While new technologies have transformed diesel engines in a matter of decades into high-tech pieces of art, the pollution problem remains one major concern about this type of motoring power.
That’s one of the crucial reasons for which the segment has most likely reached its peak at around 50 percent of new-car sales in the vast majority of Europe. Politicians, green fundamentalists, even industry experts are criticizing the diesel engine. Now other types of engines are gaining momentum: gasoline-electric hybrids and plug-ins are surging, especially when we consider the German luxury brands who need to remain atop the technology game to ensure their leadership places. Gasoline engines with small displacement, three-cylinder configuration and turbos are also seen more often. And even diesel-hybrids might offer an alternative, but they are currently way too expansive. Diesel fuel is burned at a higher temperature than gasoline, with the exhaust delivering more soot, which is not only rich in carbon – but also in sulfates, nitrates and metals.
Electrification might be a key step in lowering pollution – whether we’re talking about gasoline or diesel engines, but the technology has yet to gain the forecasted traction. Automakers are working on compromises – they developed diesel hybrids (PSA, Audi), but the powertrains remain prohibitively expensive. Others have invested in more traditional gasoline hybrids and lately in the next step of evolution, plug-in hybrids. They offer both variants: when you need all the power you can use the prowess of the gasoline/diesel engine with the high torque constantly available from the electric motor. If you drive a lot in the city you could avoid using gasoline/diesel entirely, charging the batteries at home and/or at work.
Via Automotive News Europe