Diesel engines were once the darling of European governments, promising lower emissions and cleaner air while giving motorists improved fuel economy and excellent performance. All that changed in September 2015 with the revelation that vehicle manufacturers were cheating emissions tests to make their diesel engines look much cleaner than they were. In just three years diesels have gone from environmental hero to zero, blamed for air pollution and higher nitrogen oxide levels that cause 70,000 premature deaths in Europe each year.
Across Europe governments are moving against diesel engines in favour of electric vehicles with their lower or even zero emissions. China, whose cities are also choking on air pollution, is following Europe’s lead and promoting electric vehicles to replace all internal combustion engines, not just diesels.
Low emission diesels
So is diesel finished as a fuel? Well not quite, or at least not quite yet, because there’s still nothing to replace diesel in commercial vehicles and it remains a popular choice for SUVs in Australia. There are also some interesting developments in diesel technology, with Bosch claiming it’s invented technology that radically reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by “10 times lower than limits set for 2020.”
“There’s a future for diesel,” assures Bosch’s CEO Volkmar Denner, “soon emissions will no longer be an issue.”
Developing the technology is one thing, but persuading a sceptical public convinced that they’ve heard it all before may be more of a challenge.
But there are other challenges to diesel engines as well. Manufacturers are now producing smaller turbocharged petrol engines offering similar economy and performance to diesels. Hybrids and pure electric vehicles are also entering the market in increasing numbers too, though electrics have yet to make much of an impact in Australia.
Another interesting development is HCCI, or Homogenous Charge Compression Ignition technology. This is a petrol engine that behaves like a diesel, combusting the air-petrol mixture using compression alone, rather than a spark plug to ignite the mix. HCCI engines promise to reduce fuel use by up to 25 per cent with no decrease in performance. Mercedes Benz and Mazda are both developing the technology.
It’s taken Australians many years to embrace diesel engines but today they’re increasingly the natural choice for our favourite family hauler, the SUV. We’re finally taking to them just as Europeans are abandoning them.
So in Australia, at least, the end of the road for diesel is still some way off. Our growing enthusiasm for diesel powered SUVs that will be on the roads for some time yet ensures that. But as well as that there’s still no alternative to diesel for commercial fleet vehicles. Daimler is busy developing electric trucks, but they won’t be entering production until 2021. Tesla has also promised to produce an electric semitrailer by November 2019, but Tesla’s production schedules are notoriously unreliable, so it’s anyone’s guess when, or even if, we’ll see them here in Australia.
One thing’s for certain though, the technology of motor vehicles is evolving faster than ever. Staying up date with all that change is vital, whether it’s your own car or the vehicles in your fleet. By upgrading your fleet regularly you’re rewarding your drivers and ensuring that they’re driving the safest vehicle possible. New vehicles are not just safer, they’re better to drive and more environmentally friendly as well. Fleetcare makes it easy to upgrade your fleet with novated leasing and a range of finance and leasing products that exactly meet your needs. Call Fleetcare today on 134 333 to see how we can help save you money and a whole lot of hassle when it’s time to update your vehicle fleet.