Most new diesel vehicles exceed emissions limits: German green lobby

BERLIN (Reuters) - Most new diesel vehicles exceed the legal limit for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, German environmental lobby group DUH said on Friday, calling on the government to force car companies to carry out hardware retrofits of polluting cars.

FILE PHOTO: Activists of Greenpeace attach a banner that reads "Welcome to Fort NOx" to Germany's Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure before ministers and car executives met in 2017 to agree ways to cut inner-city pollution in Berlin, Germany, August 2, 2017. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo

Almost three years after Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE admitted to deliberately cheating U.S. pollution tests, Germany's car industry, which employs some 800,000 people and is the country's biggest exporter, is under intense pressure to cut diesel fumes.

A court ruled last week that Frankfurt, Germany’s financial center, must ban highly-polluting, older diesel vehicles from the city center from next February as part of a plan to improve air quality.

The city of Hamburg this year voluntarily blocked older diesel models from using selected trunk roads. Other cities including Aachen, Duesseldorf and Stuttgart, home to Daimler and Porsche VOWG_p.DE, are also considering bans.

Juergen Resch, head of the DUH, a lobby group which has advocated banning polluting cars from roads, told a news conference its tests showed the latest Euro-6 emissions-control technology was just as dirty as older versions.

Resch said tests carried about by the DUH’s Emissions Control Institute (EKI) found models of the Euro-6 diesel generation released NOx on average 5.5 times the legal limit when tested in real driving conditions.

Only 8.4 percent of vehicles kept to the legal ceiling for NOx of 80 milligrams/kilometre, he added.

“We’ve had enough and believe the German chancellor must act,” Resch said.

Remo Klinger, a lawyer for the DUH, said the association planned to submit a further seven suits against the towns of Hagen, Bielefeld, Freiburg, Limburg, Oberhausen, Oldenburg, and Wuppertal for violating air quality.

This brings the total number of suits to 32, it said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she will do everything possible to avoid driving bans, but disagreements over how to tackle the problem of diesel cars with high NOx emissions have strained her coalition with the Social Democrats.

A working group of German government officials and car industry lobbyists has recommended hardware retrofits for older diesel vehicles as a way to avert inner-city bans. The government said it is due to decide soon whether costly retrofits are appropriate.

Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Mark Potter