German Government could aid manufacturers with diesel retrofitting costs

The German Government is considering setting up a joint fund with vehicle manufacturers to pay for advanced exhaust systems to be retrofitted to diesel vehicles.

In an effort to stabilise the German diesel market, the option of retrofitting has been discussed time and again. In August last year, carmakers agreed to software retrofits in order to change the emissions profile of diesel vehicles to make them cleaner. This process is a simple and cheap alternative to adding new parts, as all that is required is a new software patch for the ECU.

Therefore, manufacturers have been resistant to the idea of hardware retrofitting, which would require more financial input. However, the government may now ask car companies to contribute €5 billion to a fund that would also be paid into by the state, aiding the cost implications for carmakers.

In particular, the fund would be used to fit new, cleaner exhaust technology to diesel vehicles, which would filter out more nitrogen oxide (NOx) particulates that cause air pollution and health concerns. German publication Der Spiegel said the ‘comprehensive’ exhaust refit plan would affect a large part of the 15 million diesel cars in Germany, of which only 2.7 million are equipped with the latest Euro 6 emissions technology.

The magazine said cars in big cities such as Munich and Stuttgart where air quality is particularly poor should be fitted with so-called selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems that require AdBlue injection technology.

Stuttgart, together with Dusseldorf, is required to implement bans on diesel vehicles entering the city following a court ruling in February. The case was bought by the DUH environmental group in the country, which sought to counter dangerous levels of air pollution in the cities. Other authorities in Germany may also follow suit, together with other areas in Europe.

The diesel market has been in trouble following the Dieselgate scandal in 2015, with press and governments around the world demonising the fuel, trying to promote cleaner technologies such as hybrid and electric. However, with manufacturers only just starting to develop their electric technology, the market is small, and drivers are instead switching to petrol, causing rising CO2 levels in a number of countries.

In an interview with RP Online, German environmental minister Svenja Schulze suggested that she would be in favour of manufacturers paying for retrofitting. ‘The carmakers have sold diesel as clean, which are not clean on the road,’ she said. ‘That’s why they have to retrofit at their expense. Imagine, manufacturers of other consumer goods would behave like that. They would never get away with it. Irrespective of this, technical retrofitting would also be a good strategy for the manufacturers themselves, if they want to restore the reputation of the diesel.’

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