Buying a new diesel-fueled car in Europe is quickly becoming an “unnecessary act of courage”, as concerns about the impacts of air pollution—from human lungs, to the surface of ancient monuments—pushes cities to ban diesel sales and drives the resale value of the existing diesel fleet toward zero.
Rome, Milan, and several cities in Germany are all joining the trend, reports TreeHugger.
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“In Italy last year,” the design and urban planning digest notes, “two-thirds of the cars sold were diesel.” Their drivers cannot be happy that the Rome now “plans to ban diesels by 2024,” nor that Milan plans to follow by 2030. And some responsibility for the sudden shift in favour can be laid at the feet of art and history lovers: “According to a study last year by a branch of the [Italian] cultural industry, 3,600 stone monuments and 60 bronze sculptures risk serious deterioration because of air pollution.”
But health officials have also been reading the riot act to policy-makers, TreeHugger notes. High levels of nitrous oxide—mostly from transport, particularly from diesel engines—kill “between 6,000 and 13,000 people in Germany every year, causing a range of health conditions, from strokes to asthma.”
And the courts, at least in Germany, are listening. In a recent landmark ruling, efforts by the states of Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia to overturn bans put in place by Stuttgart and Düsseldorf were denied when a higher court in Leipzig upheld the cities’ actions.
Germany’s federal government “is against the bans, and insists that no federal bans are coming,” TreeHugger notes. “The coalition agreement on the formation of the next German government specifically says—twice—that diesel bans are to be avoided, and that cleaner air can be achieved by other means, such as increasing the share of electric cars.”
That Berlin is so antsy about a diesel ban likely owes to the powerful German car industry, notes TreeHugger Design Editor Lloyd Alter. “Diesel cars made up 45.8% of new registrations in Germany in 2016,” which will translate into quite a few “angry car owners demand[ing] that manufacturers retrofit their cars to comply with pollution regulations.”
Already, though, “German car buyers are voting with their wallets,” he notes. “Used diesels are sitting on the lots, and their residual values are dropping fast.”