Headlines in the last few months have indicated that the days of diesel were coming to an end and that diesel vehicles were the main cause of pollution problems around the UK. However, an announcement by tyre company Continental has given hope for diesel fans that it might not be dead yet.

Super diesel technology developed in Germany by Continental indicates that auto-manufacturers will soon be able to make cars that deliver emission levels lower than current EU limits. So what is super diesel technology and how does it work?

Big announcement

Continental has said that its new ‘Super Clean Electrified Diesel’ technology can reduce real world emissions by some 60% and is the way forward for a cleaner, less polluting diesel fuel. Engineers at the company have developed a new after-treatment using electricity, which can reduce NOx emissions by almost two thirds under real world driving conditions. The company has said it is already in discussions with manufacturers about using the technology in their vehicles.

Johannes Dreschel, the development engineer for Continental, explained that the key for the new system was the use of an electrically heated catalytic converter that makes use of a 48V electrical system. Normally, a catalytic converter needs the engine to bring it up to temperature. However, this new tech uses electricity from the 48V system to get the power it needs to work.

Why this makes a difference

Why should this make a difference? Continental explains that because the catalytic converter uses electricity rather than the engine, it can heat up much faster. This means it provides a much more efficient reduction of NOx emissions.

Some current converters have an electronically heated element that uses a 12V system but the new larger, 48V system allows the devices to work far more quickly. In addition to using more power, the company’s engineers have also made subtle amendments to the after-treatment system. These include injecting the AdBlue urea solution to the exhaust immediately, without the use of a separate mixer (as is currently common practice).

Testing the process

In testing, the company took an existing Volkswagen Golf and changed the system from a 12V to a 48V one.  It then tested the car under the forthcoming real driving emissions (RDE) cycle. The results showed 60% lower NOx levels than in the standard vehicle without the modifications. It also saw a 3% fall in CO2 emissions and a 4% increase in overall fuel economy.

Another live test involved taking the modified Golf onto Continental’s German test track. A Portable Emissions Measurement System (PEMS) was fitted to the back of the car in order to track the emissions. The car was then taken for a test run, including reaching motorway speed levels. The NOx emissions were recorded at 60mg/km, which is well below the current EU limit of 80mg/km.

Brighter future?

Dreschel strongly believes that diesel cars have a role to play in the future of motoring, but admits that they need to be cleaner. The technology developed by Continental is one of the ways that diesel vehicles can do this, allowing diesel to have a future.

The technology helps to highlight that there are ways to make diesel cars friendlier to the environment. Combined with measures to look at other causes of emissions, the situation of premature deaths from poor air quality could be controlled. This could be achieved without the need to eliminate the diesel vehicle (as some campaigners have suggested would be required).

Governments and pressure groups are pushing ahead with a one-dimensional approach to tackling pollution through banning petrol and diesel vehicles and pushing for electric charge vehicles (EVs). The fundamental problem with this is it will take years for EVs to replace combustion engines. A more pragmatic approach would be to make diesel and petrol engines as clean as possible while rolling out EVs, which do appear to be the future. At present, however, it seems that demonising combustion engines is easier than finding solutions to drastically cut emissions.

What do you think about this super diesel technology? Do you think it should be rolled out as soon as possible or even retro-fitted onto vehicles at no charge? Let us know in the comments below.

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