I've spent a number of hours over the past week.....pondering about the German issue of banning diesel cars in some cities (Stuttgart in particular). It is a curious problem. Almost fifty-percent of the cars sold in Germany over the past decade....have been diesel types. The particle problem, which drives this whole debate, is an unhealthy situation....no one can argue about that. But trying to imagine how a ban would work, and the consequences of cities doing this....boggles the mind.
So in the next couple of weeks....the Berlin leadership agreed to have a diesel summit. They want one united front, and to stop the whole ban thing from occurring. The car companies? They are worried about what will come out of this summit. The owners? They are worried that they will get stuck with bill.
So, these are my suggested solutions:
1. Do absolutely nothing. Let the ban occur in Stuttgart, and a dozen other cities. The odds are that at least twenty-five other cities would follow in the next twelve months....making entry into those cities with a diesel car impossible. The value of diesel cars would plummet. The cities would prove that they had no capability to handle these added people at metro points and attempting to ride from the outskirts of town to their jobs. In other words, massive chaos for months, if not years.
2. Offer a 2,000 Euro tax credit to shift diesel engines to natural gas engines, coupled with the car companies doing the installation requirement for free. If you price the typical conversion kit for natural gas....it runs in the 1,500 to 3,500 Euro range (depending on the car and the mechanics estimate). Could you adapt 15 million diesel cars in six months? Probably not. My guess is that on kits alone....it'd take an entire year of production to reach all of the cars required, and probably a year for the mechanics of Germany to shift all these cars to natural gas. Are there enough natural stations around? Absolutely not. So you'd have to find a way to get incentives to fuel companies to put up natural gas loading points.
3. Cash-for-Diesel clunker-type program. Basically, the government would come up and offer a blue-book price for you to trash your car. You'd take that check to a dealer and buy a gas or electrical car. My incentive would be that you get 100-percent blue-book for the electrical car deal....and 85-percent blue-book for the gas deal. Owners might hate this but it'd jump-start the electrical car industry and remove any frustration with the car companies. As for where the money would come from? Oh, from the government and tax revenue base. Imagine the anger from the environmental folks on the tens of billions involved in this deal.
4. Delay for time. The cities have been focused strictly on particle count ONLY....not the cars or each of their outputs. The government has done a lousy job on analyzing this whole problem. Tell the cities to delay any action for twelve months while you survey all diesel car brands/models out there. Maybe half of them actually meet the safe level, and this is only half-as-bad as you think.
5. The box solution. There is some suggestion that a muffler-add-on device could be achieved....in the 1,500 Euro range. So far, no one will sign their name to the solution and say it's 100-percent worth the effort. Also, no one says it'll easily fit on all models. If this did fall in the 1,500 to 2,000 Euro range...who would pay? One-third going to the government, one-third toward the car company, and the rest toward you the owner? Would the box last for the length of the car or would you have to replace the box every four years? No one says much over this solution, and one might think that it's a good idea but needs two years on lab work.
Then, that's it. There are no other solutions to put on the table.
For the environmental folks down in Stuttgart, I doubt that they've wasted a minute of planning time on this, and how the normal worker coming into their job in Stuttgart would be affected. Would they shut-down the city for jobs, and trigger companies to pack up and move out of town? It's a well focused effort, but strictly in one single direction, and no full analysis.