Cloud over diesel
Mercedes man says better petrol engines may be the go, writes Paul Gover
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.