Sales of diesel cars in France face a new threat after the government decided to exclude diesel engines from the cleanest classification of vehicle pollution.
The French government said that Euro 6 standard diesels will not be included in the new Category 1 color coding scheme that classifies vehicles according to how much they pollute. French cities may now use this ranking system to decide whether they want to ban diesel powered vehicles from urban areas.
The European automakers association, ACEA, said Euro 6-compliant diesels are the cleanest diesel powerplants produced to date so it sees no reason for the French government to discriminate against them. “Policy should be technology-neutral to ensure the uptake of the latest low-emission vehicles,” said ACEA general secretary Erik Jonnaert in a statement.
The French government has in the past promoted diesel sales to the extent that about 80 percent of cars on the country’s roads are diesels but it is reversing the strategy amid complaints that nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions are increasing health risks and causing smog outbreaks. The government has raised excise tax on diesel fuel and removed incentives for diesel car purchases. Paris plans to ban diesel vehicles built before 2011 from the capital by the end of the decade.
French automakers PSA/Peugeot-Citroen and Renault said the government’s decision to reverse diesel-friendly policies will place them at a disadvantage compared with their German rivals.
Diesel cars have lower CO2 emissions than equivalent gasoline-powered vehicles so they are an important in helping automakers to reach the EU’s target to reduce average CO2 emissions from Europe’s new-car fleet to 95 grams per km by 2021 from 130g/km now.
The Euro 6 standard requires nitrogen oxide emissions to be no higher than 80 mg/km in new cars sold from September, a reduction of more than 50 percent compared to the Euro 5 standard. ACEA says the latest high-efficiency diesel engines and diesel particulate filters reduce particulate emissions to zero at the exhaust tailpipe.