Modern diesels: part of the solution

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

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Motor vehicles’ undesirable tailpipe emissions are pollutants which impact ambient air quality and are harmful to human health, as well as greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions, which impact climate change.

Concerns over urban air quality and the rise in global temperatures have spurred both technological innovation by the automotive industry and legislative action at the EU level to reduce both types of emissions. That means the era of dirty diesel is now over.

Diesel technology has a long history of innovation and continuous improvements in a highly regulated automotive market. Due to their modern particulate filters and catalysts, diesel cars are now cleaner than ever before.

The diesel industry continues to invest substantially in research, innovation and development to further improve engine efficiency and reduce harmful emissions, making diesel a sound investment for motorists for decades to come. Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs), for example, remove 99.9% of particles coming from the engine, including ultrafine particles.

Modern diesels that comply with the EU’s latest and strict Euro 6 emissions norm are a new generation of vehicles fitted with emissions control technology that converts up to 99% of combustion engine exhaust pollutants (HC, CO, NOx and particulates): compared to their predecessors, their impact on air quality is minimized and they help Europe achieve its sustainability targets.

In parallel, industry and policymakers at EU and UN level have worked closely together in the past few years to develop a new, more accurate laboratory conformity test called the Worldwide harmonised Light vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP).

To close the gap between laboratory and actual, real-world driving emissions, a new so-called Real-Driving Emissions (RDE) test was developed. Both tests entered into force in the EU in September 2017 for all newly type-approved car models.

Thanks to these far more accurate and reliable tests, consumers that buy a Euro 6d-TEMP RDE-compliant vehicle can now be confident that its levels of CO2 and pollutant emissions meet the strict criteria set by the EU.

A recent study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) shows that the average diesel engine emits 17% less CO2 emissions than its petrol equivalent in the lower medium passenger vehicle segment. Modern, clean, Euro 6-compliant diesel cars can provide the foundation to meet Europe’s climate targets, by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from road transport.

City administrations across the EU recognise that newest Euro 6 diesels deliver on the air quality needs of citizens. Brussels, for example, will progressively introduce urban access restrictions for diesels that are not compliant with the latest emissions norm, until 2025. From that date onward, only Euro 6 diesels can enter the city.

In London’s ultra-low emissions zone, from April 2019 all diesels that are not Euro 6-compliant will be subject to a daily charge. Paris is gradually regulating all pre-Euro 5 vehicles until 2020. By progressively banning such older vehicles or charging access to urban areas, air quality will improve over the coming years in cities across the EU.

Diesel engines therefore can continue to play a positive contribution to the economy and the environment. They offer certain tangible benefits to consumers, especially when towing load such as caravans, and diesel remains the preferred choice for commercial operations such as light commercial vans, heavy-duty trucks and buses, thanks to its excellent low-end torque.

The members of the Association for Emissions Control by Catalyst (AECC) produce the technology that reduces the pollutant emissions of diesel and decided to create a Diesel Information Hub, aimed at contributing to the public discourse on the future of mobility and urban air quality by providing clear and concise information on the modern diesel engine.

The Diesel Information Hub provides information including how innovative technologies in the diesel engine help reduce pollutant emissions, how diesel caters to specific driver needs, and what the EU and manufacturers are jointly doing to provide consumers with reliable information about the environmental performance of their vehicle. For more information, please go to www.dieselinformation.aecc.eu.

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