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Diesel driving bans in Stuttgart are not enough

The "Deutsche Umwelthilfe" continues to build up pressure on the city. Nitrogen oxide levels are too high in some places despite existing diesel driving bans. They demand that exemptions, especially for vans, be stopped.

The German environmental aid organisation Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) is once again taking the state capital of Baden-Württemberg to court, demanding a further penalty payment of €25,000 as nitrogen oxide levels continue to be exceeded. In January 2019, diesel vehicles with Euro standard 4 and worse were initially barred from the city centre, and since July 2020 the ban has also applied to Euro 5 vehicles on some particularly badly affected streets, such as Neckartor. However, many vehicles, especially vans, are granted exemptions and are therefore allowed to continue driving in. According to DUH, these exemptions would have to be reduced in order to bring the nitrogen oxide values below the limit value.

The DUH also accuses the city of misappropriating measured values that were above the limit value. Instead of reporting transparently on all measured values, the city had published only those measured values that would shed a good light on the city's air quality. Especially at the Pragstraße and the Talstraße, the nitrogen oxide values are still clearly too high. In Ludwigsburg, about 12 kilometres north of Stuttgart, the air is also extremely bad. Here, air filters are now being installed on Schlossstraße.

On Talstraße, where Euro 5 vehicles are still allowed, the air is worse than anywhere else in Stuttgart. Between 43 and 49 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³) were measured there. Therefore, an extension of the diesel driving bans for the eastern part of the city is under discussion. The fact that the diesel driving bans generally help is shown by the measured values at Neckartor, formerly the dirtiest location in Stuttgart. Nitrogen oxide levels there are now only 28 to 35 µg/m³. The SPD sees the reason for the bad air on Talstraße also in the fact that old diesel vehicles, which are no longer allowed to drive in the city centre, are now increasingly on the road on Talstraße. They see an extension of the driving bans to this part of the city as appropriate.

The Ministry of Transport, led by the Greens, does not think this is necessary and says that other measures have already improved the air quality on Talstraße. "[] the values in January 2021 were lower than the annual average in 2020, and this despite the fact that the highest values normally occur in winter." But it is also likely that traffic had kept January levels low due to the lockdown.

So things are not looking good for diesel driving bans in Stuttgart. The already largest area-wide driving ban zone for diesel vehicles with Euro standard 5 could soon be expanded.