Will the new Bosch breakthrough turn it around for diesels?
Just ten days ago, Nissan announced that it was laying off hundreds of workers at its plant in Sunderland, the largest in the UK. This news came hard on the heels of Jaguar Land Rover’s plans to lay off 1,000 temporary workers at its Solihull plant in the West Midlands. Both companies have attributed the layoffs to crumbling diesel sales as well as to a downturn in the wider UK automotive market. The last twelve months have seen sales of diesel cars in the UK fall from 42% to 37.2%. In 2016, the figure was 47.7%. The decrease can, at least in part, be attributed to the British government’s decision to increase taxes on diesels and to talks about banning them altogether from UK roads at some future stage.
As someone who drives a diesel car, I am angry. When I first leased mine, almost four years ago, I did so believing that modern diesel engines were no more polluting than petrol units. This was clearly stated by the government among other sources. Now, I am being made to feel like some sort of social pariah. The time is soon approaching when I will have to decide on my next car and, frankly, it will probably not be a diesel. There have been many rumours to the effect that London congestion charges will be increased for drivers of diesels and that they may be banned altogether from the centre of the city. Do I need this kind of hassle?
But wait. A recent technology breakthrough announced by the leading German auto supplier, Bosch, which the company claims can radically reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel engines, has the potential to reverse some of the recent desertion of the fuel. Bosch says that its new technology has the potential to reduce diesel vehicles' nitrogen oxide emissions to a tenth of the regulatory limits scheduled to come into force by 2020. Could this be a game-changer? Only if it is accepted and taken on board by the British government and its counterparts in other countries. If the heinous penalties imposed on diesel drivers remain in force, their reactions, like mine, will surely still be to walk away. And what of the effect on sales of electric vehicles? Will the new Bosch technology make prospective EV buyers think again? Time will tell, it is still early days.
Simon Duval Smith
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