The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and her Minister of Transport, Andreas Scheuer, met with representatives of German cities and communes on Monday to firm up the strategy and budget for improving air quality in the wake of the Volkswagen-led Diesel scandal.
Additional funding of half a billion Euros has been confirmed to bring the total to €1.5 billion to support cities in their endeavours to improve air quality without having to ban Diesel-powered vehicles from their centres. In the last year, 65 cities failed to meet NOx limits of 40 milligrams per cubic metre of air, averaged over the year.
An additional fund of €432 million has been made available to retrofit small commercial vehicles with cleaner exhausts.
Cities have been weighing up the idea of banning Diesel vehicles in the city centres; Essen has approved a ban and up to 70 other cities are considering the idea. The attendant resale value loss of second hand Diesel cars for both business and private users has been a key political factor.
Initiatives to provide funding to retrofit catalyst-type technologies to older Diesels have been looked at, as have renewed scrappage schemes to take such vehicles off the streets. Other studies have focussed on public transport, with one showing that older Diesel buses emit NOx quantities at the same rate as 100 newer passenger cars.
The air quality fund will allow communes to invest as they see best fit the conditions in their areas.
One triumvirate of cities in the Rhein-Neckar region – Heidelberg, Mannheim and Ludvigshafen, submitted a combined application under the premise, expressed by Dr. Eckart Würzner, mayor of Heidelberg, that “we can only manage traffic-related problems if we widen our scope to the regions,” adding that his particularly successful application means that Heidelberg has secured funding for a pilot route for electic buses and additional cycle bridge over the River Neckar. Heidelberg has already secured funding of over half a million Euros for 15 electric vehicles for employees of the city authority.