Guest contribution from UTR: Indulgence payments by German manufacturers for unproven allegations of cartel?

EU decisions

What is going on in Brussels? What is it about the highly acclaimed EU? Who sets which economic course there? Why should only German car manufacturers be asked to checkout?

Should Germany's economic growth be slowed down? With the topic of lowering the limit value and "healthy air" Germany is to be slowed down at EU level. "Driving bans would then be expected in almost 100 German cities," says Horst Roosen, member of the board of UTR | Environment | Technology | Law | in front.

German automakers should pay fines in the billions. Because the EU suspects three groups of cartel formation. Together they are said to have cheated and made illegal arrangements. The EU's demand is hardly hidden: "Coal out!"

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has been trying to prove the formation of a cartel with her officials, especially car manufacturers, for four years. The Handelsblatt is now reporting that the European competition authority wants to send formal complaint notices to Audi, BMW, Daimler and VW this spring. It should also list specific allegations. The paper writes: "The Danish is known for a rigorous approach - and she drives her employees to be able to present results this year."

The impatience of the ambitious EU woman Vestager is understandable. So far, she has been unsuccessful in this matter, and she does not want to be a “woman EU failure”. Evidence of cartel formation could not be found in the many emails and documents from the automakers.

And what's new?

A lot of mysterious things were stuck through the Handelsblatt. That puffed up quite a bit: "There is hardly any way around fines." The team of authors, which was specifically assigned to this important case, clearly illustrates the impending punishments. According to Handelsblatt, the investigation files documented "years of cooperation between manufacturers on the subject of exhaust gas and a conspiratorial language". Because: “A secret crisis meeting already took place in Munich in 2007. (…) The presentation on April 4, 2007 in Munich shows the inability of the participants on colored bars: German diesel engines emitted too much nitrogen oxide, far too much. ”

Developer session reports don't say much about whether a cartel was actually formed. There is supposedly tangible evidence in the room of those e-mails and presentations in which automakers are said to have agreed on the size and shape of the additional AdBlue tanks. Back then, Spiegel had already tried to uncover this in revealing stories about the secret machinations of the auto industry. Mirror. None of this is tangible.

Where's the cartel going here?

The claims can also be explained normally. What can you expect from customers, how big should an additional AdBlue tank be? How should it be filled? There are a number of technical and logistical questions in the room about which automakers should exchange information across company boundaries. How much AdBlue is used at all? Because that does not depend directly on the accelerator pedal like the fuel consumption, but on the combustion conditions in the cylinder.

Can anyone fill the fabric without hesitation or does the workshop have to do it? Safety goggles and protective gloves should be worn when handling, prescribe safety data sheets. AdBlue is considered harmless, but can still contaminate groundwater and must not be stored in the garage at home. AdBlue also decomposes. Incidentally, the engineers fell for urea as a solution to the nitrogen oxide exhaust gas problems in diesel at a very early stage. The process is used for denitrification in the coal power plant area.

In memory of:

The EU drastically reduced the NO2 limit values ​​for diesel, and no car manufacturer in the world was technically able to meet these reduced limit values ​​at the time. The engineers developed a complicated and expensive exhaust gas aftertreatment system that cleans the diesel. Neither nitrogen oxides nor fine dust come out of the exhaust pipe of a modern diesel vehicle. The problem is solved today. In a first chemical reaction, the urea in AdBlue becomes ammonia. The hot exhaust gases supply the necessary energy. This also means that the engine must be hot. The resulting ammonia splits nitrogen monoxide and dioxide into water vapor and nitrogen. AdBlue is therefore only the preliminary stage for ammonia, which cannot be used directly because it is too dangerous for transport and storage in its own small car tank and it also stinks badly.

A small chemical plant in every car

The engine control unit regulates the AdBlue dosing system, the heart of which is an injector. This injector has to be able to do a lot: it has to withstand the hot exhaust gases and the corrosive AdBlue fluid. The size of the droplets and the finest possible distribution of the liquid into the very rapidly flowing exhaust gases are decisive for the course of the chemical reactions. The better the atomization and the smaller the AdBlue droplets, the more completely the urea can be converted into ammonia by the heat of the exhaust gases. This is important for the subsequent reaction in the catalyst. This is a very complex chemical factory that the car manufacturers have installed under the car floor. The problem for the installation of such a system in the car is the lack of space. The rumor mill boiled over when it became known that, for example, Opel, VW and Skoda were installing relatively small AdBlue tanks. So do these manufacturers switch off exhaust gas cleaning particularly frequently?

However, there are a number of special technical features.

Because AdBlue freezes at temperatures below minus 11 degrees Celsius. For car designers, this means installing additional heating. The tank is usually kept warm with heating mats in winter frost temperatures. Of course, that costs electricity and therefore also fuel. The additional tanks are usually installed at the rear of the trunk or in the recess of the spare wheel. An electric pump drives the liquid forward through a line. When the ignition is switched off, the system transports the remaining liquid in the line back into the tank. This prevents the line and the injection valve that injects the solution into the exhaust system from freezing. Quite a lot of additional effort. The tanks themselves are plastic parts produced differently for each car with sensors, temperature sensors and inlet and outlet valves. You also need to make sure that the fluid is reasonably protected from change. If the car is in excessive heat, the AdBlue threatens to become unusable. AdBlue decomposes over time even at normal temperatures, this process is faster in the heat.

Immobilizer: Thanks to the Greens

The manufacturers guarantee a minimum lifespan of six to twelve months for the AdBlue. So if you leave your car for a while, you also have to take care of the additive. The substance belongs to the (lowest) water hazard class 1, so that storage in collecting trays is required. In addition to neutralizing nitrogen oxides, the use of AdBlue also reduces fine dust emissions and fuel consumption by around five percent. If the entire AdBlue supply has been used up and the tank is empty, you must not continue driving under any circumstances. The catalyst clogs and is irreparably destroyed. Technically speaking, a diesel vehicle could continue to drive without AdBlue - albeit with greatly increased nitrogen oxide emissions and dangers for the catalytic converter. However, the legislator has ordered the installation of a type of immobilizer, which is activated when AdBlue is missing. If the diesel engine is no longer running because the AdBlue tank is empty, you thank the Greens.

The automobile designers fight for every gram of weight that every car carries with it.

That always means more fuel consumption. The additional tank with AdBlue also plays a role in this calculation. AdBlue weighs 1,100 kilograms per liter. So you drive 10, 15 kilograms of the liquid plus the weight of the tank. That is quite a lot, considering the effort the engineers put into saving weight.

How often the additive has to be refilled mainly depends on the driving style. With "lead foot rides" the consumption of fuel increases, of course, thus directly the emission of carbon dioxide. The more petrol or diesel is used, the more CO2 comes out of the exhaust. It is different with AdBlue. The emission of nitrogen oxides depends largely on the type of combustion. The higher the temperatures in the combustion chamber, the more nitrogen oxides are generated and the more AdBlue has to be injected into the catalytic converter. The excess air also plays an important role. Sensors monitor temperatures and air conditions.

Cartel formation? But no, pick up money!

It is not due to the manufacturers' excessive economy if they do not simply add more AdBlue, according to the motto: more is better for exhaust gas cleaning. Because too much AdBlue must never be injected. Otherwise it would smell like ammonia at the back of the exhaust. The discussions about "capping the AdBlue dosage", which the Handelsblatt mentions with the undertone of the allegation, appear to make quite sense. And this requires agreements between manufacturers and suppliers. It is difficult to clarify what is conspiracy or unauthorized cartel formation and what are technical agreements. In technical discussions, many presentations are made, rejected, and new ones come. Usually little of it remains. Striking: Again and again Ms. Vestager amazes with the fact that she only attacks German car manufacturers. However, diesel cars from German manufacturers have the lowest emission rates compared to others and are the cleanest. But you can get a lot of money from them. Yet.

Finally, the sentence in the Handelsblatt is completely treacherous: "Companies could get away cheaper if they agreed to a comparison with the Commission." This is how this article makes sense. It is - whoever - apparently about knocking the car manufacturers softly and persuading them to voluntarily give in: "Coal out!"

Holger Douglas

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