DIESELS in France
From a very old love affair to the clean PROOF
In the old days, research engineers had a lot of freedom specially at the Citroen car company. In the 1950, some of them felt in love with the diesel combustion process. At this time in France the best (in world) diesel injection pump industry was dying. On the fuel side, and for historical reasons the diesel fuel was less taxed than gasoline and it remains today.
To make a long story short the direct electronic high pressure injection "common rail" reached the mass market with Peugeot HDI at the end of the 1990's jointly with Fiat and Mercedes. VW made at that time the choice of pump injector and it took them more than 10 years to switch to common rail technology.
During this period, air quality monitoring spread all over Europe and a major conflict came out between the EU Commission and France (may be stimulated by the German car industry). I was directly involved. The question was simple. In German cities the PM (particulate) concentration in the air of cities was frequently above the EU limits. This was not the case in France although the technology and the number of diesel cars were the same on both sides of the Rhine. The explanation was that the PM measurement technique in France was scientific correct but different from what was enforced by the EU law and applied everywhere else.
By this way, the German car industry might have tried to destabilize the very successful diesel French industry, including in Germany.
This was the beginning of the diesel bad image build up in France. The public authority put oil on the fire asking to increase the taxes on the dirty diesel but the truck lobby remains the strongest.
Today with Euro 6 emission standard diesel and gasoline cars are fuel neutral but it requires PM filter and SCR deNOx which is economically acceptable from medium to big cars. This analysis becomes more and more accepted by all parties including the greens.
What is my views for the future.
In France and Europe, the top priority is on CO2 and fuel economy. Translated in practice in France when you buy a new car there is a "Bonus Malus" system based on CO2 that gives a definite advantage to Diesel except for small cars with 3cylinder 900 cm3 engines. Most of car manufacturers don't offer anymore diesel for these small cars.
My feeling is that the car industry push hard for gasoline DI engines where they spend a lot with small market penetration because they remain slightly more CO2 emitters than diesel. Their market is highly penalized by jumping from bonus to malus.
The result is that car industry claims loud that they expect for 2020 a 50/50 market between gasoline and diesel (instead of 40/60 to 35/65 today) but the share of diesel is for medium to big and premium cars with better profit.
Those days in France there is a campaign to explain that the new Euro 6 diesel cars are as clean as gasoline. One of major source of PM is said to be home open fire and a law is under debate to forbid this type of fire. A clear distinction is at last made between a 10 years old diesel and a Euro 6 one. Like in German cities old cars may be kept out of city centers at bad air quality periods. This is at last considered to be smarter that the alternative odd/even number of police plate restriction of use.
In conclusion I am not at all pessimistic about the future of diesel which is likely to spread outside Europe. The question of diesel fuel shortage is also solved by the number of new plant operations in middle and far east designed for flexible production.