Tue, May 29, 2018 - Page 10 News List

EU official says diesel cars’ days are numbered


EU consumers might do as much as regulators to propel the region’s car sector into the electricity-powered age foreseen by Tesla Inc, European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elzbieta Bienkowska said.

She said that the EU has had a “breakthrough moment” since Germany-based Volkswagen AG admitted in 2015 that it fitted diesel engines with software to cheat US checks on smog-causing discharges of nitrogen oxides.

This deeply affected “the emotions in society toward emissions and cleaner cars,” she said.

“Diesel cars are finished,” Bienkowska said in an interview on Thursday in her ninth-floor Brussels office. “I think in several years they will completely disappear. This is the technology of the past.”

The emissions scandal could help the EU gear up for a technological revolution in road transport. Europe is seeking to retain leadership in the worldwide market for passenger cars in the face of competition from the US, where Tesla is based, and China, which accounts for about half of electric-vehicle sales.

Volkswagen’s cheating, which the US uncovered, leading Germany to order an EU-wide recall of 8.5 million Volkswagen vehicles, pushed the world’s No. 1 carmaker into a crisis and left policy makers in Europe scrambling to patch up regulatory holes that threatened a “clean-diesel” strategy dating to the 1990s.

Bienkowska’s services were subsequently notified of possible engine-management irregularities in more diesel cars, including some made by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

The issue has been politically thorny in Europe, because around half the cars in the union are powered by diesel — which causes more urban pollution than gasoline, while having less global-warming impact — and because many member states have struggled to meet clean-air goals meant to reduce sickness and premature deaths.

“People have realized that we will never have completely clean — without NOx — diesel cars,” Bienkowska said.

Last week, EU governments backed a revamp of the rules for authorizing car models in the 28-nation bloc.

The European Commission, the union’s executive, won the power to fine automakers up to 30,000 euros (US$35,122) per faulty car and order recalls as part of more centralized market oversight, becoming more like the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Adding to the optimism is an initiative by the commission and industry to spur the development in Europe of batteries for electric cars, including through financing. European companies seeking to get a foothold in the market include BMW AG, Daimler AG, BASF SE and Vattenfall AB.

“We want to have the first batteries produced in Europe, but also the whole value chain,” Bienkowska said. “It’s the kind of a project that a single member state cannot afford.”

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