Contributed by Bob Chabot
Does Diesel Still Have A Future? Bosch breakthrough paints a rosy future
“There’s still a future for diesel,” announced Dr. Volkmar Denner, Robert Bosch GmbH’s Chief Executive Officer, at the company’s April 2018 annual press conference. “We want to put a stop, once and for all, to the debate about the demise of diesel technology.”
“We are pushing the boundaries of what is technically feasible,” he emphasized. “Equipped with the latest Bosch technology, diesel vehicles will be classed as low-emission vehicles and yet remain affordable.” He then noted some of the developments that enable vehicle manufacturers to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions so drastically they comply with future 2020 limits.
“Bosch engineers achieved these results by refining existing technologies. He also called for greater transparency with regard to the CO2 emissions caused by road traffic, and for fuel consumption, and thus CO2 emissions, to be measured under real conditions on the road in the future.
How the new Bosch diesel technology works. Click on the image for a larger version. (Images and video — Robert Bosch GmbH)
Major Improvement Claims
“With this exhaust technology, diesel driving bans in the centers of the world’s major cities will no longer be necessary,” Denner emphasized. “We now have the technology to resolve the problem of nitrogen oxides in road traffic. The system is for new diesel vehicles only. It cannot be retrofitted for older models.”
Automakers have long relied on diesel fuel to help meet limits on CO2 emissions, a contributor to global warming. But while it emits less CO2 than gasoline-fueled engines, diesel fuel had always generated more NOx that contributes to harmful smog, a problem that concerns urban communities. Bosch’s new process doesn’t require any new hardware, yet optimizes the thermal management of exhaust temperatures, which cuts NOx emissions to just 10 percent of the current legally permitted limit. The system also keeps emissions stable even at cold temperatures.
"There's a future for diesel," claims Denner. “Bosch is pushing the boundaries of what is technically feasible. Equipped with the latest Bosch technology, diesel vehicles will be classed as low-emission vehicles and yet remain affordable."
Robert Bosch GmbH | Real Driving Emissions Test (RDE)
Bosch claims to have made a decisive breakthrough in diesel technology. Equipped with new Bosch diesel technology, vehicles can achieve average NOx readings as low as 13 milligrams per kilometer in RDE cycles, approximately one-tenth of the prescribed limit that will apply after 2020.
Skeptical Critics Take a ‘Show Me’ Approach
Note that Bosch is the largest supplier of diesel engine technology to global automakers, including Volkswagen AG, General Motors Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and others. As such, Bosch strongly opposes recent efforts to erode diesel’s market share that was sparked by VW’s 2015 emissions-cheating scandal. The manufacturer also maintains this advance allows cities such as Paris and London to consider allowing the use of diesel rather than banning it all together.
In addition, Bosch admitted supplying a component (electronic diesel control unit 17) that helped VW diesels cheat the emissions tests. As a result, Bosch agreed in 2017 to pay $327.5 million in damages to some who were affected by their behavior in the U.S. Prosecutors in Stuttgart, Germany, are still examining the role played by Bosch in the scandal.
The shadows and mistrust cast by the actions of “Dieselgate” have lingered. One could be forgiven for skepticism that such a breakthrough could come so soon, just two years after the scandal. Or if in fact achieved, that the cost of getting the claimed technology could be so inexpensive. Some clearly doubt the miracle, while others have already moved on to alternative long-term solutions.
"I think many potential customers and urban planners are skeptical," noted Greg Archer, Clean Vehicles Director of Transport & Environment, a green lobby group. "We have had many past claims that diesel is now clean, which have proved to be simple ‘greenwash.’ The reality is that how effective this technology is will depend on how it is actually fitted to the vehicles and that is not Bosch's responsibility. So it remains to be seen how good this technology really is."
Certainly, the Bosch announcement claiming a glorious revival has yet to be independently guaranteed. The rumors of the death of diesel may also have been greatly exaggerated. This we do know: Diesel sales have fallen approximately 10 percent since 2015 in Europe, including Germany, as well as America and other markets. It will take much to convince people whether diesel is a fossil fuel that has a bright and burning future.
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