The planned software upgrade of diesel engines, that should reduce NOx emissions by up to 25%, is a welcome stop-gap measure to help alleviate diesel-choked cities – but this is not a long-term solution to the air pollution crisis. Nor will it make diesel clean. Furthermore, carmakers are not being transparent about the details of the ‘upgrades’ or whether the recall will be EU-wide and extend to vans – as it needs to.
Greg Archer, clean vehicles director at T&E, said: “Software upgrades are a welcome first step to tackling our toxic air crisis but city bans will still be needed during episodes of high pollution and where air pollution limits are breached. Burning through billions to make old diesel cars less dirty is not the answer. Instead carmakers should be required to fund more cost-effective, sustainable mobility and clean-air initiatives that can bring down pollution levels quickly. They should also be required to invest in the future, including electric vehicles and recharging points.”
T&E said that genuinely clean diesel, producing as little air pollution as a modern gasoline engine, is technically possible for new cars but not cost-effective to retrofit into existing vehicles. A new Euro 7 standard that ends new diesel cars’ license to pollute is therefore one important next step.
The car industry hoped today’s summit would roll back the possibility of city bans on diesel vehicles, but T&E said bans are still necessary when air pollution is too high or annual emission limits breached. T&E also said governments should end subsidies for diesel vehicles, such as lower excise on diesel fuel and lower vehicles taxes for dirty diesel cars. Charges to polluting cars and vans for accessing city centres will also help to shift the market to clean solutions. It makes more sense to invest in a charging network and tax breaks for electric cars to drive the market for zero-emission solutions as EV prices drop.
Greg Archer concluded: “We don’t know how effective this stop-gap fix will be as carmakers refuse to disclose both how it will be implemented in tens of millions of cars and what the impact on fuel economy and driveability will be. Three-quarters of Germans think the government is too close to the car industry. We need far more transparency and an end to cosy backroom deals between carmakers and politicians.”