Climate protection & air quality

Air quality

Air quality: Better technologies comply with more stringent limits

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Our corporate responsibility as an automaker includes our efforts to bring individual mobility, climate protection, and air quality into harmony. This is because road traffic still accounts for a considerable share of air pollution, especially in the vicinity of streets and roads. As a result, the air quality in cities is an important focus of our sense of responsibility for the environment. Legislators all over the world have set standards for emissions in order to regulate the emission of harmful substances such as nitrogen oxides (NOX) and particulates and to reduce air pollution. These emission limit values have become ever more stringent over the past few years. In order to remain below these limit values today and in the future, we are continuously developing our technologies.

In addition to vehicle emissions, we are also paying attention to the airborne emissions of our production plants. Lowering the airborne emissions from our plants is a constant task and a challenge — for our plant and facility planning teams and our daily operations. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are especially important in this regard, in particular those produced in our paint shops. Other significant air pollutants include the nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide emissions from our furnaces and energy generation systems, as well as particulate matter released by the welding smoke exhaust units in our bodyshell areas and by our energy generation systems.

How we plan to improve the air quality in cities

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Plans call for our new vehicle fleet to no longer have any relevant impact on NO2 emissions in urban areas by 2025. Another one of our aims is to forge ahead with the development of new measures for reducing particulate emissions.

New diesel engines comply with stricter limit values

A reduction of NOX emissions is made possible by an innovative overall package consisting of the engine and the exhaust gas aftertreatment system. This package is being continuously enhanced and has been systematically launched on the market in the new engine generation encompassing the OM 654 and 656. The company has invested approximately €3 billion in development and production for this purpose. Vehicles equipped with the new engines also generate low NOX emissions in real driving operation. On many journeys using the measuring process, they actually record values that are significantly lower than the current laboratory threshold limit of 80 milligrams per kilometer. Vehicles equipped with the latest generation of diesel engines achieve average NOx values of around 20 to 30 milligrams per kilometer in long-term operation over many thousands of kilometers under RDE conditions.

Updating the fleet with new diesel vehicles certified according to the or Euro 6d standards is a very effective measure to further reduce NOX emissions in road traffic. At Mercedes-Benz Cars, the entire new car fleet for Europe has been certified according to the Euro 6d-TEMP standard or better since June 2019 and according to Euro 6d since the fall of 2020. This was made possible by the expanded exhaust gas aftertreatment system using an additional , as well as other measures.

We are implementing a plan of concrete measures

In addition to the previously mentioned introduction of vehicles that fulfill the more stringent emissions limit values as part of the RDE requirements, we are implementing a series of additional measures to further improve air quality.

A software update that reduces nitrogen oxide emissions

Overall, Daimler is developing software updates for almost the entire fleet of Euro 6b and Euro 5 diesel vehicles in Europe. These updates reduce the nitrogen oxide emissions of the vehicles in real driving operation by 25 to 30 percent on average.

As early as 2017, Daimler announced that it would offer voluntary service measures that include software updates for several million diesel vehicles in Europe. Daimler has also been carrying out obligatory recalls — during which software updates are also applied — at the order of Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) since 2018.

The recalls at the order of the KBA apply to a number of vehicle models (cars and vans) that comply with the Euro 6b or Euro 5 emission standards. The voluntary service measure for vehicles that are not included in the recall is continuing as planned.

We are promoting hardware retrofitting in priority regions

In the previously defined priority regions, we are participating in a hardware retrofit program for diesel vehicles that was initiated by the German federal government. Specifically, Daimler has agreed to provide a financial subsidy of up to €3,000 (gross) per vehicle for hardware retrofitting if certain conditions are met. The hardware retrofitting must be developed and offered by a third-party supplier and approved by the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA). In the summer of 2019, the KBA approved retrofitting solutions for various vehicle models. The retrofitted vehicles must comply with the NOX limit value of 270 mg/km in real driving operation under specific conditions. The aim is to guarantee a significant decrease of the retrofitted vehicles’ NOX emissions in permanent operation.

To make it as easy and efficient as possible for our customers to apply for the Daimler grant, we have set up a special website for this purpose. Interested parties visit this website in order to find out whether they fulfill the precise requirements for receiving the grant. Customers can also use this website to request payment of the grant after the approved retrofit hardware has been installed.

We use local concepts to help improve air quality

In addition to drive systems with lower levels of pollutants, intelligent mobility and logistics concepts can help to improve air quality in cities. We have launched a number of local measures in this area on our own initiative.

We consolidated our various concepts and measures for mobility management within the Group by forming the f.l.o.w. initiative. f.l.o.w. is a German acronym for “Fortbewegung, Lebensweise, Ökologie und Wirtschaft” (mobility, lifestyle, ecology, and economy). Through this initiative we are supporting our own employees as they look for the most suitable mode of transportation for getting to their workplace, depending on the situation and the transportation task. The Stuttgart region, where we have about 80,000 employees, is playing a special role in this effort. To ensure that they can get to work in as climate-friendly a way as possible, we are subsidizing their use of public transport, such as commuter trains, streetcars, and buses. Because this reduces the number of kilometers they drive, they are helping to reduce pollutant and CO2 emissions and ensuring a smoother flow of traffic within cities.

We also want to improve our ability to assess how road traffic affects air quality. For this reason we are observing and modeling the development of urban air quality at various measuring stations in Germany. One of the measuring stations we are focusing on is located at Am Neckartor in Stuttgart.

New processes reduce solvent emissions in production

Our ambition is to be best-in-class when it comes to reducing production-related VOC emissions. These are organic hydrocarbon compounds that are highly volatile — in other words, they easily pass from the liquid to the gaseous phase — and this can be harmful to people’s health. In automobile production they are released above all 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 comply with various legislative limit value specifications.

15 | Specific solvent emissions (VOCs) per vehicle

Specific solvent emissions (VOCs) per vehicle (Graphic)

One example of our efforts to reduce our VOC emissions is a public-law contract between our Sindelfingen plant and the City of Sindelfingen. According to the contract, the emissions of the painted surface of a vehicle may not exceed 20 grams per square meter. Measurements show that the actually released emissions in our local plant are much lower than this limit.

We are continually optimizing our existing exhaust air purification systems and developing new technologies. For example, since 2019 we have been using the innovative painting process “Eco Paint” (EP-T) for trucks. This is an environmentally friendly process that we are now using all over the world to paint truck cabs. For one thing, we are working with new paint materials in the EP-T process. Solids make up about 80 percent of the weight of these materials, and as a result there is a low percentage of solvents, which mostly consist of VOCs. In addition, we use an integrated wet-in-wet process to apply the and the topcoat. In this process, the second coat of paint is directly applied on top of the previous coat while it is still wet. This shortens the airing time, during which the solvents can evaporate out of the paint. We have also installed a facility for the energy-efficient and resource-conserving of the spray mist that is produced in the painting process. By this means we can decrease solvent emissions by as much as 60 percent compared to the conventional painting process. At the same time, we are saving energy and reducing CO2 emissions by more than 50 percent.

We ensure clean and low-allergen air in vehicle interiors

Clean air and allergy-tested surfaces in vehicle interiors are very important for the safety and comfort of the occupants. As early as the model development stage, we therefore make sure that emissions in the interior are reduced to a minimum and that allergens are avoided. We also use highly efficient filters in the air conditioning system to screen out allergens. Since 2016, many of our car model series have borne the seal of quality of ECARF, the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation, for their interiors. The ECARF seal is awarded to products whose anti-allergenic properties have been demonstrated in scientific studies.

The following measures are also helping to reduce interior emissions and allergenic substances in our vehicles:

  • Further development of the Daimler-Benz delivery specifications with regard to emissions and odors in vehicle interiors (including limit values for suppliers)
  • Further development of the materials and manufacturing processes used for interior components
  • Monitoring of interior emissions by means of measurements in the Daimler vehicle testing chamber

The emissions laboratory in Immendingen begins its operations

Since the fall of 2018 we have been building a completely new emission measurement laboratory at the new Mercedes-Benz AG testing and technology center in Immendingen. During the reporting period we began operations at the emissions laboratory in Immendingen (ELI) step by step. The lab commenced full operation at the beginning of 2021.

In the future we will metrologically test all of our Mercedes-Benz car and van models on at the ELI. In addition to the emissions, we will also test electric parameters such as electricity consumption and vehicle range. The special test rigs can simulate a variety of altitudes (ranging from sea level to 4,000 meters above sea level) as well as extreme climatic conditions (temperatures ranging from -30 to +50 °C). This makes it possible to transfer complex global test procedures from the road to the new technology center. ELI also has several lab and workshop areas that will be used to test and prepare for real drive emissions (RDE) test drives with the portable emission measurement system (PEMS).

Civil proceedings regarding diesel emissions: US authorities approve settlement

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During the reporting year, Daimler AG and its subsidiary Mercedes-Benz USA LLC (MBUSA) took another important step toward legal certainty in connection with various diesel-related proceedings in the United States. In September 2020 the US regulatory authorities approved a settlement of civil and environmental claims. This ended the regulatory proceedings regarding the emission control systems of approximately 250,000 diesel vehicles in the United States.

The US environmental authorities in question are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the State of California Air Resources Board (CARB), the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ), the California Attorney General’s Office, and United States Customs and Border Protection. Daimler cooperated fully with the US authorities and did not receive any from the EPA or the CARB during these proceedings. Daimler also agreed with plaintiff attorneys to amicably settle the consumer class action “In re Mercedes-Benz Emissions Litigation,” which was pending at the US District Court of New Jersey.

By reaching these agreements, Daimler avoided lengthy litigation and the associated legal and financial risks. As is specified in the settlement agreements, Daimler contests the allegations of the authorities and the claims of the class action and does not admit to any liability to the United States, California, the plaintiffs, or any other party. The settlements conclude the pending civil proceedings against Daimler by the US authorities without establishing whether functionalities in the vehicles are inadmissible defeat devices.

In addition to the payment of civil penalties, the settlement with the US authorities requires Daimler to further strengthen its technical compliance management system (tCMS) and offer servicing measures for affected vehicles. In addition, Daimler will conduct a nationwide emission mitigation program for reducing nitrogen oxide emissions into the environment and provide funding for further projects in California.

Daimler has made sufficient provision to cover the expected total costs of the settlements. For the settlements with the US authorities, Daimler expects costs of about US$1.5 billion, including the civil penalty and the expected costs of the mitigation measures and payments and the implementation of the service measures. The estimated costs of the settlement of the class action are about US$700 million, including the lawyers’ fees and costs that still need to be approved by the court. Daimler estimates that there will be further expenses in the mid-three-digit million euro range to cover claims resulting from the settlements.

The settlements with the authorities did not require the appointment of an external compliance monitor. On the basis of the existing compliance program, Daimler consolidated its existing processes and structures into a Group-wide tCMS in 2016, and since then it has instituted a series of measures to reinforce technical compliance. The necessary resources have been invested and positions have been created in order to carry out these measures. The elements of the tCMS are listed in the Compliance Operating Plan, which is an annex to the settlement agreement with the US government. Daimler’s system thus serves as a model for an effective tCMS in the automotive industry. As part of the settlement with the US authorities, Daimler promised to continue developing its present tCMS.

A detailed description of the institutional proceedings related to diesel emissions can be found in the company’s risk report production.

How we deal with challenges, complaints, and tips

Our technical compliance management system (tCMS) supports our employees in the area of product development, especially regarding complex interpretation issues and unclear legal requirements. In cases of uncertainty, employees can turn to their colleagues and supervisors or to “tCMS multipliers,” who are specially trained to deal with technical compliance issues. The certification units and the Technical Compliance section of the Legal Affairs department are also available for this purpose. If an issue is so complex that it cannot be clarified with the help of these points of contact, we also have the tCMS clearing process. In this process, a team of experts consisting of developers, legal advisors, certifiers, and employees from other specialist units examines and processes complex questions regarding technical regulations that are unclear or offer room for interpretation. A committee subsequently evaluates the team’s findings and makes a decision.

In connection with the settlement with the US regulatory authorities regarding diesel emissions, Daimler has also set up a process that employees can use to report challenges related to compliance with the settlements’ terms and agreements and any violations of these terms and agreements that may arise.

As early as 2006 we established a general whistleblower system in order to ensure that we have a fair and adequate process for investigating reports on incidents that pose a high risk to the company and its employees. This system encourages employees of the Daimler Group and external parties to report any violations of the laws or of our internal regulations.

How we assess the effectiveness of our management approach

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We take the pollutant emissions of our vehicles into consideration at an early stage of the development process, and we embed the corresponding specifications in the documentation of this process. These specifications define particular characteristics and target values — for pollutant emissions, for example — that must be achieved for every vehicle model and every engine variant. We also use these target values to assess the milestones we reach in the course of product development. To do so, we compare the current status of a project with the target values and take corrective measures if necessary.

We regularly check compliance with the internal and external environmental protection requirements and the plants’ reporting obligations as part of the environmental management activities at our production facilities. Among other things, we check to see whether the plants’ operations are in compliance with the laws regarding airborne emissions. In the event of any incidents relevant to environmental protection occurring, we document them and take all necessary measures to eliminate possible damage. The effectiveness of the management systems is monitored by external auditors as part of the certification process (ISO 14001, EMAS) and by internal environmental risk assessments (environmental due diligence process).

Air emissions (in t)
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2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Solvents (VOC)

7,971

7,735

7,929

7,506

6,483

Sulfur dioxide (SO2)

33

57

61

60

40

Carbon monoxide (CO)

2,843

2,203

2,515

1,962

1,502

Oxides of nitrogen (NOX)

1,243

1,185

1,050

1,568

1,349

Dust (total)

198

150

182

228

270

Specific solvent emissions (VOC) (in kg/vehicle)

 

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Cars

1.31

1.18

1.37

1.47

1.77

Trucks*

9.08

8.23

7.55

6.90

8.24

Vans

4.36

3.99

3.52

3.98

3.37

Buses

18.04

10.19

10.62

11.23

14.88

*

Reman scopes have no longer been taken into account in the Trucks division since 2020.

Provider/Privacy

Daimler AG Mercedesstraße 120
70372 Stuttgart
Germany
Tel.: +49 711 17 0
E-Mail: dialog@daimler.com

Represented by the Board of Management: Ola Källenius (Chairman), Martin Daum, Renata Jungo Brüngger, Wilfried Porth, Markus Schäfer, Britta Seeger, Hubertus Troska, Harald Wilhelm

Chairman of the Supervisory Board: Bernd Pischetsrieder

Commercial Register Stuttgart, No. HRB 19360
VAT registration number: DE 81 25 26 315

Real Driving Emissions (RDE) testing method

The RDE testing method is a measurement procedure for testing the actual emissions behavior of vehicles in road traffic under real-life conditions.

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Euro 6d-Temp standard

The Euro 6d-Temp standard is a temporary emissions standard that has applied to new vehicle models since September 2018 and that sets limits for pollutant emissions into the atmosphere. The RDE procedure was introduced at the same time as the new standard. The more stringent Euro 6d emissions standard will go into effect in 2021.

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Underfloor SCR catalytic converter

Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) is a technology for reducing nitrogen oxides in exhaust gases. An underfloor SCR catalytic converter is used for the aftertreatment of vehicle exhaust. It employs chemical reactions to convert the pollutants in the exhaust gas into non-toxic substances.

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Filler

When painting cars, a filler is used to smooth irregularities in the body surface and provide a primer for additional layers of paint.

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Dry/wet separation technologies

Paint separation systems are technologies that can bind excess paint particles that are released into the air when vehicles are painted. Wet separation uses water to clean the air. Dry separation is a more environmentally friendly variant, in which a dry binding substance (e.g. stone dust) is used in order to reduce the amount of water and chemicals that are needed.

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Roller test rig

A roller test rig is an instrument for testing various performance aspects of a vehicle. To do this, the vehicle’s wheels are attached to a roller to enable the simulation of acceleration effects. It allows drive and braking power to be measured, for example, as well as emissions.

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On-board diagnostics

Among other things, on-board diagnostics monitor a vehicle’s exhaust behavior during drives. To do so, an in-vehicle diagnostic system monitors all of the exhaust-related components and stores the information about any faults that arise.

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Notice of violation

A notice of violation is a written notification from a government agency about a violation of the law.

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