Diesel Outlook Not So Grim, Says GM Executive

General Motors Powertrain Executive Pierpaolo Antonioli remains optimistic about the future of diesel, despite dwindling sales. A key factor in Antonioli’s positive outlook is recent evidence suggesting that nitrogen oxide emissions can be reduced to the bear minimum.According to Robert Bosch, a leading supplier of diesel injection systems, the company has developed a method for cutting on-road NOx emissions to 13 milligrams per kilometer.

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“Internal combustion engines, including the diesel, can still play a role in the years to come,” said Antonioli at the Automotive News Europe Congress. “Bosch said just a few weeks ago that they can already achieve very low emissions, especially for NOx, without increasing the cost of the combustion system.”

The company was the first to market a truck with an EPA-certified 30 mpg highway rating with diesel versions of its Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, and a 3.0-liter inline-six turbodiesel was announced in January.

Threats of a diesel ban in Germany resulted in a drastic decline in sales in February 2017, and diesel rates in the United Kingdom did not fare much better. Transport & Environment director Greg Archer stated that plunging sales were the result of the industry’s abuse of regulatory loopholes.

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“The blame lays not only on Volkswagen but every OEM that thought thermal windows and other strategies to turn down their exhaust treatment systems’ effectiveness were legitimate,” said Archer. “The more your lawyers try to defend the indefensible, the more the brand and the product are discredited.”

Archer, an outspoken opponent of diesel, does not share GM’s positive outlook. “The pain is not ending. It will go on and on, and the bans will proliferate unless OEMs constructively engage to sort out the mess.” He added that the path to redemption included a series of necessary initiatives, which include the following:

  • Automakers would need to clean up the 40 million Euro 5 and Euro 6 diesels on the road and make hardware modifications.
  • These automakers should also support new regulations that ensure diesel pollution does not exceed that of gasoline-powered vehicles.
  • A Europe-wide fund must be introduced, financially supporting clean air plans.
  • Finally, the automakers would need to submit their vehicles to the scrutiny of credible, nonpartisan organizations that independently test diesels.

“Diesel won’t disappear in Europe,” said Archer. “Whether the market share in 2025 is 10 per cent or 30 per cent depends on how the industry responds to the crisis.”

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Global Information, Inc. released its market research report, Global Powertrain Outlook 2018, on March 23rd. The report states that several OEMs have made announcements about the future of powertrains, with approaches “driven by the strengthening emission control and fuel economy regulations and advanced testing cycles.”

The report suggests that strict fuel efficiency and emissions standards have prompted OEMs to use different technological approaches to ensure vehicles meet these standards while providing maximum value to customers.

 

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