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Germany wants to say ‘auf wiedersehen’ to old diesel-powered cars

German politicians are working to pass legislation that will make it easier for city governments to ban older diesel-powered cars from their streets. The move is a way to improve the air quality in Germany’s most polluted towns.

Set to come into effect before the end of the year, the ordinance will give mayors the power to ban all passenger cars that don’t comply with the stringent Euro 6 emissions norms that were implemented all across Europe late last year. Diesel engines that comply with the Euro 6 norms can’t emit more than 80 milligrams of nitrogen oxide, a harmful gas found in diesel exhaust, per kilometer. The Euro 6 norms are less than a year old, so millions of motorists will potentially be banned from driving in select German cities.

Officials suggest the move to ban older diesels is the result of the widely-publicized Dieselgate scandal that Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche have been caught up in for months.

“This step is necessary as a stop gap until electric cars have a significant foothold in our towns, and diesel emissions really are what car makers say they are: cleaner,” explained Jochen Flasbarth, Germany’s Deputy Environment Minister.

Opponents point out that the measure isn’t fair because the German government and the European Union have both been strong proponents of diesel-powered cars for decades. German motorists buy close to three million diesel-burning passenger cars annually. Notably, 74 percent of the BMWs sold new in Germany are equipped with a diesel engine, and 67 percent of new Audis are ordered with a TDI mill under the hood.

Related: Dutch politicians want to make gasoline and diesel-powered cars illegal in 2025

Government officials say that banning older diesels will be a voluntary measure, and mayors will not face penalties if they choose to allow oil-burning models within their city limits. Officials also stress that mayors won’t be allowed to ban all cars, meaning they’ll need to make exceptions for residents and, possibly, for classic cars that were built well before the Euro 1 norms were enacted in 1993.

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