‘Diesel’s bad reputation is undeserved’
Dieselgate – the fraud with Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating software for which Audi top man Rupert Stadler was arrested recently – shook the car industry to its foundations. ‘Diesel’ has become a dirty word in public opinion, but this is ‘undeserved’, several experts say.
Cities are banning diesel cars but even today half of all newly registered cars in Europe are still diesels. Diesels have one cast-iron trump: a diesel engine produces fewer CO2 emissions than a petrol engine.
Diesel cars will not disappear immediately because business interests are of supreme importance. In Germany alone more than 800.000 people are employed in the car industry, and turnover is more than 400 billion euro.
Car manufacturers create innovations to make criticism about the diesel engine disappear: Mercedes will launch its diesel hybrids this summer. They will be less diesel-consuming and less polluting. Bosch had announced a new diesel technology that is reducing NOx emissions nearly to zero.
Dr. Bart Somers of the department mechanical engineering of the Technical University Eindhoven (Netherlands) confirms that diesel engines in the long term could become completely clean. “There is a possibility that the air coming out of them will be cleaner than the air they take in, so they will rather work as a vacuum cleaner than being a polluter. We really need diesel to achieve climate goals.”
Environmental movement Greenpeace is not impressed by the promises of the car industry. “Clean diesel cars don’t exist”, Greenpeace’s spokesperson, Joris Wijnhoven, says, “they still emit greenhouse gases.” The only valuable alternative is electricity.
All the fuzz has not affected people’s preference for diesel, though. A survey of Autoscout24 this week showed that 17% of Dutch drivers still want a diesel car, in spite of the dieselgate scandal.
Also car journalist Niek Schenk is convinced diesel is to stay. “Simply because there is no alternative. If we really want to do something about CO2, everybody should drive a diesel. Hybrid and electric cars are too expensive for the man in the street.”
Volkswagen and Audi believe in the future of diesel engines. They recently launched two new SUVs with a 3.0 litre diesel engine. Also Bart Somers is working at the ‘diesel of the future’, running on biodiesel or hydrogen-based e-fuel. “For the time being, we need diesels to make CO2 emissions go down.”
Question is: who is going to buy those diesels, when cities are banning them? Fact is that diesel has a bad reputation, but an undeserved one.