Nitrogen oxides (NOx), a form of pollution closely associated with diesel fuel combustion in diesel cars and trucks, cause the early death of around 6,000 people a year in Germany, the country’s Federal Environmental Agency has revealed.
The new figures from Germany’s Federal Environmental Agency represent one estimate among many, with some earlier estimates putting the figure much higher. And, once other forms of pollution are accounted for as well (particulate matter air pollution, for instance) the number of people killed in Germany every year by diesel cars would of course climb much higher.
I’ll note here that I’m aware that some people dispute the claim that diesel cars emit high levels of dangerous particulate matters, by stating that such vehicles don’t have to emit high levels of particulate matter (if outfitted with expensive filters, etc.).
While there’s a bit of truth to that claim, it’s also true that in practice most diesel cars in Germany, and in Europe as a whole, do release large amounts of particulate matter air pollution (this is especially true of the smallest and most dangerous particles, which can be absorbed directly through lung tissue and enter the bloodstream). Research has also found that total life-cycle carbon emissions are actually higher for diesel cars than for gas/petrol cars, despite claims to the contrary by proponents.
Reuters provides more: “The figure is likely to add pressure on carmakers and the government as they scramble to slow the demise of the diesel technology in which Germany’s car industry invested billions.”
“The Environmental Agency (UBA) also said that NOx causes one million people to fall ill each year and that levels of the toxic particle are higher in 70 cities than the limit set under air quality standards.”
“The car industry has relied on diesel as a stopgap technology to boost efficiency, meet CO2 emissions goals and buy time for a shift toward electric mobility. But sales of diesel cars have been falling since Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to cheating on emissions tests. Subsequent studies have exposed the true levels of NOx, which is emitted more abundantly by diesel vehicles than petrol engines.”
In related news, a court in Germany recently ruled that cities have the right to ban diesel cars if they so choose. This ruling was followed by various inane and ridiculous comments from prominent figures in the government and auto industry to the effect that such bans weren’t likely to occur.