Knowledge | Sector

Long Live Diesel!

Is there a basis to all the criticism for diesel technology? Is there really no future for this fuel? The reality is that these engines will still be around for quite some time.


In recent months, diesel engines have become the ugly duckling in mobility. The social perception of this technology began to deteriorate with ‘Dieselgate’, a scandal that, along with the demands for a non-carbon economy and air quality improvements, has put the focus on gas oil vehicles without considering the significant technological changes automobile manufacturers are making to reduce their emissions.

The fact is the market demand for diesel vehicles has dropped. In Europe, sales of petrol passenger cars exceeded those of diesel cars in 2017 and this trend has also been seen in the first half of 2018 in Spain, which is something that had not occurred for around two decades.

The reality also is that some manufacturers around the world are focusing their efforts on other mobility technologies such as hybrid and pure electric. The Chairman of Toyota in Europe, Johan van Zyl, announced at the last Geneva International Motor Show that the brand would no longer offer gas oil engines in their small passenger cars like the Yaris and Auris.

“los glaciares son gigantescos y majestuosos, de tonos blancos brillantes y azules intensos, gélidos. hay que verlos para creerlo”

However, Van Zyl also mentioned that Toyota would continue to market these parts in commercial and all-terrain vehicles in which they will continue “offering diesel engines along with the newest technologies”. Other companies like Fiat-Chrysler and Volkswagen have also made similar statements. The Chairman of the latter, Matthias Mueller, seemed convinced that this fuel will see “a comeback” in the future once consumers “realise the companies that use diesel are environmentally-friendly,” in an attempt to separate this technology from the ‘dieselgate’ scandal.

The cleanest in history

This comeback will come with innovation. In all reality, it is already visible in the most recent models offered by many brands as the diesel engines are as clean as petrol ones following significant efforts by the industry to continue developing a technology that still has quite a bit of life left in it.

The new diesel engines are the cleanest in history. The most advanced vehicles feature sophisticated and complex exhaust cleaning systems much like ‘mini chemical plants’ that reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to lower levels than produced by petrol engines, equal the particle emissions and nearly do the same with nitrogen oxides (NOx).

The European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy HAS SAID today’s diesel cars “pollute 84% less and emit 90% less particles”

This technology is much better, but also more expensive. This would explain why gas oil engines are disappearing from the cheapest models yet will continue to be used in others to reach consumption efficiency levels not possible with petrol. It is for this reason that diesel will continue to be the indisputable king in the road transport sector.

Renovating the current fleet

Emissions standards are becoming stricter and stricter which is leading to an ongoing technological renewal in the automobile industry to manufacture cleaner and more sustainable models. To this end, the difference has been extraordinary from the time Euro1 entered into force in 1992 until the current Euro6 standard.

Vehicles once considered very advanced models yet have now become obsolete are currently on the road and this hinders achieving better air quality. The European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, believes it is “erroneous” to “being talking about diesel in general” given that its contaminating effects have been considerably reduced in recent years and he says that today’s diesel cars “pollute 84% less and emit 90% less particles” than before, adding that “there is clean diesel and not so clean diesel”.

More than 14.5 million cars in Spain are more than ten years old as one of the countries with the oldest fleets in all of Europe. Therefore, replacing these vehicles will be key to achieving the established emissions reduction levels. “Innovation will tell us how to do it,” sustains Miguel Arias Cañete. So, it is clear that while the future of mobility is under development, diesel and petrol engines still have a lot to say.

This is the belief of some of the most relevant industry stakeholders. “We manufacturers have done a lot of work to improve combustion engines and I can now say that it’s a very clean technology,” said Woong Chul Yang, Vice-President of Research and Development at KIA Motors. “We believe hybrid and electric vehicles are not the only alternative when it comes to reducing the environmental impact and cost of fuel; much more efficient and smaller combustion engines also are,” said Hiroshi Shimizu, President and CEO of Honda Mexico.

The Chairman of Seat, Luca de Meo, said that with the entry into force of Euro7, expected for 2020, the emissions level in diesel and petrol will be the same. “So, why not sell diesel?” he asks.