Is the Diesel Engine Dying?

Ever since the VW emissions scandal in 2015 there has been a huge political desire globally to ban the sale of diesel engined cars by a deadline of 2025 at the earliest and 2040 at the latest. Does this mean the diesel engine is dying?

It’s a tough question to answer as there was a time not long ago when diesel engines were meant to help us move towards an all-electric transportation system – turns out it’s a little too late. The VW scandal hurt diesel technology hard over the last number of years. The German Automaker had has since had to perform a full 180 turn to become one of the industries largest investors in battery and electric powertrain tech.

They aren’t the only manufacturer to do so and now more than ever before me are seeing car makers reduce the number of diesel cars in their fleet in place of these newer systems. This means reduced choice for the consumer for a diesel-powered passenger vehicle.

Current Landscape

Image result for obama announcing us emissions standard
Barack Obama at the UN Climate Summit 2014

As we mentioned the issue regarding how to phase out the diesel engine has come to the forefront since VW’s admission to cheating on U.S. diesel emissions tests. Since then we have witnessed a push by German cities and others across the world to completely ban diesel engines to make way for cleaner options that won’t pollute the air to the same extent.

This political desire runs into a number of issues in the real world. While it’s easy to say “let’s ban diesel” it’s easy said than done. Millions of jobs worldwide rely on the production of combustion engines while for EV’s to truly take off there needs to be massive investment in infrastructure with an increased number of charging stations potentially costing millions.

Another point to note is this since the VW scandal the resale value of these vehicles has lowered and spread to other makers which has in turn lowered demand in North America and Canada.

“This is definitely a setback for diesel cars,” said Juergen Pieper, an analyst with Metzler Bank.

It’s safe to say that at this moment in time the future does look bleak for the future of the diesel engine. During the Obama administration, new laws surrounding the American Fuel Efficiency Standards were implemented and manufacturers turned to diesel as they are approximately 30% more efficient in comparison to standard petrol.

This change to the law meant automakers who sell in the U.S. will be required to have a combined fuel rating of 54.5 miles per gallon across their range by 2025. With this 22 new diesel models were set to go on sales in the States in 2013, this figure was supposed to more than triple. Even brands not traditionally involved in diesel released such a model, take the example of the Chevvy Cruze.

Image result for chevy cruze diesel
Chevvy Cruze

This hasn’t exactly come to pass with only about 3% of cars in the North American market being a diesel vehicle. The lower tax rates have kept gasoline prices relatively cheap in comparison to Europe which meant the incentive to change hasn’t been there. While modern diesel engine engines are far more fuel efficient, they are cleaner and start better in cold climates, they have a reputation for being loud, smelly and dirty environmentally.

Then VW happened

The situation regarding the VW diesel emissions scandal has been well documented, as can be seen in the Netflix series Dirty Money. So the facts around modern diesel engine have of course been lost.

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BMW X3 caught up in the emissions scandal

The International Council on Clean Transportation (they group that found out about the VW deception) also found that Renault, Hyundai and Volvo all have vehicles in their range that would not pass a real-world emissions test. Even more intriguing the BMW X3 was found to have real-world emissions that are over 11 times greater than what is deemed acceptable under EU law.

The European Union has since called for all models to be re-tested. This has led to the political movement to phase diesel out of the market.

“We need to have the full picture of whether and how many vehicles certified in the EU were fitted with defeat devices, which is banned by EU law.” European Commission spokesperson Lucia Caudet said.

The Paris Example

When the scandal first hit, the major of Paris pledged to rid the city of all diesel vehicles made before 2011 by 2020. It was deemed a radical plan as France has more diesel cars on the road than anywhere else in Europe, 65% of all cars sold in 2015 contained a diesel engine.

Paris has seen rising air pollution levels during the past years, with some pollution spikes being so intense that the City Hall was forced to restrict half of the capital’s cars and make public transportation free for several days. Large trucks are the main cause of pollution but the ban covers all passenger vehicles too.

According to Reuters, Paris is now implementing a diesel phase-out a program with the aim of having the city diesel engine free by 2030 while the sale of new diesel will be banned by 2040.

Christophe Najdovski, an official responsible for transport policy at the office of Mayor Anne Hidalgo, said: “This is about planning for the long term with a strategy that will reduce greenhouse gases”.

As reported by Reuters

Paris has already established no-car zones, car-free days, and fines and restrictions for drivers who enter the city centre with older than 20 years cars.

Phasing out

As of today more countries and cities are running initiatives to phase out diesel by 2040. Here they are:

CountryBan
Announced
Ban
Commences
ScopeSelectivity
UK20172040Gasoline
and diesel
New vehicle sales
Taiwan20182040Non-electric

New vehicle sales
Sweden20182030Gasoline
and diesel
New vehicle sales
Spain20172040Non-electric
New vehicle sales
South Korea20162020IncentivesNew vehicle sales
Portugal2010OngoingIncentivesNew vehicle sales
Norway20162025Gasoline
and diesel
New vehicle sales
(buses are
exempt)
Holland20172030Emission
vehicles
New vehicle sales
Japan1996OngoingIncentivesNew vehicle sales
Israel20182030Gasoline
and diesel
New vehicle sales
Ireland20182030Gasoline
and diesel
New vehicle sales
India20172030Gasoline
and diesel
New vehicle sales
Germany20162050Combustion
engine
New vehicle sales
(cities can
ban diesel)
France20172040Gasoline
and diesel
New vehicle sales
Denmark20182035Gasoline
and diesel
New vehicle sales
Costa Rica20182021Gasoline
and diesel
New vehicle sales
China20172040Gasoline
and diesel
Production
and new
vehicle sales

Defending the Diesel

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Plug’n Drive Station in Ontario

There are still many people who are defenders of the diesel engine who will claim it has been unfairly treated since the days of the VW emissions scandal.

The main claim from fans is the fact that they’re still more efficient than a petrol engine even if they are not as clean as was first thought.

“A comparable diesel engine, say to a comparable gas engine, will use about 20 per cent less fuel. So all the other pollutant levels are, in fact, lower. It’s the oxides of nitrogen that are the issue,” Jim Kenzie, Automotive Journalist

Obviously, there are going to be instances where opting for diesel-power makes more sense. However, considering Canada’s strong promotion for clean-emission vehicles this will probably not be the case for much longer. Due to the current political and environmental landscapes, it stands to reason why most manufacturers are looking into plug-in hybrids and fully-electric vehicles as the better alternative. Although diesel isn’t dead yet… the end is most definitely near.