New petrol engines cause more air pollution than dirty diesels

New Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) petrol engines for cars emit more cancer-causing particles than modern diesel engines, a new study by independent vehicle researchers TÜV Nord revealed today. While GDI engines make petrol cars more fuel-efficient and emit less CO2, the findings show that these new petrol engines typically release around 1,000 times more harmful particles than traditional petrol engines and 10 times more than new diesels.

As the ‘EU Year of Air’ draws to a close, air pollution in Europe is estimated to contribute to 406,000 deaths annually and cause over 100 million lost days of work – costing the EU economy €330-940 billion per year.[1] Small particles in the air pose the greatest risk to health, penetrating deep into the lungs and being absorbed into the blood. This causes a range of illnesses, including cancer, and even deaths.[2]
 
The cost of a filter to eliminate particle emissions from GDI cars is low (around €50), with no loss in fuel efficiency and a big societal benefit. Despite this, carmakers are delaying fitting filters on GDI cars. 
 
Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager at Transport & Environment, said: “Cars are the largest source of air pollution in Europe’s cities and 90% of European citizens are already exposed to harmful levels of particle pollution. Carmakers’ reluctance to install cheap particle filters on GDI engines means that society as a whole has to pay the cost through more ill health.”
 
EU laws already require particle filters to be fitted to all new diesel cars but there is no mandatory requirement for new petrol engines. By 2020, GDI engines are expected to power almost all new petrol cars sold in Europe, accounting for around half of all new passenger vehicles.
 
Vehicles tested by TÜV Nord all showed the number of particles emitted from GDI engines is likely to exceed the 2017 European emissions limits, known as Euro 6 standards. Emissions from the Renault Mégane were almost twice as high as those from the Ford Focus and Hyundai I40, when tested without a gasoline particle filter fitted. Fitting the filter reduced the number of particles in the exhaust by a factor of around 2,000, enabling the car to emit levels of particles in similar numbers to those found in unpolluted air.
 
There is also widespread concern that, as with fuel economy figures for cars, there will be a large disparity between particle emissions in vehicle tests and the actual emissions from real-world driving. With a filter fitted the emissions are negligible under all driving conditions. 
 

“More fuel-efficient, lower CO2 GDI engines would be a great innovation if they did not emit harmful particles. These particles can be eliminated for the price of a hands-free kit. It’s time for carmakers to act responsibly and make petrol cars less polluting overall,” Archer concluded.  

Notes to editors:

[1] European Commission Regulation (EC) 715/2007
 
[2] The World Health Organisation recently confirmed that air pollution causes cancer. 
 IARC 2013, Air pollution and cancer

Contact the press team

Nico Muzi
Communications Director
+32 (0)484 27 87 91 
nico.muzi@transportenvironment.org

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