Germany's second largest city, Hamburg, will ban the most polluting diesel cars from two major streets starting next week, in a move that could encourage other cities to follow suit and step up the pressure on carmakers to consider costly vehicle refits.
Hamburg, home to around 1.8 million people, said on Wednesday the ban would start on May 31 and affect diesel models that do not meet the latest Euro-6 emissions standards.
The move follows a ruling in February by Germany's top administrative court that said the cities of Stuttgart and Duesseldorf should consider bans for older diesel models.
The detailed publication of that ruling last Friday showed local authorities were entitled to implement targeted bans with immediate effect to bring air pollution levels into line with European Union rules, although curbs affecting wider city areas should only be phased in over time.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has long sought to avoid bans, as has VDA, the auto industry lobby representing carmakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.
Levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emitted by diesel engines and known to cause respiratory disease should fall significantly as more efficient Euro-6 models are sold and emissions-cleaning software updates take effect, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.
The bans in Hamburg affect a section of about 1,600 meters on Stresemannstrasse, where the restrictions will only apply to commercial vehicles weighing 3.5 tonnes or more, and a section of about 580 meters on Max-Brauer-Allee, covering all diesel vehicles.
Both streets are in Altona, a busy district in the west of the city.