Germany’s Berliner Zeitung put it succinctly: Diesel Backfires – Decades of government support can’t hide the ugly truth.
It was only three years ago that government researchers began to admit that irritating private research may just be correct – the nitrogen dioxide emissions generated by diesel engines have increased substantially over the past two decades and there was no sign of a reversal.
Tiny toxic particulates emitted by diesel engines, have been shown to pass through the lungs and enter almost every organ in the body causing serious asthma problems, strokes and heart attacks. Other reports have claimed that children’s brains can be dramatically affected developing schizophrenia and autism; overall not unlike the effects of lead in petrol, which was banned in 1999.
A report published last year claimed that diesel engines were the cause of around 400,000 deaths in Europe each year. An editorial in Britain’s Sunday Times said: “There is something grotesque about a civilized society failing to give people clean enough air.”
Government regulatory strategies approving the use of diesel engines had always been based on the fact that technological advances would be able to cut the ‘always known’ dangerous emissions of diesel engines in future. That clearly has not been the case and the fact that no ‘planned breakthroughs’ were on the horizon finally forced Germany to ban the sale of all new diesel-powered vehicles from 2020, and the use of them after 2025.
Currently more than a third of all cars sold, and 90% of vans, are diesel-powered. The impact on auto manufacturers, the oil industry and servicing will be massive.
Rudolf Diesel originally designed the diesel engine to use coal dust as a fuel; he also experimented with various oils, including peanut oil, which was used to power the engines exhibited at the 1900 Paris Exposition and the 1911 World’s Fair in Paris. The phrase ‘dust to dust’ comes to mind for the lifetime of the diesel engine.