the engine, which could be damaged over time by cold-weather wear, but is heavily criticized as a way to simply side-step emissions regulations on both sides of the Atlantic.
The software update, though, would apparently reduce NOx output (which is one of the dangerous emissions specifically associated with diesel engines) by about 25-30% at a cost of about €150 per car (that’s about $176.50 to us in the States); however, German publication Der Spiegel said that in some cases the reduction would be up to 50% and only cost €100.
The participants of the summit promised that the update would not impact fuel efficiency or performance metrics.
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Other results from the summit included trade-in incentives for older, more polluting diesels, and establishing a €500 million “Sustainable Mobility for the City” fund to modernize public transit systems like buses in taxis and provide other infrastructure improvements like bike paths in Germany’s 28 most driver-heavy cities.
Germany itself carries a vested interest in aiding its automakers—a full fifth of the country’s industry revenue comes from its cars, playing a large part in making the country one of Europe’s most wealthy. Due to this, criticism of the summit was fierce, with Der Spiegel in its International edition calling the outcome “disgraceful,” pointing out that the German automakers have far too much power in this, and harshly criticizing the meeting for being moved into the Interior Ministry, neatly side-stepping the protesters around the Transportation Ministry, concluding, “Even people who like fast cars can be cowards.”