Vehicle-produced NOx pollution in Germany on the rise

In this day and age with air-pollutant emissions in many parts of the world being at unprecedented levels and concentrations, getting much media attention because of this and other reasons, one would think a concerted effort to significantly reduce emissions from transportation would be advanced as a means to better safeguard health and improve quality of life. As it has to do with Germany in this regard, could more be done with respect to reducing nitrogen oxide and other harmful emissions within the motor-vehicle sector in that country?

In “German highway traffic exceeds EU air pollution threshold,” Daniel Tost, writing for EurActiv, wrote: “Nitrogen oxide, primarily originating from motor vehicle exhausts, is quickly becoming a top pollutant in Germany, according to a preliminary analysis conducted by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA).”

“Data collected at over 500 monitoring stations indicates that, once again, the annual mean value of more than half of the monitoring stations near high-traffic roads exceeded the threshold of 40 µg per cubic metre (m3).”

Furthermore, according to Tost, in May this year, data from another 124 monitoring stations will be added. Due to technical issues, data from those additional monitoring stations could not be evaluated.

“‘To contain threshold exceedances in nitrogen oxide, it is vital that the new exhaust norm EURO 6 also lead to lower emissions in real traffic. So far, many automobile manufacturers were only able to guarantee this in the laboratory,’ said UBA president Maria Krautzberger,” Tost wrote citing Krautzberger.

Nitrogen oxide (NOx) is not the only pollutant of concern – there are others as well such as ozone (O3), a gas corrosive to delicate lung tissue.

“Although no ozone peaks were observed in the summer of 2014, there were target value exceedances in around 6% of all monitoring stations,” Tost continued. “But the maximum 8 hour mean ozone concentration should not exceed 120 µg/m3 on more than 25 days per calendar year.”

And, as for particulates, the air experiences some of the lowest levels, according to what Tost wrote. Even so, Krautzberger demurred, contending there is still risk to health.

“‘For particulates, there is no minimum effect threshold – health effects can also occur when the concentration levels of particulates is relatively low. The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed this again,’” Tost offered, citing the UBA president once more.

So, is there anything that can be done to help bring about improvement in motor vehicle exhaust emissions?

Of nitrogen oxide, ozone and particulate emissions, with the pollutant NOx seemingly causing the greatest amount of concern, finding an appropriate engineering solution to significantly reduce or even eliminate NOx – not just in the lab but under real-world driving conditions as well – should be the remedy of choice.

Autobahn in the 1930s in Germany
Autobahn in the 1930s in Germany

Image above: U.S. Library of Congress

Published by Alan Kandel