WHY DIESEL’S CLAT­TER WILL BE SI­LENCED

DON’T BLAME – OR THANK – VOLK­SWA­GEN FOR THE IM­PEND­ING DEMISE OF THE DIESEL CAR. THE COM­PANY’S EMIS­SIONS-CHEAT­ING SCAN­DAL HAS CER­TAINLY GATH­ERED HEAD­LINES, AND EARNED IT A PANTS-DOWN WALLOPING IN THE U.S., BUT THE TRUTH IS THAT COM­PRES­SION-IG­NI­TION’S DEATH

Wheels (Australia) - - Redline -

A decade from now diesel is go­ing to look like a blip, the re­sult of some col­lec­tive Euro­pean hys­te­ria and – un­doubt­edly – the wrong an­swer to the ques­tion it was in­tended to solve. Europe’s love af­fair with oil-gar­glers started af­ter the fuel cri­sis in the 1970s, but they were a mi­nor­ity taste un­til as re­cently as 20 years ago (see panel).

The dash to diesel was trig­gered by the per­ceived need to re­duce CO2 emis­sions af­ter the Ky­oto pro­to­col was signed in 1997. Or, to be more pre­cise, the short-sighted de­ci­sion by Europe’s leg­is­la­tors to pri­or­i­tize cut­ting car­bon over the need to re­duce harm­ful lo­cal pol­lu­tants. As diesel pro­duces less CO2 than petrol it got the nod, de­spite mak­ing mag­ni­tudes more of NO and

X can­cer- caus­ing par­tic­u­lates. Buy­ers were steered towards oil­ers through sub­si­dies, higher petrol prices and, in many Euro­pean coun­tries, CO2 tax­a­tion that made it mas­sively ex­pen­sive to own a big­ger- en­gined petrol car. Even af­ter a slight dip, half the cars sold in Europe are still diesels.

But, as a No­bel lau­re­ate once sang, the times they are a’ changin’. Filthy air in towns and cities has seen tougher emis­sions stan­dards, forc­ing cat­a­lysts and ex­haust af­ter-treat­ments, all of which add cost – with the as-yet undis­closed Euro 7 stan­dard cer­tain to be much harder. But it’s ac­tu­ally more am­bi­tious CO2 re­duc­tion stan­dards that have re­ally ham­mered diesel; even ul­tra-fru­gal mod­ern oil burn­ers won’t be able to meet the re­quire­ment for ev­ery man­u­fac­turer sell­ing in Europe to meet a ‘fleet av­er­age’ of 95g/ km of CO2 – 4.1L/100km on petrol or 3.6L/100km on diesel – by 2021.

To hit those num­bers while be­ing able to sell big­ger and faster cars – the ones that make larger prof­its – man­u­fac­tur­ers are go­ing to switch to hy­brid as­sis­tance and pure EVS en masse, and the in­vest­ment de­ci­sions to do so were made years ago. Change is com­ing, both quickly and dra­mat­i­cally. At a re­cent press event in Swe­den, Volvo Cars CEO Hakkan Sa­muels­son ad­mit­ted it’s pos­si­ble that Volvo won’t be mak­ing any com­pres­sion-ig­ni­tion de­riv­a­tives within a decade, its new three- cylin­der petrol hy­brid claimed to be both cheaper and more fru­gal than its four- cylin­der diesel.

Iron­i­cally, given diesel’s util­i­tar­ian ori­gins in trucks and taxis, the last cars to con­tinue to use it will be larger and more ex­pen­sive ones, against which the ex­tra cost of in­creased emis­sions con­trol is more eas­ily off­set, and which ben­e­fit most from the low-down torque.

Audi ad­mits that it wouldn’t have been able to make the SQ7 with a petrol en­gine, the 900Nm of low-down torque be­ing cru­cial to both its driv­ing riv­ing char­ac­ter and the CO2 num­bers rs al­low­ing Euro­peans to buy it. But leg­is­la­tors are mov­ing against this flank too, with many Euro­pean n cities set to in­tro­duce zero-emis­sions mis­sions zones that will ban even the clean­est diesels.

Oil­ers are sold around ound the world, but it’s Euro­pea­nuro­pean de­mand that drives pretty much all de­vel­op­ment. ent. With­out that, diesel’s l’s days are def­i­nitely num­bered. bered.

The truth is that diesel’s death war­rant had been signed long be­fore Volk­swa­gen got busted

YOU ARE SO UNREFINED, DAR­LING...

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