DISCUSSION Open Access
Critical evaluation of the European diesel carboom - global comparison, environmental effectsand various national strategies
and Eckard Helmers
On the way to a more sustainable society, transport needs to be urgently optimized regardingenergy consumption and pollution control. While in earlier decades, Europe followed automobile technology leapsinitiated in the USA, it has decoupled itself for 20 years by focusing research capacity towards the diesel powertrain. The resulting technology shift has led to some 45 million extra diesel cars in Europe. Its outcome in terms of healthand environmental effects will be investigated below.
Expected greenhouse gas savings initiated by the shift to diesel cars have been overestimated. Only aboutone tenth of overall energy efficiency improvements of passenger cars can be attributed to it. These minor savings areon the other hand overcompensated by a significant increase of supply chain CO
emissions and extensive black carbon emissions of diesel cars without particulate filter. We conclude that the European diesel car boom did not cooldown the atmosphere. Moreover, toxic NO
emissions of diesel cars have been underestimated up to 20-fold inofficially announced data. The voluntary agreement signed in 1998 between the European Automobile industry andthe European Commission envisaging to reduce CO
emissions has been identified as elementary for the ensuingEuropean diesel car boom. Four factors have been quantified in order to explain very different dieselization rates acrossEurope: impact of national car/supplier industry, ecological modernization, fuel tourism and corporatist politicalgovernance. By comparing the European diesel strategy to the Japanese petrol-hybrid avenue, it becomes clear that adifferent road would have both more effectively reduced CO
emissions and pollutants.
Europe's car fleets have been persistently transformed from being petrol-driven to diesel-driven over the last20 years. This paper investigates on how this came to be and why Europe took a distinct route as compared to other partsof the world. It also attempts to evaluate the outcome of stated goals of this transformation which was primarily a robustreduction in GHG emissions. We conclude that global warming has been negatively affected, and air pollution has becomealarming in many European locations. More progressive development scenarios could have prevented these outcomes.
Diesel; Diesel car boom; Dieselization; NO
; PM; Soot; Black carbon; Global warming; Health effects;Voluntary agreement; Taxation; Emissions; Fuel
The clout of the transport sector
By 2007, the share of energy demand for transport purposesmade up 28.7% of final delivered energy on a global scale. Worldwide transport was responsible for 23% of worldenergy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with roadtraffic representing 74% of this sector (IPCC data from2007, as summarized in ). The transport sector includesairplanes, ships, trains and all types of street vehicles (e.g.trucks, busses, cars, two-wheelers). Vehicles sometimes arealso separated into light-duty vehicles (automobiles, motor-cycles, light trucks) with a kerb weight of up to 3,850 kgand the class of heavy-duty vehicles. In a business-as-usualscenario, a further doubling of automobile CO
emissionsis to be expected by 2050 due to the enormous increase inautomobile use in the developing world (particularly Asia,
University of Luxembourg, 162a, avenue de la Faïencerie, 1511 Luxembourg,Luxembourg
Institut für angewandtes Stoffstrommanagement (IfaS) am UmweltcampusBirkenfeld, Trier University of Applied Sciences, P.O. Box 1380, 55761 Birkenfeld,Germany
© 2013 Cames and Helmers; licensee Springer. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the CreativeCommons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, andreproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Cames and Helmers
Environmental Sciences Europe