“Diesel is the lazy, fat bas­tard sit­ting im­mo­bile on the sofa, crack­ing farm­yard farts”

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“Diesel is the lazy, fat bas­tard sit­ting im­mo­bile on the sofa, crack­ing farm­yard farts”

In April, Bosch claimed to have de­vel­oped new tech­nolo­gies that would al­low diesel en­gines to meet all fu­ture emis­sions tar­gets for pas­sen­ger cars. Volk­mar Den­ner, Bosch’s, er, boss, promised to end the death-of-diesel de­bate with new tech­nol­ogy to cut NO by “10 times lower x than lim­its set for 2020”.

Isn’t it strange that in the fall­out of a mas­sive scan­dal, the largest car-parts sup­plier has sud­denly hap­pened across a way of fix­ing smelly old oil-burn­ers? With­out want­ing to sound un­duly scep­ti­cal, how has Bosch man­aged to achieve such a dra­matic step-change in diesel clean­li­ness? More­over, why should we care?

Be­cause let’s face it, the diesel era of the car is over. The peo­ple with large fore­heads at Bosch could de­clare pretty much any ad­vance in diesel, and peo­ple just wouldn’t care. As a pub­lic-re­la­tions ex­er­cise, per­suad­ing car buy­ers diesel is ac­tu­ally a good thing is now marginally less chal­leng­ing than open­ing a chain of hard­ware stores in late For­ties UK called Himm­ler.

And you know what? I’m glad we’re see­ing the rapid death of diesel. The stuff is bloody hor­ri­ble. Who re­ally wants to don a plas­tic glove to fuel their car any­way? Not me. I’ve al­ways been sus­pi­cious of a so-called fuel that doesn’t seem es­pe­cially in­ter­ested in ac­tu­ally catch­ing fire. Ever tried to light a bon­fire with it? It’s a night­mare – I’m sure a clever physi­cist, prob­a­bly from Bosch, could present an equa­tion that demon­strates how, in the sphere of bon­fire light­ing, diesel re­quires more en­ergy to com­bust than it pro­duces once it’s burn­ing.

Per­haps this is what lurks at the heart of my gen­eral dis­like of the stuff. It’s the lazy bas­tard of the fuel world. If su­per-un­leaded is the sprightly young, sparky type that wants to be help­ful and get on in life, diesel is the lazy, fat bas­tard sit­ting im­mo­bile on the sofa, crack­ing farm­yard farts. I have al­ways been stag­gered by the lengths the clever peo­ple (again from Bosch) have had to go to get this nasty swamp oil to de­liver what a pas­sen­ger car re­quired from it. I can remember sit­ting in some so­porific press con­fer­ence nearly 20 years ago as some en­gi­neer said some­thing about ‘com­mon­rail’ tech­nol­ogy, and I was too busy draw­ing amus­ing but anatom­i­cally cor­rect phal­luses on the note­book of the chap next to me to hear much else; other than some­thing about pres­suris­ing the fuel to 300 bar. At this point I stopped scrib­bling willies, looked up and thought: “Christ, that’s tech­ni­cally a bomb.”

The lat­est (and prob­a­bly the last) diesels have added another zero to that fig­ure, with piezo­elec­tric in­jec­tors ca­pa­ble of push­ing 3,000 bar. The tech­nol­ogy is mind-bend­ing. But it’s also a metaphor for how ab­surd the diesel en­gine has be­come, be­cause, ul­ti­mately, diesel be­haves with a tru­cu­lence that shows it never wanted to be in this po­si­tion in the first place.

It’s all very well cel­e­brat­ing the Audi SQ7’s 429bhp 4.0-litre diesel V8 and its se­quen­tial ex­haust-gas-op­er­ated tur­bos and third elec­tric turbo, and in­jec­tion pres­sures sim­i­lar to those at the bot­tom of the Mar­i­ana Trench, but what you’re ac­tu­ally do­ing is list­ing the ab­surd tricks needed to ca­jole that slimy shit which, once trod­den in, takes about 20 min­utes of ex­treme scuff­ing to clear away, into play­ing ball. In 2007, BMW made an at­mo­spheric V8 petrol en­gine that pro­duced the same power. No tur­bos, no DPFs, no bull­shit.

So farewell, then, diesel. At least for the medium term. It might be that some­thing clean can be de­rived from that par­tic­u­lar frac­tion of crude oil, but I don’t think the con­sumer wants to hear it just now. I’d far rather have a small petrol en­gine and some bat­ter­ies, though just how sus­tain­able mak­ing the lat­ter in large quan­ti­ties will be re­mains to be seen.

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