Is the end of diesel cars drawing near? It does look like it, especially in Europe, with Volvo’s announcement that they’re set to phase out the diesel versions of their recent models come June 2021. Much earlier, at least 12 brands have already expressed their intent to dump diesel from the range they’re offering in the next few months.
Why is Volvo phasing out diesel cars?
Volvo recently announced a diesel-less future for the Swedish brand starting in 2021. Their diesel models, like the Aussie favourite 2.0L twin-turbo diesel XC90, will no longer be an option. According to Volvo Australia’s managing director Nick Connor, there’s a growing market for hybrids in the country, which mirrors what’s happening in Europe and the international scene.
The increasing demand for hybrids and mounting concerns on toxic emissions both combined to dry up the market for Volvo’s diesel sedans, wagons, and SUVs. Connor pointed out what happened to Volvo XC40, which previously made up 65% of their sales but fell to only 40% last year. He further added that he could see the diesel models completely disappearing from their range in a year or two, with more PHEVs and fully-electric vehicles taking their place. Currently, the Volvo XC40, XC60 and XC90 are available in plug-in hybrid versions.
Which automakers are phasing out diesel cars?
- The FCA Group has expressed its plans to ditch diesel versions from its lineup in a 5-year plan. This gradual phase-out will include all its American and Italian marques, namely Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, and Maserati. Automakers have already drawn out plans for the development of EVs and petrol PHEVs that will replace the void left by the diesel cars. Jeep will introduce ten new models, along with new generations of the Grand Cherokee and Wagoneer.
- Toyota is also geared up to follow the path of its luxury brand Lexus, which had long dropped diesel-fuel cars way back in 2013 in favour of electric and petrol hybrids. Other Japanese brands moving away from diesel technology are Mitsubishi, Suzuki, and Nissan, although diesel pickups and LCVs may still need to stay for a while.
- The same is true for Volvo’s subsidiary, Polestar. This premium brand does away with diesel versions in its range and only develops and uses plug-in and electric powertrains.
- Porsche has been diesel-free since 2018. With dwindling demand for diesel cars, the German automaker is headed straight toward electrification. Its parent company Volkswagen AG is on track in its resolve to produce the last ICE platform in 2026. Beyond that target year, the German auto group plans to develop and build pure EVs and plug-in cars only.
Meanwhile, BMW claims that it has the most efficient and cleanest diesel cars, which they won’t be dropping in any foreseeable future. Merc’s E-Class, on the other hand, has recently come out with both diesel and petrol PHEVs.
What makes diesel engines bad?
Before diesel-engine vehicles got a bad rep for their toxic emissions, they had been touted as the more economical and cleaner lot among fossil-fuel-fed forms of transport. Diesel burns more efficiently than petrol; thus a diesel car will consume less amount of fuel than what an equivalent petrol car uses up to cover the same distance.
Governments promoted diesel to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions in response to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. And why not when the difference is glaring: petrol engines produce roughly 200g of CO2/km compared to only 120g from a diesel equivalent.
In promoting diesel vehicles, however, countries seemed to have ignored the fact that diesel engines also produce toxic gases, such as nitrogen oxides (nitrogen dioxide NO2, nitrous oxide N2O, and nitric oxide NO), and cancer-causing fine particulates. The ill-effects of the piecemeal approach that focused solely on CO2 reduction is now catching up, prompting many governments to ban diesel engines in the near future.
There’s a lesson to be learned here. Lawmakers have previously made embarrassing U-turns in their legislation - at one time favouring diesel engines and killing them the next. This same over-eagerness to end diesel tech and giving petrol cars the high-fives is yet another case of turning a blind eye on the bane of petrol.
While it's true that emission in petrol platforms is relatively easier to control, they're not as 'clean' and environmentally friendly as we would like to believe either. In other words, why don't we give both diesel and petrol a good once-over and pull the plug on ICE vehicles altogether? The road to zero emissions will be long and challenging, but casting the spotlight on diesel alone is no doubt a step in the wrong direction.
By Jeannette Salanga (JMSL)