In Europe, almost half the cars on the road have diesel engines. Governments promoted this because diesel emits less carbon dioxide per mile. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now it turns out that without cheating or lying, 97 percent of the diesel cars on the road exceed the nitrogen oxide (NOx) standards. According to the Guardian,
Diesel cars must meet an official EU limit for NOx but are only tested in a laboratory under fixed conditions. All vehicles sold pass this regulation but, when taken out on to real roads, almost all emit far more pollution. There is no suggestion that any of the cars tested broke the law on emissions limits or used any cheat devices.
It appears that people drive differently than the testing equipment, which grossly underestimates the actual tailpipe emissions. Also the exhaust gas recirculation system, designed to reduce emissions, switches off at low temperatures to protect the engine.Peter Walker of the Guardian quotes the transport secretary, who is shocked, shocked to find that the emissions are so high.
Following the Volkswagen emissions scandal, the whole of the automotive industry must work hard to restore public trust by being transparent about the systems they employ and advancing plans for introducing cleaner engine technology.
Actually, they will have to do a lot more than that; this could well be the death knell for diesel altogether, probably in North America first. Car columnist David Booth writes in Driving:
The demise of the diesel would no longer seem a question of if, but when. After more than two decades of subsidizing their CO2-reducing efficiency, the only reason the Europeans aren’t banning them completely is because they represent half of all automotive sales and, more importantly, production. Closer to home, where diesels account for less than three per cent of passenger car sales, there is no powerful lobby preventing their demise. As I said, if the EPA follows through on its promise to institute real-world NOx testing, diesels could well go the way of the dodo bird.
Could it also be the beginning of the end of gasoline powered cars too?
Many countries are going even further than just cleaning up diesel; they are actually banning diesel and gasoline cars altogether. The Dutch Parliament just voted to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars after 2025; Norway will be emission free by 2030, Austria is discussing a ban of new non-electric vehicles just four years from now in 2020. Even India is talking about it; according to Reneweconomy, “India’s Road Minister says the country will have 100 percent electric vehicles by 2030 to become the first 100 percent electric vehicle nation.”
Even Germany, where 800,000 people work in the automotive sector, is talking about this. Again, according to Reneweconomy:
Last week at the Berlin Energy Days, Ministry for Energy’s Undersecretary Baake also stated that Germany should implement such a ban by 2030; most others are shooting for 2025 – Austria, for 2020. A few days later, Andreas Knie – a transport expert who advised Deutsche Bahn (German railway company) on the rollout of its bicycle sharing system – said he fundamentally agrees with Baake, though he would also shoot for 2020.
Will North America go this way too? We were fortunate that the USA was much tougher on diesel emissions, and only 3 percent of North American cars run on the stuff. But we still have a particulate and NOx problem from gasoline burners, and half of our CO2 comes from burning petroleum. If everyone starts making long range comfy electric cars, who knows?