Critical evaluation of the European diesel car boom - global comparison, environmental effects and various national strategies

  • Background: On the way to a more sustainable society, transport needs to be urgently optimized regarding energy consumption and pollution control. While in earlier decades, Europe followed automobile technology leaps initiated in the USA, it has decoupled itself for 20 years by focusing research capacity towards the diesel powertrain. The resulting technology shift has led to some 45 million extra diesel cars in Europe. Its outcome in terms of health and environmental effects will be investigated below. Results: Expected greenhouse gas savings initiated by the shift to diesel cars have been overestimated. Only about one tenth of overall energy efficiency improvements of passenger cars can be attributed to it. These minor savings are on the other hand overcompensated by a significant increase of supply chain CO2 emissions and extensive black carbon emissions of diesel cars without particulate filter. We conclude that the European diesel car boom did not cool down the atmosphere. Moreover, toxic NO x emissions of diesel cars have been underestimated up to 20-fold in officially announced data. The voluntary agreement signed in 1998 between the European Automobile industry and the European Commission envisaging to reduce CO2 emissions has been identified as elementary for the ensuing European diesel car boom. Four factors have been quantified in order to explain very different dieselization rates across Europe: impact of national car/supplier industry, ecological modernization, fuel tourism and corporatist political governance. By comparing the European diesel strategy to the Japanese petrol-hybrid avenue, it becomes clear that a different road would have both more effectively reduced CO2 emissions and pollutants. Conclusion: Europe's car fleets have been persistently transformed from being petrol-driven to diesel-driven over the last 20 years. This paper investigates on how this came to be and why Europe took a distinct route as compared to other parts of the world. It also attempts to evaluate the outcome of stated goals of this transformation which was primarily a robust reduction in GHG emissions. We conclude that global warming has been negatively affected, and air pollution has become alarming in many European locations. More progressive development scenarios could have prevented these outcomes.
Author:Michel Cames, Eckard Helmers
Parent Title (English):Environmental Sciences Europe
Document Type:Article (specialist journals)
Date of OPUS upload:2022/11/28
Date of first Publication:2013/06/22
Publishing University:Hochschule Trier
Release Date:2022/11/28
Tag:CO2; NO x; PM; black carbon; diesel; diesel car boom; dieselization; emissions; fuel; global warming; health effects; soot; taxation; voluntary agreement
GND Keyword:Kraftfahrzeugindustrie; Kraftwagen; Dieselkraftstoff; Dieselmotor; Emissionsverringerung; Kohlendioxidemission; Klimaänderung
Article Number:15 (2013)
Page Number:22
First Page:1
Last Page:22
Departments:Institute / IfaS - Institut für angewandtes Stoffstrommanagement
Dewey Decimal Classification:6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 62 Ingenieurwissenschaften
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY - Namensnennung 4.0 International