Bosch claims breakthrough on NOx emissions will 'save' diesel

27 Apr 2018 |

Germany-based car parts maker Bosch said this week it has made a technological breakthrough that can slash the nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels in new diesel cars, an outcome it says will negate the need to exclude all diesel vehicles in cities.

Bosch, which is the world’s biggest supplier of exhausts and catalytic convertors to diesel cars, said it has developed a solution to cut nitrogen oxide (NOx) to just a tenth of new limits in diesel engines to be applied from 2020.

If the technology is proven and is widely adopted by the car industry, it could be music to the ears of Europe’s biodiesel producers, who have had to recalibrate their expectations of future demand for their fuel in view of slowing sales since the 2015 vehicle testing emissions scandal.

Citing health concerns, several large European cities including London, Paris and Rome have said they will ban diesel cars, while a court ruling in Germany in February increased the likelihood that scores of German cities—including Bosch’s hometown of Stuttgart —will curb or ban older diesel vehicles from next year.  

“With this new exhaust technology, blanket driving bans in the centres of the world’s major cities will no longer be an issue. Why? Because we now have the technology to resolve the problem of nitrogen oxides in road traffic," Bosch’s CEO Volkmar Denner told journalists at a presentation on Wednesday.

Bosch said the technological advance can draw upon much of existing hardware already equipped on modern diesel vehicles, and could be commercially available in two years.

The German company said the new technology can reduce NOx output to as low as 13mg/km in real-world driving scenarios. This would be a fraction of the current limit of 168mg/km, and it also is far below the 120mg/km limit that will be brought into force in 2020.

Denner also talked up the potential role for biofuels in diesel engines as part of a revised measurement system of how the full carbon footprint of combustion engines and alternative vehicles are measured.

“The use of non-fossil fuels could further improve the CO2 footprint of combustion engines,” Denner said.

He added: “We need a transparent assessment of the overall carbon dioxide emissions produced by road traffic, including not only the emissions of the vehicles themselves, but also the emissions caused by the production of the fuel or electricity used to power them.”

However, the new exhaust system will be for new diesel cars and can’t be retrofitted, meaning that the threats hanging over much of Europe’s diesel car pool remains, say environmental campaigners.

'Too late'

ClientEarth, which has taken lawsuits against the diesel car industry, said Bosch’s new technology had failed to address the climate impacts of combustion engine vehicles.

It cited new figures released this week that show CO2 emissions from diesel vehicles in the EU have increased, "making them virtually no better than petrol cars", ClientEarth said.

“We’ve not yet seen a combustion engine that is clean for people’s health and the environment, and the car industry has shot itself in the foot when it comes to consumer trust. For diesel, it might just be too late,” ClientEarth clean air lawyer Ugo Taddei said.

Bosch has a major stake in the continued long-term use of the diesel engine and earlier this year agreed to pay $327.5 million to resolve allegations in the US that it had a major role in Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal.

Stuttgart-based prosecutors last week said that they may widen an investigation of Bosch’s suspected role in the rigging of diesel emissions tests.  

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