Improving air quality in urban areas
Strategy and concepts
Fewer air pollutants – in vehicles and production
In order to reduce the pollutant emissions of its vehicles, the Mercedes-Benz Group specifies certain properties and necessary measures in the concept and/or performance specifications for the engines. These concept and performance specifications are approved by the Committee for Model Policy and Product Planning. This is the highest body at Mercedes-Benz Cars, and it determines all product-related topics.
However, it is not only the vehicles of the Mercedes-Benz Group that produce air pollutant emissions, its production locations also play a part: reducing them is a constant task and challenge – for the plant and equipment planning as well as for daily operations.
Depending on their type and size, the plants in Germany are legally obliged to appoint immission control officers. Depending on the air pollutant, the maximum values and requirements for emissions and immissions are regulated by law – these apply as the benchmark for the production plants and for product development at the Mercedes-Benz Group.
Of particular importance are so-called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In addition, the heat and power generation plants release nitrogen and sulphur oxides as well as fine particles. The latter also occur in the extraction of welding smoke from the body shop areas. All three are also significant air pollutants that must be reduced.
In order to further reduce the pollutant emissions of its vehicles and production locations, the Mercedes-Benz Group intends to continue developing measures.
Measures in the development and production processes
Product design is a central starting point for the Mercedes-Benz Group for improving its performance in the area of air pollutant emissions from the ground up. The Group is continuously working on suitable solutions and is investing in appropriate technologies and measures to ensure that the air quality continues to improve.
Diesel engines cause less nitrogen oxide emissions
The Mercedes-Benz Group has further reduced the NOX emissions of its diesel engines through technologically innovative approaches. This was made possible by a complete package of engine and exhaust gas aftertreatment.
Vehicles with diesel engines of the latest generation have low NOX emissions in real driving – on many journeys they actually record values according to the RDE measuring process that are significantly lower than the current laboratory threshold limit of 80 mg/km. In continuous operation covering many thousands of kilometres under RDE conditions, they achieve average emissions of around 20 to 30 mg NOX/km.
Technical Compliance Management System
The work in the development departments requires precise knowledge of the processes and framework conditions – this is the only way to ensure that technical/regulatory requirements, standards and laws are systematically complied with. That is why Mercedes-Benz Cars und Mercedes-Benz Vans support their employees with a “technical Compliance Management System” (tCMS). This is to ensure that all legal and regulatory requirements are met throughout the product development and certification process.
Reduced solvent emissions in production
The Mercedes-Benz Group seeks to be a leader in dealing with the production-related emissions of VOCs in the automotive sector. VOC refers to a group of highly volatile organic hydrocarbon compounds. These substances can easily pass from the liquid to the gaseous phase and are frequently harmful to human health. In automobile production, VOCs are primarily released in the vehicle painting process. Different countries use a variety of methods to define and record VOCs; as a result, it is difficult to achieve uniform worldwide documentation. Moreover, the documentation of these emissions must be in conformity with various legislative limit value specifications.
In order to reduce VOC emissions at its own production locations, the Mercedes-Benz Group plans to modernise and optimise old paint systems or build new ones in the coming years. In addition, Mercedes-Benz AG has concluded a public-law agreement with the City of Sindelfingen: It stipulates that the Mercedes-Benz Group may not release more than 20 g of VOC per square metre of painted vehicle surface at the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant. Measurements show that the actual emissions achieved at the Sindelfingen plant are lower.
Measures in the use phase
Intelligent utilisation concepts allow a further reduction in pollutant emissions. The Mercedes-Benz Group has also developed comprehensive concepts for air quality in the vehicle cabin for the protection of drivers and passengers.
Hardware retrofit promoted
Mercedes-Benz Group AG is participating in a voluntary hardware retrofit programme for diesel vehicles initiated by the German federal government. Specifically, the parent company subsidises hardware retrofitting with up to €3000 incl. VAT per vehicle – provided certain conditions are met. The hardware retrofit must be developed and offered by a third-party supplier and approved by Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA). The offer is aimed at private owners of affected Mercedes-Benz models who have their primary residence in a priority region. These regions were defined by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure in 2017.
The air quality in the 15 priority regions has improved demonstrably since 2017. Even though the demand for hardware retrofit has decreased significantly, the programme will continue until further notice.
Brake abrasion as a source of particulate matter
When a vehicle is braked, the abrasion of the brake linings and brake discs produces what is known as brake dust. In order to be able to investigate the type and volume of particulate matter contained in this dust, a reliable measurement method is needed. Against this background, the Mercedes-Benz Group is an active member of the “Particle Measurement Programme” Working Group of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). The aim is to develop a reliable measurement method.
In addition, the Mercedes-Benz Group is involved in other working groups dealing with the issue of particle emissions during braking – including those of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) and the International Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (OICA).
At the same time, the Mercedes-Benz Group examines actual values of the volume of particulate matter produced and the effect of potential measures in order to reduce the brake abrasion of its own vehicles.
As a consequence of the increasing share of hybrid and battery-electric vehicles, brake dust emissions are falling significantly, since a considerable proportion of the deceleration in these vehicles takes place through the process of recuperation by the electric motors and thus almost or completely without any brake dust emissions.
Nevertheless, the Mercedes-Benz Group continues to cooperate with scientific institutes and conducts research into braking, also with respect to tyre abrasion. Current research on tyre abrasion involves the development of a measurement method that characterises the tyre abrasion with regard to microplastics. The Group is constantly advancing its technologies with a view to staying below the recommendations of the EU Commission and future limits today and in the future.
Actively improving air quality
The “technology platform SUSTAINEER” based on the eSprinter from Mercedes-Benz Vans integrates a variety of innovative solutions for more sustainable delivery operations – and has the potential to contribute to better air quality in cities in the future: In addition to battery-electric drive, the “SUSTAINEER” has fine particulate matter filters on board that compensate particulate emissions in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle. A filter is integrated into the front module and – together with the suction fan that is already in the vehicle – filters particulate matter from the air. This enables it to also filter the surrounding air at low driving speeds and during the charging process. In addition, low-emission and low-wear brake discs and tyres optimised for low rolling resistance with less wear reduce the technology platform’s own particulate emissions.
In order to gain comprehensive knowledge about this technology in terms of effectiveness, weather influences and service life in real operation, Mercedes-Benz Vans, the Austrian Postal Service and MANN+HUMMEL launched a pilot project in the reporting year. For this purpose, two eSprinters were equipped with optimised particulate filters in the front module. These vehicles have been on the streets in the Graz city centre since August 2022. In addition, built-in sensors determine values for the concentration of particulate matter. The project is supported by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Technology in Duisburg.
Local concepts for air quality
Intelligent mobility and logistics concepts can also help to improve air quality in cities. In the reporting year 2022, the Mercedes-Benz Group initiated measures for environmentally friendly employee mobility at the Sindelfingen location under the leadership of the Corporate Mobility Working Group. Measures include buses for commuters and a concept for providing bicycles.
As part of the local “Mobility Pact Rastatt”, for example, Mercedes-Benz AG has continued to push ahead with the establishment of a cross-border bus service for employee transport between Rastatt and Alsace. The line is to be tied into the local public transport system and enable employees from Alsace to commute more sustainably between the plant and their homes. The concept also contributes to reducing the regional traffic volume. The bus line to Alsace started operation in December 2022.
On the initiative of the management and the General Works Council of the Mercedes-Benz Group, the Group has been offering employees of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, Mercedes-Benz AG and Mercedes-Benz Intellectual Property GmbH & Co. KG the opportunity to order up to two bicycles since April 2022. These are financed through deferred compensation from collectively agreed benefits, among other things. For this purpose, the three companies have concluded a general works agreement on the provision of bicycles with the employee representatives.
Since 2021, the Mercedes-Benz Group has also been using the car sharing app “FreeFloating” at the Sindelfingen location for short trips with a company car: As part of the pilot project, employees can borrow and return the vehicles at the plant exclusively via the app. In view of the positive feedback, the car sharing app was also introduced in Stuttgart in October 2022 – the plants in Bremen and Rastatt are to be integrated into the scheme in early 2023.
Complementing the ViaVan service in Bremen, the on-demand shuttle service “VAN2SHARE” has been available at the Sindelfingen location since September 2022: employees are able to make individual travel requests for business purposes, including off-site, via an app. These are then intelligently coordinated. If required, up to six fully electric vans can be in use. “VAN2SHARE” is intended to replace little-used diesel-powered bus services; it is hoped that this will save around 95 t of CO2 annually.
Reducing interior emissions and allergens
Clean air and allergy-tested surfaces in vehicle interiors are very important for the safety and comfort of the occupants. During the vehicle development, the Mercedes-Benz Group therefore makes sure that emissions and allergens in the interior are reduced. In addition, it uses filters in the air conditioning system that limit the penetration of allergens. Since 2016, many of the Mercedes-Benz passenger car model series have carried the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF) Seal of Quality for vehicle interiors. The ECARF seal is awarded to products whose anti-allergenic properties have been demonstrated in scientific studies.
The following measures also contribute to reducing interior emissions and allergens in vehicles of the Mercedes-Benz brand:
- Further development of the delivery specifications with regard to emissions and odours in vehicle interiors – including limit value specifications for suppliers
- Continuous component optimisation and further development of the materials and manufacturing processes used for interior components
- Verification of the interior emissions through measurements in the company’s own vehicle test chamber
Effectiveness and results
The Mercedes-Benz Group regularly reviews the plants’ compliance with the internal and external environmental protection requirements and reporting obligations as part of the environmental management activities at its production facilities. Among other things, control checks are carried out to see whether the plants’ operations are in compliance with the laws regarding air emissions. Should any environmentally relevant incidents occur, the Mercedes-Benz Group records them and remedies any damage. The management system is monitored both through external audits as part of the ISO 14001 certification and EMAS validation processes as well as through internal environmental risk assessments (environmental due diligence process).
The Mercedes-Benz Group takes the pollutant emissions of its vehicles into account at an early stage of the development process. In the documentation that accompanies the development, the Group specifies certain characteristics and target values for each vehicle model and engine variant. The Mercedes-Benz Group also uses these specifications to evaluate milestones it achieves during the product development. Here, it compares the actual project status with the target values and – if necessary – initiates corrective measures.
The current Mercedes-Benz vehicles with Euro 6d emission standard have only a very small impact on NO2 pollution in cities due to their low emission level. The Mercedes-Benz Group has demonstrated this by means of detailed modelling in different high-traffic areas – so-called hotspots – in Stuttgart, Berlin and Munich, and has discussed the matter with external experts. The modelling approach takes into account both vehicle and traffic-related information – for example, the distance the vehicles have travelled to the hotspot. If all cars and vans in these high-traffic areas were to be replaced by new Euro 6d cars with combustion engines, their NO2 contribution to air quality in these areas would be reduced to less than 2 µg/m3. This means that the Mercedes-Benz new passenger car and van fleet no longer has any relevant influence on inner-city air quality values. Thanks to the increasing electrification of the fleet, the NO2 values will continue to improve. At the same time, the Mercedes-Benz Group is continuously working on further reducing the emissions of the vehicle fleet with combustion engines in order to meet future emission standards.
Settlement of the legal dispute over diesel emissions
In 2020, Mercedes-Benz Group AG – formerly Daimler AG – and its subsidiary Mercedes-Benz USA LLC (MBUSA) took another important step toward obtaining legal certainty in connection with various diesel-related proceedings in the USA. After the US regulatory authorities agreed to a settlement of civil and environmental claims in September 2020, this settlement was approved by the competent US federal court for the District of Columbia in the reporting year. With this court approval, the settlement became effective. The regulatory proceedings regarding the emission control systems of approximately 250,000 diesel vehicles in the USA have thus come to a conclusion.
Mercedes-Benz Group AG and Mercedes-Benz USA LLC have cooperated fully with the US regulatory authorities in the investigation of the incidents. In the course of the proceedings, they did not receive a Notice of Violation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the California Air Resources Board (CARB). In contrast to the settlement agreements of other manufacturers, Mercedes-Benz Group AG and Mercedes-Benz USA LLC were also not placed under the supervision of an external controller (compliance monitor).
Another settlement agreement for civil claims brought by consumers for 215,000 vehicles was implemented after its court approval. The settlement period ended on 1 October 2022, as a consequence of which the implementation of the settlement was completed shortly afterwards.
As set forth in the settlement agreements, Mercedes-Benz Group AG and Mercedes-Benz USA LLC deny the allegations made by the agencies and claims made by consumers in the class action lawsuit resolved by the settlement and do not admit any liability vis-à-vis the USA, California, the plaintiffs or otherwise. The settlements mark the end of the pending civil proceedings of Mercedes-Benz Group AG and Mercedes-Benz USA LLC with the US authorities and consumers, without establishing whether functionalities in the vehicles constitute inadmissible defeat devices.
On the basis of the existing compliance programme, the Mercedes-Benz Group consolidated its existing processes and structures into a Group-wide “technical Compliance Management System” (tCMS) in the year 2016 and has instituted a series of measures to reinforce technical compliance since that time. To this end, the Mercedes-Benz Group AG has invested in appropriate resources and created jobs. The elements of the tCMS are listed in the Compliance Operating Plan, which is an annex to the settlement agreement with the US government. As part of the settlement with the US authorities, Mercedes-Benz Group has agreed to keep advancing the existing tCMS on a continuous basis.
A detailed description of the institutional proceedings related to diesel emissions can be found in the Group’s risk report.
In the reporting year, the European Commission, Mercedes-Benz Group AG and other German car manufacturers also agreed on a settlement, and thus concluded the proceedings for anti-competitive behaviour in connection with the development of SCR catalytic converter systems for passenger cars with diesel engines. The proceedings related to the period between 2009 and 2014.
Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
Carbon monoxide (CO)
Nitrogen oxides (NOx)