Cloud over diesel

Mercedes man says bet­ter petrol en­gines may be the go, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

DIESEL en­gines could be on death row in less than 10 years. Just as the Euro­fo­cused al­ter­na­tive to petrol power starts to get some trac­tion in Aus­tralia, with pas­sen­ger-car sales fore­cast to im­prove to around 15 per cent of the coun­try’s an­nual pur­chases, Mercedes-Benz en­gine guru Dr Her­bert Kohler says the diesel is in trou­ble.

He be­lieves stricter emis­sion con­trols, and the rapidly-im­prov­ing ef­fi­ciency of small-ca­pac­ity petrol en­gines, could mean the end of diesels.

‘‘I have some doubts that diesel will sur­vive the next five to 10 years,’’ says Kohler, the vice-pres­i­dent of e-Drive and Fu­ture Mo­bil­ity at Benz.

Kohler is still a fan of the cur­rent diesel pow­er­plants and says Mercedes-Benz is mak­ing solid progress on a hy­brid technology, called DiesOtto, that com­bines the best of the two com­bus­tion sys­tems. En­gi­neers have al­ready run test drives and there is prom­ise.

‘‘I’m con­vinced that will come in to­tal and as de­scribed,’’ Kohler says. ‘‘They are run­ning on the test bench at the moment. We are driv­ing the first cars.’’

‘‘We are able to use both kinds of com­bus­tion meth­ods, very smoothly to merge into each other. You can­not feel noise or shak­ing.’’

Kohler says Mercedes is fo­cus­ing on a range of tech­nolo­gies un­der the BlueEfficiency ban- ner, from ac­tive aero­dy­nam­ics to on-de­mand en­gine ac­ces­sories — such as the al­ter­na­tor and power steer­ing — and DiesOtto to im­prove the per­for­mance of petrol en­gines.

There are also tur­bocharger and su­per­charger sys­tems, smaller-ca­pac­ity en­gines and baby two and three-cylin­der mo­tors.

‘‘At the moment we think that with gaso­line en­gines that an­other 15 per cent (ef­fi­ciency) is fea­si­ble. This is what we think to­day. Never say never . . .,’’ he says. EX­HAUST heat could even­tu­ally be used as a new hy­brid sys­tem to gen­er­ate on­board elec­tric­ity in ve­hi­cles. Daim­ler of Ger­many is work­ing on a sys­tem — sim­i­lar to so­lar cells — that can cap­ture the lost en­ergy and turn it into use­ful power for a car or truck.

An ex­haust-gas-heat generator is un­der devel­op­ment at Mercedes-Benz and Dr Kohler hints at a trial within a cou­ple of years.

Hy­brid technology: the Mercedes-Benz F700 sports has a DiesOtto en­gine un­der the hood.

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