Will Euro 6 see the demise of the small diesel?

From September 2015, all new cars must be compliant with Euro 6 emissions standards, which aims to reduce the levels of harmful exhaust emissions such as nitrogen oxide (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (THC and NMHS) and particulate matter (PM).

The new regulations mean that Euro 6 diesel cars must emit over 50 per cent less NOx than their Euro 5 counterparts.

The legislation has been under constant review since it was first established in 1992 when NOx limits stood at 490mg/km for petrol and 780mg/km for diesel engines.

The latest cuts come as the industry continues to fight-back against so-called diesel demonisation and the threat of ultra low emissions zones, which could soon see diesel drivers having to pay extra to drive in the city.  Across the Channel, Paris’s mayor has called for diesel-engined cars to be banned from the city all together by 2020.

Here in the UK, many are blaming government initiatives designed to entice consumers into buying diesel, some of whom are thought to have been mis-sold diesel by the main dealerships.  Defending diesel, the Society of Motor Manufactures and Traders (SMMT) launched a campaign earlier this year to raise awareness of modern diesel engines.

New Euro 6 diesels may be the cleanest ever but, as Blue Print’s Jim Gilmour explained during a Mechanex seminar at Event City last month, that’s thanks to a particularly expensive exhaust system which is likely to push up the price of Euro 6 diesels.

To reduce NOx, you have the EGR system, which produces soot. To reduce soot, you need to burn it off at an extremely high temperature, which of course produces NOx and a Sunday Times investigation has recently revealed that some new diesel cars emit NOx levels well above the maximum allowed under new Euro 6 standards.

The findings show that diesel cars certified under EU rules are pumping out emissions up to 9.9 times the official maximum.

Diesel drivers are already facing council surcharges in some areas and, with motorists seemingly oblivious to DPF problems, many more are having to pay expensive repair bills to maintain their diesel exhaust system.

The long-term future of diesel remains uncertain but some experts are predicting a demise in the small diesel and it has been argued that plug-in hybrid technology could be the answer for some motorists.

Whilst the country does not yet have the infrastructure for electric cars, hybrids are now extremely reliable, with similar running costs to diesel and are improving all of the time.

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