Many may still hold an age-old image of diesel trucks and lorries with dirty black smoke. However, Clean Diesel technology has banished that stereotype, holding a lot more promise for the future.
The world’s first series-production passenger car with a diesel engine – the Mercedes-Benz 260D – was introduced in February 1936 at the Berlin Motor Show, with 30 per cent more economy than a petrol engine.
Since then, diesel cars have evolved and come a long way.
Audi, which has four models in the diesel engine variant in Singapore, presented the world’s first passenger car with modern direct injection turbo-diesel technology at the 1989 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Termed “TDI”, Audi was also the first to use and continuously win the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race with a TDI engine, helping to change the perception that diesel cars are not “smoky, slow and unexciting”.
The common rail system – put into serial production by Bosch in 1997 – marked the moment that the modern diesel powertrain came to be as we know it today. Bosch is big on diesel and is actively promoting the benefits of modern diesel technology. I had a chance to speak to Klaus Landhaeusser from Bosch South East Asia who shared with me some facts and myths around Clean Diesel.
A major driving force behind change, Bosh is constantly developing new ways of efficiency, preparing the automotive industry for gradual transition to electromobility. At Bosch Diesel Systems, they are continuously improving diesels, making them more economical, more powerful and environmentally friendly.
Benefits of Clean Diesel
The new generation of diesel technology (aka Clean Diesel) offers a balance of performance and efficiency, especially in terms of better low-end torque for greater response, improved fuel efficiency of at least 30 per cent, lower and cleaner emissions, as well as more reliability with no high voltage electrical system.
Innovations such as common-rail direct injection, variable geometry turbochargers and diesel particulate filters enable diesel engines to emit less carbon dioxide and consume less fuel compared to their petrol variants.
For example, both the BMW X6 M50d and M5 M50d house new six-cylinder advanced diesel engine with three turbochargers and the BMW Advanced Diesel technology, which includes a diesel particulate filter that removes the smallest particles of nitric oxides from the exhaust without impacting performance or efficiency. A catalyst then converts any remaining particles of nitric oxides into nitrogen and water vapour, before releasing them through the tail pipe.
The level of noise and vibration often associated with diesel cars has also been managed and suppressed. Advanced diesel cars today tend to be compliant with the Euro 5 standard. When stationary, the vibration and noise of such advanced diesel cars are almost negligible and their emissions are much cleaner than their predecessors.
Diesel technology is especially good for high-mileage drivers as well, requiring less fuel to drive a given distance compared to a petrol equivalent and fuel prices are lower too. For example, a Volkswagen Jetta 1.6 TDI can get to Ipoh and back on a single tank of an estimated range of about 1,200 kilometres.
Plus, aesthetics wise, there are no real differences in the body styles or designs of a diesel car versus its petrol equivalent. Just looking at it from the outside, you probably can’t even tell if it’s a diesel or a petrol.
The Singapore Story
In Western Europe, diesel cars are very popular, with more than 50 per cent of all new passenger cars sold as diesels. Hopefully, diesel cars can pick up more momentum in Singapore and prove as a worthy alternative to petrol cars, especially with new initiatives such as the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) and the reduction in diesel tax.
Under the CEVS, from January 1 2013, car buyers have begun to enjoy a rebate of up to $20,000 for vehicles with emissions of 160g/km and below. On 1 July, penalty fines of up to $20,000 are imposed on cars with emissions of 211g/km and above. Vehicles of emissions between 161 and 210g/km fall in the neutral band with neither a rebate nor a penalty. To promote the new and cleaner diesel technologies, the Special Tax for Euro V-compliant cars was lowered from $1.25 per cubic centimetre (cc) of engine capacity to $0.40 per cc from 1 January.
Basically, the people at Bosch feel that there is no reason why the markets outside of Europe, especially in Southeast Asia, should not embrace modern diesel technology. Car companies in Singapore have been aggressively introducing diesel variants in their line-up of passenger cars, but the biggest challenge will be to convince consumers of the benefits of modern diesel technology – cleaner, more economical and more powerful.
The electrically mobile future is not going to happen anytime soon, at least not in the next decade. So in the meantime, today’s modern, economical, clean and powerful diesels can do much more than many people think.
I think many people out there are unaware of how much our lives are dependent on diesel. All over the world, it is mainly diesel engines which drive the harvesters for our agricultural needs and the commercial vehicles which transport our food across the seas or roads to the local supermarkets. Can you imagine what a world without diesel would be like?
There is a worldwide network of diesel technology and the diesel powertrain brings us all closer to resolving the global challenges we face. That’s where Clean Diesel comes in.