The diesel engine is in trouble in Europe.
The mayor of Paris wants diesels banned from the city in five years.
A British politician said last week that the government there made a big mistake encouraging drivers in the U.K. to opt for diesels.
Diesel’s reputation is being blackened because air quality in many European cities is poor, and that is causing health problems. Fingers are pointing at diesel engines. In most European countries, diesels account for around 50 percent of new-car sales.
The EPA and the California Air Resources Board have claimed for years that diesel exhaust is toxic. It’s one of the reasons why diesel emissions standards in the United States are very different from those in Europe.
The European Union’s diesel regulations force reductions in carbon dioxide, or CO2, which causes global warming.
The EPA’s diesel standards focus more on reducing nitrogen oxides, or NOx, which have been linked to asthma and other respiratory issues.
Low-sulfur diesel fuel and a plethora of technologies, such as selective catalytic reduction, exhaust gas recirculation, diesel particulate traps and filters, have dramatically cleaned up diesel exhaust from where it was in the 1980s.
The problem is neither the European nor the U.S. emission standards eliminate the fine particulates in diesel exhaust that can cause respiratory and other health problems.
Because diesel fuel burns at a higher temperature than gasoline, the exhaust has more soot, which contains carbon combined with sulfate, nitrate and metals. The gases in diesel exhaust comprise a mix of chemicals including formaldehyde and benzene.
Today’s diesel engines are smooth, quiet and nearly odorless, and rarely do you see puffs of black smoke coming from the tailpipe. Automakers and suppliers such as Bosch, Tenneco and others continue to make progress on reducing toxic diesel emissions, both in the engine cylinder and in the exhaust system.
But as far as I know, there aren’t any breakthrough technologies on deck that will eliminate diesel particulates and NOx.