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Car emissions, upholding the limits

Simonluca Pini – Contributor Editor de Il Sole 24 Ore

The latest engines are “cleaner” thanks to highly sophisticated particulate filters  
Meeting tomorrow’s carbon emission limits represents one of the biggest challenges for any car manufacturer. From 2021 onwards, the average vehicle range will have to respect the limit of 95 g/km of CO2, which will fall to 80 in 2025 and only 59 g/km by 2030. If the last two limits appear to be reachable thanks to a significant increase of hybrid and electric models available on the market, the first step will need an important contribution from the latest Euro 6 diesels; however, the problem is that diesel engines have become, according to popular opinion, the main cause of air pollution. How did this situation come about?

Well, we need to go back to the Dieselgate scandal. If the transition to a “greener” mobility has already been mapped out, with a growing availability of hybrid models and EVs in the future, the recent “attacks” against diesel engines has led to a decline in sales and a consequent increase in pollution. In fact, in the first few months of the year, fewer Euro 6 diesel cars were registered but CO2 emissions increased due to an overall rise in the average carbon footprint of new cars sold. Given the facts, the use of Euro 6 diesel engines is essential if we hope to achieve the CO2 reduction targets set for 2030. The reason? Euro 6 diesel engines produce less carbon dioxide than petrol engines and are therefore essential in meeting the imposed limits. This is not the case if we take into consideration aging diesel engines, underlining that the emphasis should be placed on renewing the national fleet and certainly not stopping Euro 6 diesel sales altogether. An ACEA study shows, in fact, that in the road transport sector, the last 20 years witnessed significant progress in terms of CO2 emissions as well as NOx and PM emissions. Talking about the latter, newer engines (from Euro 5 onwards), both petrol and diesel, have been able to reduce their emissions by as much as 96% over the last twenty years, lowering these emissions to almost negligible levels. All this thanks to the introduction of increasingly sophisticated particulate filters.

As confirmed by data from the European Environment Agency, only 13% of CO2 emissions can be attributed to vehicles. It is therefore quite clear that the problem lies elsewhere, but cars are an easy target for any administration as well as public opinion, much to the detriment of the poor motorist’s wallet. According to Aeris Europe, an advisory body, in 2015, 40% of NOX came from the road, 14% of which from diesel cars. All of them! As new diesel engines replace aging ones, it is estimated that these levels will be halved by 2025. In addition, real drive emission (RDE) tests by ADAC (AllegemeinerDeutscherAutomobil Club) have shown that some cars already have near-zero NOx emissions.

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