Saturday 26 September 2015

dieselgate: The death of "clean" diesel

What has Dieselgate shown us this week?

  1. European Car manufacturers don't care about the long-term health of their customers.
  2. You can't do low-end diesel cars that aren't polluting in the real world —or if you do, their power profile doesn't match modern customer expectations aggressive driving
  3. The car manufacturers are prepared to systematically deceive governments and their pollution tests.
  4. Self-regulated tests don't work in this world —no more than the cigarette vendor's smoking trials.
  5. The US government's extended test regime eventually caught this —though it took the threat of the 2016 models being blocked for VW to own up. They must have known about the crime in advance, but were just pretending "different driving conditions"
All claims that diesel cars are getting cleaner are complete bollocks

Cars have not got cleaner, they haven't got more fuel efficient. Instead the car companies have rigged the tests.

The current EU certification regime, models a 1970s driving style, and, being self-certified, has been utterly abused to the point where it is meaningless —in both pollution and mileage. 

Now, what is the good outcome of this? Diesel is doomed.

The fact the mileage figures are rigged for all vehicles is now going to become obvious. Everyone who bought a car based on mileage numbers has been ripped off.

Europe is going to need new tests, and soon. These will have to be strict and done independently. The EPA regime of testing real cars is now the only test process shown to work. There is no way the car companies can defend proposals to test this way, as they can't claim the existing process isn't utterly meaningless. And, they can't put it off.

They won't be able to have nice little meetings with Angela Merkel, Cameron, or Francois Hollande and say "cut us some slack". The politicians will know the situation is metaphorically and literally toxic —and want to put some clean blue air between them and the car companies. Now comes a chance to have some real-world tests, and force diesel cars to become cleaner or get taken off the price list.

Same for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Their September 3 paper,  ‘Air Quality; The Automotive Industry Contribution’ is full of coverage of diesel engines, how EURO6 will deliver a 50% reduction in NOx pollution, and some statements which we now know to be untenable

Under Euro-6, diesel cars are the cleanest in history
-no, they are no cleaner than before. They've just cheated the exams better.

An EU policy review in 2013 confirmed Euro-6 will deliver key air quality objectives by 2020

A review written on the assumption that the car companies weren't lying through their teeth. That assumption is now shown to be false, hence the conclusion untenable.

There's one little mention of cycling in there:
Planning policies, which recognise changing mobility trends in urban areas and offer an integrated range of choices to suit journey needs, including cycling, walking, car sharing and public transport, will also be paramount, and must keep traffic moving.
They do accept cities are changing, but retain that phrase "keep traffic moving", which comes just after "Managing traffic to smooth its flow can significantly reduce air pollution.". That's the old "smoothing traffic flow" bollocks. Well, we can now point to people talking about "Smoothing traffic flow" and say "it's not going to deliver"

The DfT must be in a quandry here. They can't use the rollout of EURO6-certified cars as their roadmap for pollution levels in cities dropping, so they can't hope the pollution problem will go away if they wait long enough. Unless radical action is taken, the cities of 2020 will be as polluted as the cities of 2030 —if not worsened by more road traffic and increased congestion.

They're going to have to act, and that means read that Defra paper on NOx pollution and not say "wait long enough and it will go away". Cities are going to have to act, and they're now able to go the central government and say "you have to fund this".

London could be first, as the C-zone is the infrastructure. In particular, someone needs to look at all the diesel models that scraped in at under 100g CO2/km. How many are really doing that —and if not, is it fair for a diesel car that chucks out NOx pollution to get in free, while a petrol-engined car gets billed? The next mayor of London is going to have to look at that issue, and set a timetable for the end of the diesel exemption, as well as perhaps one for non-hybrid, non-electric cars in general.

Dieselgate has shown the world how dangerous diesel is, and how it won't go away. This is too big an opportunity to waste.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

#Turbogate: the demise of Diesel?

Two weeks ago, Defra snuck out a report saying that Diesels were a key source of urban pollution, that aggressive action was going to be needed —despite the fact that Euro6 cars were significantly less polluting than their predecessors.

It was pushed out on a Saturday, while the labour party elections took the headlines, and primarily got coverage in the bike press. Some of the press coverage called out the fact that car manufacturers could ship cleaner cars in the US showed that they could do more.

It's interesting to wonder why Defra stuck it out on that Saturday. You'd think that this was a significant enough crisis that they'd want to highlight it, to create action. Yet they didn't. Assume there's been some power struggle between DfT "more roads are good", the Treasury, which also believe that more roads are good and clearly chose not to offer any mitigation funds, and the cabinet, who recognised that a crack down on diesels was going to be politically toxic. My delegating it to a local-government level, it's the councils that get the blame —not central government.

Since then, VW's Turbogate scandal has arrive, showing that

  1. Cheating on emissions tests is ingrained into the companies to the extent they deliberately program their cars to cheat.
  2. Claims Euro 6 diesels will reduce urban pollution are bollocks.
  3. European car manufacturers don't give a fuck about the health of European and US citizens —let alone those in other countries.
The final point shows that Diesel car manufacturers are the new cigarette companies: willing to let their customers die in exchange for short-term profits.

Well, turbogate is here, and VW will be in the "who knew what, when" phase. The higher up the company the decision to cheat has gone (or the current position of those who knew of the cheating), the more serious it will be.

The UK and the rest of Europe cannot ignore this. They cannot lie to themselves that diesel pollution will go away as the fleet of cars, vans and buses upgrades. The governments are going to have to rush to do real-world tests, to identify which cars really are the most polluting —and push those that most diverge from the rigged tests to get fixed. It's going to reduce fuel efficiency and performance, so reduce the merits of diesel —but that is fine, because there are alternatives. Petrol and petrol hybrid cars in particular.

This cannot be brushed under the carpet.

And VW? Fucked.

Do you know their  2011-2014 model was only available in the EU in a diesel form. In the US, alongside the rigged diesels, they were happy to sell a petrol version, but here in the UK, diesel only. Models that we now know to be 4-40X more polluting than the US standards. Anyone who owns one of those cars has just taken a hit on resale value. With warnings from Defra of likely restrictions on diesel cars to come, all modern diesel cars are equally at risk —especially while there is suspicion of other car manufacturers cheating. With the EU companies being the ones who embraced diesel the most: VW, BMW, Mercedes, Renault and Peugeot in particular, French and German cars just took a hit. People selling off their petrol cars, on the other hand, are probably going to see an increase in resale value —there's less of them nowadays, and they are about to become more popular.

Meanwhile: nobody in their right minds should be buying a diesel car.

As for cyclists, maybe its time to stage some protests outside VW shops, "stop killing us' would make a good slogan.