European carmakers confronted with ‘end of diesel’

The Dieselgate scandal has prompted European car manufacturers to rethink their commitment to diesel and this week Volkswagen announced plans to intensify development of electric cars and plug-in hybrids. It may also have smaller vehicles use petrol instead of diesel. Yet European carmakers’ industry body ACEA has warned against jeopardising diesel, ‘one of the key pillars for fulfilling future CO2 targets’.

ACEA’s claim that Europe needs diesel technology in its car fleets to meet climate and energy targets has long been contested. In Europe diesel cars tend to be much bigger and more powerful than other cars, with the result that they emit as much as petrol vehicles.

Europe’s carmakers are also neglecting other technologies in favour of diesel, despite its harmful air pollution. Petrol hybrid vehicles emitted 92 grammes of CO2 per km on average in 2013, compared to 127g/km of CO2 for the average diesel car, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation.

Even diesel’s efficiency gap with petrol vehicles is closing, according to the European Environment Agency. In 2013 the average CO2 emissions of diesel and petrol vehicles decreased by 4.6 g CO2/km and 5.3 g CO2/km respectively, compared to 2012, meaning that the efficiency gap between new diesel and new petrol cars was only 1.55 g CO2/km in favour of diesel. In 2000, the emissions difference between diesel and petrol vehicles was 17.1 g CO2/km.

In fact, T&E’s own analysis of real-world emissions of cars sold in 2014 put diesel vehicles’ at 170 g/km and petrol cars’ at only 168g/km – a gap of more than 2 g/km in favour of petrol. While the result was affected by differences in market segmentation – more, larger diesel cars – it illustrates that the real-world benefits of diesel are less than claimed relative to petrol cars.

Carmakers will also be aware of diesel cars’ marketshare in Europe having peaked in 2011. In that year diesels represented 55.2% of the newly registered vehicle fleet, compared to 52.5% in 2013, according to the EEA.

Link to 2013 EEA report of CO2 emissions from cars:

http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/monitoring-co2-emissions-from-pass...

Link to Financial Times report on VW diesel rethink:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/71f3be26-718a-11e5-9b9e-690fdae72044.html...