by Rafael Seidl
Today, authorities in Germany will start selling colored stickers to owners of vehicles, at €6 each. The color scheme reflects the Euro emissions stage to which the four-wheeled vehicle was originally certified.
Motor vehicles with just two or three wheels are specifically exempt. The PM10 limits given below refer to the M1 (passenger car) vehicle class, but the sticker scheme extends to buses and trucks as well.
Green (Euro 4, 2005) - 0.025 g/km PM10
Yellow (Euro 3, 2000) - 0.050 g/km PM10
Red (EU 2, 1996) - 0.080/0.100 g/km PM10 (higher number for direct injection)
Owners of vehicles that only meet Euro 1 (1992, 0.140 g/km PM10) or not even that will not be issued a sticker at all. On the other hand, owners can get a tax break for retrofitting a DPF, which also entitles them to a sticker of the next higher category. Initial plans for an additional sticker indicating early compliance with EU 5 (phased in 2009-2011, 0.005 g/km PM10) via a wall-flow DPF were put on hold.
The purpose of the stickers is to enable law enforcement in so-called “environmental zones” that individual cities in Germany will be setting up. Stuttgart and several smaller towns in the country’s Southwest are expected to start operating such zones by July 1, 2007. Munich and other cities are due to follow in 2008.
Vehicles without a sticker are to be denied entry into such zones altogether. On days with particularly poor air quality—which an EU directive limits to 35 each calendar year—local authorities are supposed to permit entry only to vehicles with selected sticker colors. The EU directive has actually been in force since 2005 but only now—and only in Germany—is action being taken.
One bone of contention is that in its current state, the legislation also affects gasoline-powered vehicles without three-way catalysts and those with a first-generation cat. This group also includes oldtimers. None of these will be issued a sticker and may therefore find themselves shut out of certain cities. There are still several million of these on Germany's roads, many owned by old age pensioners and low income earners.
There is now talk of amending the law to make an exception for vehicles with first-generation three-way-catalysts with closed-loop control, since they do not contribute to PM10 emission levels. Indeed, Germany’s ADAC considers the entire exercise pointless, claiming that only 9% of total PM10 emissions come from cars in the first place, with most of the balance coming from agriculture, industrial and home furnaces.
However, the German Bundestag’s scientific advisors estimate that 1/3 of PM10 emissions are due to vehicles. The discrepancy stems from the difficulty of reliably identifying the source of any given particle and, the scope of the test: PM sources in city centers are different from those in the countryside, though winds do complicate the picture.
“Nur nichts überstürzen” (Sueddeutsche.de)