EU commissioner says diesel carmakers should be forced to clean up their act, rather than banning their cars from cities. File photo: Newspress

Brussels, Belgium - Banning diesel cars in European cities could hamper automakers' ability to invest in zero-emission vehicles.

European Union's commissioner for industry Elzbieta Bienkowska has warned the bloc's transport ministers there would be no benefit in a collapse of the market for diesel cars and that the short-term focus should be on forcing carmakers to bring dangerous nitrogen oxide emissions into line with EU regulations.

"While I am convinced that we should rapidly head for zero-emission vehicles in Europe," Bienkowska said, "policymakers and industry cannot have an interest in a rapid collapse of the diesel market in Europe as a result of local driving bans.

"It would only deprive the industry of necessary funds to invest in zero-emissions vehicles."

Under scrutiny

Munich, home to BMW, has become the latest German city to consider banning some diesel vehicles. Environmental groups say diesel bans in cities can cut nitrogen oxide emissions and force automakers to design cleaner vehicles.

BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen have invested heavily in diesel technology, which offers more efficient fuel burn and lower carbon dioxide emissions than petrol-powered cars. But since Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to cheating on US emissions tests, concerns about vehicle pollution have placed the entire auto industry under scrutiny. A particular concern is emissions by diesel cars of nitrogen oxide, which is blamed for causing respiratory diseases.

Voluntary basis

Bienkowska told ministers she was concerned that the latest emissions violations at Audi and Porsche were discovered not by Germany's vehicle and transport authorities but by prosecutors. She also called for all cars with excessively high levels of nitrogen oxide emissions to be taken off European roads, but said carmakers should act on a voluntary basis.

She did, however, raise the prospect of an EU testing agency if national regulators failed to spot more emissions-test cheats.

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