19 May 18

“Fix diesels now, or face a European crisis” Mark Pecqueur, Thomas More University College

Older diesels can be made clean – at a reasonable price, says Mark Pecqueur, Automotive Research Developer at Thomas More university college in the province of Antwerp, Belgium. In fact, a NOx reducing hardware fix should be possible for €1,000. “Peanuts, if you consider that Euro 4 and 5 diesel RVs are melting like snow in the sun, possibly creating a serious economic crisis in Europe.” Such a bold statement called for an interview.

An investment of 1,000 euro per car would suffice to fix excessive NOx emissions. Can you explain?

To reduce NOx emissions of older diesels, you can do two things. First, you can ensure less NOx is produced by the engine to start with. Second, you can treat the NOx emissions in the exhaust. The first measure means sacrificing about 20 percent of engine’s peak power to lower the combustion temperature and avoid NOx from forming and is relatively easy to implement.

A loss of 20 percent of peak power, that seems a serious obstacle.

Consider the consequences if you do not sacrifice part of the engine power. Your diesel will be banned from city centres and you won’t be able to sell it. Its resale value will be null. As a consequence, current owners of a diesel car will not be able to afford a new car. Not fixing the diesel problem means risking a serious economic crisis.

So it is in car makers’ interest to fix older diesels. Should they pay for it, though?

I believe the cost should be spread over authorities and car makers. Governments have pushed consumers to buy diesels for over a decade by taxing cars on CO2 emissions. Now that the winds are changing, they are punishing diesel drivers with higher taxes and even threats to ban diesel altogether. It would only be fair that governments chip in. It would also benefit the treasury in the end – as well as the car industry.

So subsidising a diesel fix would eventually create extra tax income and push new car sales?

Indeed. If you make sure older diesels meet the emission standards – it is possible to make them comply with Euro 5 – they will retain their value. Diesel owners will therefore be able to sell their car at a reasonable price and buy a new one. That is good for the economy and thus tax income. In short, governments and car makers should join hands and avoid a massive diesel crash.

Does diesel deserve a future?

Looking at how clean Euro 6d-temp diesels are: absolutely. Excessive NOx emissions are a thing of the past. Let’s look at the facts and stop acting as if diesel is the dirtiest fuel possible. It simply isn’t – on the contrary. The best diesels are yet to come – and they will not be dirtier than petrol engines. The latter emit NOx and particulate matter too, incidentally, sometimes in greater quantities than diesels.


Authored by: Dieter Quartier