Panic over for Europe’s diesel makers as Mild-Hybrid technology comes to the rescue

Posted: August 12, 2017 by oldbrew in Emissions, innovation, Travel

Credit: Automotive News Europe

European auto makers look like riding out the current panic over diesel engine health risks, fighting off a clamour for action by politicians and environmentalists, and despite some worrying projections by investment bankers, as Forbes reports.

New “mild-hybrid” technology will quickly fill the gap left by diesel’s precipitate decline, while a softening attitude from the European Union (E.U.) suggests city bans of this now derided technology might not be as ubiquitous as feared.

Earlier this week Daimler announced it was “voluntarily” recalling more than 3 million Mercedes diesel cars and vans to reduce poisonous nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. The recall involves a software patch to emissions cleaning systems which will cost about $255 million.

This is the latest development in a diesel engine saga which has shaken investors’ confidence in European car makers. Diesel sales in Europe are crumbling as environmental activists worry about the health implications of noxious diesel fumes, and the apparent failure of E.U. regulations to bring them under control.

Full report: Panic Over For Europe’s Diesel Makers As Mild-Hybrid Technology Comes To The Rescue |

– – –
HowStuffWorks: What’s a mild hybrid?

CNET on Cars: 48-volt systems (short video)

  1. Rasa says:

    Classic example of #FakeNews.
    The current versions of diesel and petrol engines are the cleanest most fuel efficient and most environmentally friendly engines the world has ever seen.
    It is a case of alarmist forces infiltrating the regulatory process.
    I would not hesitate to get a diesel for my next car.
    Electric Vehicles. Don’t come close to meeting the needs of motorists.
    Pending battery and range breakthroughs EVs will be an also ran for a generation or more.

  2. John MacDonald says:

    First time I’ve heard NOx called a poison. But what the heck, might a well use an over the top word instead of reality to describe the thing you want to vilify. Besides, what snowflake will be able to recognize the difference?

  3. oldbrew says:

    ‘Nitrous oxide has significant medical uses, especially in surgery and dentistry, for its anaesthetic and analgesic effects.’

    That’s no poison then. Overdosing is a different matter.

  4. cognog2 says:

    There are so many ways that NOx can be controlled technically that knee jurck ractions by government to minority vested interests leaves all of us in despair. Politics has essentially lost the plot where sensible policies are concerned. Where are the Statesmen/women?
    It seems that currently the system prevents them coming forward; for noone now listens, amid the noise of instant news.
    Common sense just gets shouted down these days and heaven help them if they inadvertantly cross the verbal police.

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    Gee, so between poison NOx and toxic particulates, I guess we all died between 1920 and 1986 when the first limits were put on Diesels…. /sarc;

    The reality is that the “bad” current Diesels are still so close to zero as to be pure as the driven snow.

    The only real problem is decision making by Central Authority that is clueless about reality. It would be much improved by just backing out the onerous regulations a little and installing some freedom.

    BTW: Proud driver of a 1980 Mercedes Diesel with zero emmissions controls… No visible soot and great milage. It will last longer than I will, and any city that bans Diesels, does not need my money…

  6. It pains me to disagree with the esteemed Chiefio but he is dead wrong about NOx. I also take issue with “oldbrew” who talks about nitrous oxide (N2O) otherwise known as laughing gas.

    While CO2 is not a pollutant, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is. So is nitric oxide (NO) but it is rapidly oxidized in the atmosphere to ……NO2.

    While N2O is not a problem, NO2 is. When did I first become aware of this? It was in 1984 when I was invited to lunch at a fine restaurant in Mexico City near the Palacio de Bellas Artes. While this looks great in pamphlets promoting tourism the realities are not so pretty. When I got there the air was brown (NO2 is brown) and I could barely breathe. Even inside the air conditioned restaurant breathing was difficult for someone who was not used to it.

    I did not need a five million dollar research grant to figure out the problem. Diesel buses and trucks were belching out the fumes which were collected in the saucer/bowl that is created by the surrounding mountains.

    No doubt the fumes were made worse by the fact that the diesels were built to work best at sea level while Mexico City is as 7,500 feet.

    No doubt modern diesel engines are much better than what I was exposed to in 1984 so it is entirely possible that I could breathe more easily today than back then.

    I would suggest a simple compromise that would allow Chiefio to continue to enjoy his “Banana Boat” without choking folks who live near the center of certain cities. All that is needed is to measure the actual emissions from each vehicle and award a letter grade posted on the windshield. Cities with emission problems could restrict access to central areas for vehicles that don’t meet their standards.

    Emission standards enforced nationwide on all vehicles by organizations such as the EPA are cuckoo. City governments should apply standards that make sense to them so that relatively small areas will be affected. Given that trucks and buses are the major emitters of NO2 that should be much less costly than a “One Size Fits All” mandate from the federal government.

  7. oldbrew says:

    GC: Paris already has the system you suggested. Screen stickers show a number from 1-6.

    All scooters, cars and lorries now require a sticker showing how much they pollute on their windscreens. Those with high pollution scores face being barred from entering the French capital on days when pollution is high.

    – – –
    Agree ‘nitrogen oxide’ ( is an ambiguous term and the focus should be on ‘nitrogen dioxide’.

    For the general public, the most prominent sources of NO2 are internal combustion engines burning fossil fuels. Outdoors, NO2 can be a result of traffic from motor vehicles.

    Indoors, exposure arises from cigarette smoke, and butane and kerosene heaters and stoves.

    ‘traffic from motor vehicles’ – aka traffic 😉

  8. A C Osborn says:

    gallopingcamel says: August 13, 2017 at 6:28 am

    I agree that NO2 is not desirable, but have you actually looked at the UK reductions in all the various polluting gases and particles?
    If they were as danferous dangerous as is being currently spouted by the various governing bodies we would all have died in the 1970.
    There has been an approximate 60%-90% reduction in most of them, except for Ammonia, so if the current levels are so dangerous how did we survive?

    A couple of days ago I followed a NAT Bus in Swansea, there was so much thick black smoke coming out of the exhaust you could barely see the road. There is absolutely no excuse for that whatsoever.

  9. A C Osborn says:

    For danferous read dangerous.

  10. Anoneumouse says:

    Mild Hybrid car!? or alternatively a transgendered car

  11. oldbrew says:

    One claim is that for about a third of the cost of a ‘full-fat’ hybrid up to two thirds of the benefits can be achieved – better fuel efficiency, no turbo lag, less wear and tear, more electrical power for in-car tech, etc.

    – – –
    ‘vehicles with start-stop technology place a greater demand on a vehicle’s battery’

    ‘Since automobile accessories like compressors and water pumps have typically been designed to run on a serpentine belt on the engine, those systems must be redesigned to function properly when the engine is turned off. Typically, an electric motor is used to power these devices instead.’ [bold added]

  12. p.g.sharrow says:

    NOx is a grab bag of Nitrogen Oxides created when radicalized N2 are heated above 1200F and combines with Oxygen into long chain NONONONO…………………..this chain grows until the energy levels are reduced and the chains breakup. NOx is not really a product of combustion but is a product of super heated nitrogen gasses. If you can cool the exhaust quick enough there will be no NOx created as it is a self catalyzed reaction due to the heat in the radicalized Nitrogen molecules grabbing onto atmospheric O2 molecules.

    .California’s Silicon Valley miracle was nearly strangled in it’s crib by CARB and EPA because of the NOx created by the super heated Nitrogen exhaust from the crystal growing furnaces. G.P.Savko invented a fume scrubber system that cleaned and cooled the exhaust stream before it could create that black plume of NOx creation.

    Cumming Engines prevents NOx by injecting Ammonia into their engine exhaust to “chill” the radicalized Nitrogen. This type of system is becoming mandatory on big Diesel engines.

    NOx can be scrubbed with water under dynamic conditions of gale force wind and water…pg

  13. oldbrew says:

    Merkel rival Schulz calls for electric car quotas in Europe
    August 11, 2017

    Politicians have screwed up the electricity market – now for cars :/

  14. AC Osborne said,
    “If they were as dangerous as is being currently spouted by the various governing bodies we would all have died in the 1970.”

    These gases are only a problem in high concentrations. Mother Nature produces huge quantities of highly toxic gases. Lightning creates ozone and oxides of nitrogen. Volcanoes emit SO2. These gases are highly reactive and easily dissolve in water where they are rapidly converted into harmless substances (unless you believe “Acid Rain” is dangerous).

    These same gases are a problem only in high concentrations as for example in downtown Mexico City, Beijing or Los Angeles. Back in the 1950s I experienced multi-colored “killer” smog in London containing a wide range of toxic chemicals. Visit London today and you will find the air is much more breathable than it was 60 years ago.

    Thank you “oldbrew” for reminding me that the French can be quite rational when it will save some money.

  15. E.M.Smith says:


    I don’t see where we are really in disagreement. NOx is a pollutant and not good for people. Soot too. I’m just pointing out 2, fairly obvious, IMHO, things.

    1) Even unregulated Diesels didn’t kill us all, so calling it “poison” in current near zero emissions levels is hyperbole at best, and ignores “the poison is in the dose” at least.

    2) Current “clean” Diesels, even those that “cheated” are so close to zero that the “dose” is well outside the “toxic” and “poison” realms.

    Those two imply the nutbars screaming bloody murder and death in our time have a poor grasp of numbers and sizes… or are acting on political motivations.

  16. oldbrew says:

    Not what you might expect from the Guardian, but…

    Electric cars are not the solution

    – – –
    Rise of electric car solves little if driven by fossil fuels, warns windfarm boss

    He would say that, wouldn’t he? But cost and practicality are major stumbling blocks: part-time and expensive wind and solar, unpopular and expensive nuclear, etc.

  17. oldbrew says:

    Renault launches Hybrid Assist Scenic and Grand Scenic — 7.07.2017

    Renault has launched the dCi 110 Hybrid Assist engine variant of its Scenic and Grand Scenic MPVs in the UK. The latest addition to the range features a mild hybrid system to boost performance and improve economy.

    Official efficiency figures are 94 g/km CO2 and 80.7 MPG for both models, with Renault’s diesel engine supported by a 10kW electric motor. powered by a 48-volt 120kW battery.

    It is the first time Renault has offered its Hybrid Assist system, and the technology is expected to be used extensively across the model range in future.

    Economy figures are improved by more than 10% compared to the unassisted diesel unit, with the compact battery stored either behind the rear seats in the Scenic, or in the spare-wheel bay for the seven-seat Grand Scenic.

    The Motor Generation Unit (MGU) which provides the hybrid element of the Hybrid Assist system, can add up to 70Nm of torque at extremely low revs. This means that pick-up from stationary is better than before, while the MGU also helps boost performance at higher speeds too. Lights on the instrument panel show the driver when the motor is being used, or if the car is recovering energy for the battery. [bold added]

  18. @Chiefio,
    Your “Banana Boat” is not the problem. Stupid government is the problem.

    While internal combustion engines in general and diesels in particular emit toxic gases I don’t see that as a reason to apply regulation of the kind that cost VW billions of dollars. That “scandal” was the result of VW trying to circumvent regulations that make no sense…….a government extortion racket.

    The sane way to tackle emissions is to apply local solutions rather than nationwide mandates. Simply restrict the access of some vehicles to areas prone to accumulating high levels of toxic fumes. Oldbrew says the French already have something on those lines.

    The EPA approach if applied ruthlessly would force all diesels off the road no matter the effect on freight transport rates.

  19. richard verney says:

    If the intake of NOX was so very dangerous then cigarettes would have killed people long ago by NOX poising rather than by cancer.

  20. @richard verney,
    The “Media” love to scare us with stories about “Pollutants” like NOx. While I have experienced these problems in London and Mexico City these problems are local. When you take a broader view things are improving if life expectancy statistics are to be believed:

    I got that gem from Paul Homewood’s blog:

  21. oldbrew says:

    The life expectancy data correlates quite well with warmist temperature graphs 😉

  22. Dave Ward says:

    “Powered by a 48-volt 120kW battery”

    Which, not surprisingly from journalists these days, is a meaning less statistic. Now if they had said “120kWhr” it might have been relevant. But that would hardly be a “Mild” hybrid, being larger than any current (sic) full EV. I suspect it really has a 12kWhr battery pack, which would make sense – sufficient to provide regenerative braking, and electric only propulsion in stop/start city traffic, whilst also being light enough to have little effect on fuel economy the rest of the time.

  23. oldbrew says:

    @ Dave Ward
    Mercedes say ‘The mild hybrid system uses a 48 volt battery with a capacity of 0.9 kWh. That’s not enough to operate the car on electric power alone, but that’s not the point of mild hybrids. Any function that can be powered by electricity rather than engine power increases fuel economy and helps lower emissions.’

    – – –
    Arstechnica report:
    48-volt mild hybrids: A possible cure for diesel emissions cheats?

    Much cheaper than a full hybrid system, with 70 percent of the benefits.

  24. John PAK (Au) says:

    This diesel fiasco must be a political manoeuvre bcos an old Toyota Landcruiser 4.2 diesel (year 2000, 1HZ motor) can be made to produce fewer pollutants by simply adding H and O (from split water) to the air in-take. My vehicle used to burn 20% more diesel to to the same work. NO and CO have ~ halved. Older style diesels such as mine only run optimally at ~2200 RPM. At low revs they are inefficient and at high revs there is too much diesel being injected into the 700cc air volume cylinders so the resultant incomplete combustion creates black exhaust smoke.

    Diesel is a rather non flammable fuel if spilt at normal temperatures. In the bush-fire brigade we mix one third petrol in our drip-torch fire lighters to get it to burn. The addition of H in a motor acts like a combustion catalyst. You have to shift injection to top-dead-centre or you get pre-ignition but the resultant burn is fast, complete and hotter so you get more power and fewer partial-burn molecules.

    NASA and many of the big American and European engineering outfits have done the basic research into this decades ago so I’m left wondering why the motor manufacturers have ignored it. (I wouldn’t expect a polly to begin to understand)

  25. oldbrew says:

    Wikipedia says:
    Diesel engines can be run with a lean burn air-to-fuel ratio (overstoichiometric ratio), to ensure the full combustion of soot and to prevent them exhausting unburnt fuel. The excess of air necessarily leads to generation of nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are harmful pollutants, from the nitrogen in the air. Selective catalytic reduction is used to reduce the amount of NOx released into the atmosphere.

    Euan Mearns published this:
    Figure 6 Estimated Annual UK Emissions of Nitrogen Oxides (kt), 1992 – 2014 Source: NAEI.

    From Figure 6, I estimate that passenger cars account for about 17% of NOx nationwide

    And which of these has ‘shrunk’ the most? Looks like passenger cars…


  26. oldbrew says:

    Switzerland bans new Porsche SUVs over emissions cheating

    Switzerland said on Friday that it will no longer register Porsche’s luxury SUV, the Cayenne, with diesel engines citing the fallout from the emissions scandal that has rocked neighbouring Germany’s car industry.

    Previously registered Cayennes can stay on Swiss roads, but no newly purchased vehicles with diesel engines will be cleared to drive, the Federal Roads Office (FEDRO) said in a statement, citing the need “to protect the environment”.

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