The global automotive industry faces the challenge of moving on from the fossil fuels era to electric cars, despite the existence of various hurdles. At the same time, diesel is beginning to lose its competitive edge over gasoline, prompting auto industries to declare their disengagement from investments concerning the further development of diesel-fueled vehicles.
In Greece, diesel fuel, as an auto energy choice, made a delayed entry into the market. Its wider use in major cities here was only permited five years ago. Two years later, in 2013, diesel-powered vehicle sales captured first place in the Greek market. Diesel was lower-priced, offered greater mileage and less emissions. This was good news for drivers in recession-struck Greece.
In response, car makers of models running on gasoline took measures to significantly reduce consumption levels by focusing on the development of smaller engines combined with the adoption of turbo technology. Lower fuel consumption levels in this auto category have virtually wiped out the advantage enjoyed by diesel cars in recent years.
Though diesel vehicle models emit less greenhouse gases, the nitrogen oxides they release are more hazardous for human health. Or, as put by British broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson, diesel cars are good news for polar bears but bad news for the health of people living in cities.
The European Commision has set specific limits for such emissions and is expected to follow up with new, even stricter limits next spring.
A recent study showed that many car producers have been providing false information on the nitrogen oxide emission levels of their car models. In some cases, emissions were as much as fifteen times over the limit. The recent VW diesel emissions cover-up scandal, just the tip of the iceberg, as things have turned out, has also affected the public’s perception of diesel technology.
VW has sought to rectify its corporate image by announcing major investment plans for the development of new eco-friendly vehicles. Though the move has been widely received as a mere PR gimmick, there must be some truth in it if the amount of money being spent by the German car producer on new models is taken into account. VW’s product range objective includes 30 electric car models by 2025.
Without a doubt, this reflects a wider auto industry trend. Car producers are now discouraged to invest in cleaner diesel technology as they concurrently face the challenge of adapting to electric cars, viewed as the industry’s future. Auto makers believe they cannot take on three fronts at once and, as a result, are opting to focus on gasoline and electric car technology.
There is a long way to go in the development of electric car technology, still at an embryonic stage. The high cost of electric car models and, to a lesser extent, the lack of refueling station infrastructure, especially in countries such as Greece, where drivers generally do not posses private garages, act as deterrents. On the other hand, some technological progress has been made, allowing electric cars to run for about 300 kilometers based on a single charge. Also, the battery recharging time needed is now far swifter.
Electric car producers and governments around the world anticipate this developing technology will make electric cars far more affordable for drivers between 2020 and 2025, making them competitive against conventional models.