Tumbling diesel sales in Europe do not signal a grim future for the technology, General Motors powertrain executive Pierpaolo Antonioli said, citing new evidence suggesting nitrogen oxide emissions can be cut to an absolute minimum.

GM, which kept its Turin engineering centre despite selling Opel/Vauxhall to PSA Group last year, was first to market a truck with an EPA-certified 30 mpg highway rating with the diesel versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.

In January, the automaker announced a 3.0-liter inline-six turbodiesel planned for the next-generation Chevrolet Silverado.

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“Internal combustion engines, including the diesel, can still play a role in the years to come,” Antonioli, who bears global responsibility inside GM for development of diesel engines, said Wednesday at the Automotive News Europe Congress here during a panel discussion titled “What is the Future of Diesel?”

“Bosch said just a few weeks ago that they can already achieve very low emissions, especially for NOx, without increasing the cost of the combustion system,” Antonioli said.

Robert Bosch, the world’s largest auto parts manufacturer and a leading supplier of diesel injection systems, said it has developed a method to cut on-road NOx emissions to just 13 milligrams per kilometer, far below the 80 mg/km test bench limit under Euro 6 regulations and the 168 mg/km limit that takes effect in September as part of the introduction of RDE real-world testing.

Sales of diesel continue to plunge after threats in February 2017 of potential diesel bans in Germany. In May, domestic registrations of diesel amounted to just 31.5 per cent of the overall figure in Europe’s largest car market. This was the second-lowest level in Germany since the outbreak of the crisis, as news of Hamburg’s first ban helped suppress demand. Diesel adoption rates in the U.K. were not much better at a 32.5 per cent share.

Greg Archer, a director responsible for clean vehicles policy at the Brussels-based advocacy group Transport & Environment, said the industry had only itself to blame because of a comprehensive abuse of regulatory loopholes.


“The blame lays not only on Volkswagen but every OEM that thought thermal windows and other strategies to turn down their exhaust treatment systems’ effectiveness were legitimate — they,” said Archer, an avowed diesel opponent. “The more your lawyers try to defend the indefensible, the more the brand and the product are discredited.

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“The pain is not ending. It will go on and on, and the bans will proliferate unless OEMs constructively engage to sort out the mess.”

To redeem their reputation, Archer recommended four initiatives. First, carmakers should clean up the 40 million Euro 5 and Euro 6 types of diesel on the road, including making hardware modifications. Then they need to support new regulations, such as Euro 7 emissions standards, which ensure diesel pollute no more than gasoline-powered cars.

Third, a Europewide fund must be introduced to financially support cities’ clean-air plans. Last, the automakers should submit their cars to the scrutiny of credible, nonpartisan organizations that independently test diesel.

“Diesel won’t disappear in Europe,” Archer said, “but whether the market share in 2025 is 10 per cent or 30 per cent depends on how the industry responds to the crisis.”

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