Tag Archives: diesel

Credit: Pixabay.

Diesel is responsible for half of all premature deaths attributed to vehicle emissions

Researchers combined the most recent vehicle emissions, air pollution, and epidemiological models to find that vehicle tailpipe emissions were responsible for 385,000 premature deaths worldwide in 2015, up from 361,000 in 2010. Exhaust from on-road diesel vehicles was responsible for nearly half of these premature deaths globally, and fully two-thirds in India, France, Germany, and Italy.

Credit: Pixabay.

Credit: Pixabay.

For their study, researchers at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), University of Colorado Boulder, and George Washington University assessed the health impacts of emissions from four major transportation sectors: on-road diesel vehicles, other on-road vehicles, shipping, and non-road engines (tractors used in agriculture, generators, construction equipment etc.).

The health impacts of transportation emissions such as PM2.5 — atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers — and ozone were immense but unevenly distributed geographically. According to the authors, the global cost of transportation-attributable health impacts was approximately $1 trillion. Two-thirds of the impact was felt in the four largest vehicle markets in the world: China, India, the European Union, and the United States.

The global health burden of on-road diesel vehicles is especially large because of their higher levels of particulates — microscopic bits of soot left over from the combustion process, which can penetrate deep into the lungs, causing irritation and potentially triggering asthma attacks. Compared to previous research, the new study attributed a 68% higher health burden to diesel vehicles because it includes the effects of tailpipe PM2.5. A 2017 study published in Nature found diesel cars emitted 50% more nitrogen oxides (NOx) under “real-world” driving conditions than expected.

While diesel vehicles have become more efficient and their sales have fallen in developed countries such as the US, Japan, and those in the EU, such reductions have been offset by growing impacts in China, India, and other parts of the world.

“Unless the pace of transportation emission reductions is accelerated, these health impacts are likely to increase in the future as the population grows, ages, and becomes more urbanized,” said Susan Anenberg, lead author of the study and an associate professor at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

In order to reduce the health burden of diesel emissions, the authors have proposed “soot-free” transportation guidelines. These involve using engines equivalent to Euro 6/VI or US 2010, coupled with fuels containing no more than 10 parts per million sulfur, and particulate filters that effectively eliminate fine particle and black carbon emissions.

“The high public health burden of diesel vehicles in Europe underscores the need for world-class emissions standards to be accompanied by robust compliance and enforcement,” says Joshua Miller, co-author of the study and a senior researcher at the ICCT. “The long lifetime of vehicles and equipment and the increasing health burden in regions without adequate protections stress the urgency to introduce world-class standards, develop compliance programs, and adopt in-use measures that accelerate the replacement of high-emitting vehicles.”

Overall, ambient air pollution is responsible for 3.4 million premature deaths annually worldwide, primarily due to heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. Almost 95% of the world’s population is breathing air that’s deemed unhealthy by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Fuel pump.

Scotland to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2032, eight years earlier than the rest of the UK

Scotland wants to phase out the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2032 — a full eight years ahead of the rest of the UK. The country will also be investing in a carbon capture project in Aberdeenshire to reduce its carbon footprint.

Fuel pump.

Image via Pixabay.

This Tuesday, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined local government’s plans to end the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2032. The deadline puts Scotland eight years ahead of the roadmap Westminster set back in July, which aims to ban the sale of these vehicles throughout the UK in 2040. She added that her government wants to pay for feasibility studies of the Acorn carbon capture and storage project in Aberdeenshire.

Thistle green

“As members will be aware, we don’t currently hold powers over vehicle standards and taxation. However, we can and will take action,” Sturgeon said on Tuesday. “Our aim is for new petrol and diesel cars and vans to be phased out in Scotland by 2032 – the end of the period covered by our new climate change plan and eight years ahead of the target set by the UK government.”

“We live in a time of unprecedented global challenge and change. We face rapid advances in technology; a moral obligation to tackle climate change,” she added. “These challenges are considerable, but in each of them we will find opportunity. It is our job to seize it.”

The ban announcement comes as part of the larger climate initiative in Scotland but is perhaps the first which will have a noticeable effect for the public. It will limit “the avoidable impact poor air quality was having on people’s health,” government officials reported, a problem made glaringly obvious in other areas of the UK, most notably London. The transport sector has proved to be one of the hardest high-carbon areas of our economies to green up, partly because of industry lobby in government and partly because people didn’t feel their cars were “dirty” enough to warrant the hassle.

But, in the aftermath of recent revelations that some car manufacturers flat-out lie about their car’s emission levels, public sentiment has shifted strongly away from the industry — and with it, political support is also drying up. Public outcry over the scandal and air pollution levels, coupled with the rapid emergence of electric vehicles, have enabled Scotland to take a more decisive stance on the issue and impose earlier deadlines: the rest of the UK will enforce a similar ban by 2040, now eight years later than the Scotts. France has a similar ban in mind for 2040, and Norway takes the cake with a deadline set for 2025.

It’s not only about cars, however. Other goals Sturgeon’s government is pursuing include the creation of a fund to promote and support innovations in climate-change solutions, a “massive” expansion of the country’s electrical charging infrastructure, and plans to make the A9 the first fully electric-enabled road in Scottland. Finally, they will work on reviving the Acord capture and storage project which was shut down by the Tory government in 2015.

You can see the Scottish Government’s full programme here.

diesel car.

Diesel cars sold in 2015 emit 50% more NOx emissions than anyone thought

diesel car.

Credit: Pixabay.

Researchers examined 11 major car markets around the work that collectively account for 80% of the new diesel vehicle sales in 2015, only to find these vehicles emit far more nitrogen oxides (NOx) than expected. The findings suggest that the vehicles emitted 13.2 million tons of NOx under “real-world” driving conditions or 4.6 million tons more than the 8.6 million tons expected from vehicles’ performance under official laboratory tests.

“Regulated NOx emission limits in leading markets have been progressively tightened, but current diesel vehicles emit far more NOx under real-world operating conditions than during laboratory certification testing,” the researchers reported in the journal Nature. 

Along with CO2 and CO, nitrogen oxide is one of biggest contributors to air pollution. NOx gasses react to form smog and acid rain as well as being central to the formation of fine particles (PM) and ground-level ozone, both of which are associated with adverse health effects like disability, lung cancer, heart disease, and more.

“On-road diesel vehicles produce approximately 20 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are key PM2.5 and ozone precursors,” the researchers said.

In September 2015, German automaker Volkswagen admitted to installing so-called “defeat devices” in 11 million diesel cars meant to rig emission tests they would have otherwise failed. When the EPA run tests on VW models, it found emissions up to 40 times the limit. Later, it was found these defeat devices were far more common and that VW was definitely not alone. Renault, Nissan, Hyundai, Citroen, Fiat, Volvo, everyone did it. Bluntly, according to a 2016 report, 97% of diesel cars don’t respect official polluting limits. 

To see how much NOx pollution these vehicles cause, researchers examined the most important diesel car markets in the world. The team was comprised of researchers at the International Council on Clean Transportation and Environmental Health Analytics, LLC., in collaboration with scientists at the University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), University of Colorado, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Key findings from the SEI report include:

  • Heavy-duty vehicles, such as commercial trucks and buses, were by far the largest contributor worldwide, accounting for 76% of the total excess gas emissions.
  • Five of the 11 markets that were analyzed, Brazil, China, the EU, India, and the US, produced 90% of that.
  • For light-duty vehicles, such as passenger cars, trucks, and vans, the European Union produced nearly 70% of the excess diesel nitrogen oxide emissions.
  • On-road diesel vehicles contribute 55% of global surface transportation NOx emissions, consistent with other estimates.
  • The excess diesel vehicle NOx emissions in 2015 were linked to 38,000 premature deaths worldwide. Most of these deaths were linked to the European Union, China, and India.

If diesel NOx emissions were actually in line with the certification limits then ozone mortality would be 10% lower each year, said Susan Anenberg, co-Founder of Environmental Health Analytics, LLC, during a statement.

Cheating the standards costs society a lot of money but also human lives. The impact of all real-world diesel NOx emissions could grow to 183,600 early deaths in 2040 alone unless something is done to stop fraud and stringent standards are actually implemented.

Part of the reason why defeat devices are so widespread across nearly all manufacturers can be traced back to a loophole in the European Union’s emissions law. Essentially, though defeat devices are banned, an odd loophole gives automakers wide discretion to use defeat devices if these ensure the engine is protected or safeguards the vehicles. The U.S. is less affected because it requires automakers to submit a list of such devices.

Chris Malley, from the SEI, University of York, said: “This study shows that excess diesel nitrogen oxide emissions effect crop yields and a variety of human health issues. We estimate that implementing Next Generation standards could reduce crop production loss by 1-2% for Chinese wheat, Chinese maize, and Brazilian soy, and result in an additional four million tonnes of crop production globally.”

Will automakers smarten up by themselves? They likely won’t — not if we’re to judge from the most recent development. One year after the VW scandal broke out, campaign group Transport and Environment claims nearly 30 million cars on Europe’s roads are still way over air pollution limits. According to the campaign group’s study, Fiat and Suzuki diesel cars spew out 15 times more nitrogen oxide than the current legal limit. Even Volkswagen Euro 6 cars that were sold after the defeat device scandal belched out nearly twice as much as the official standard.

Paris, Madrid, Athens, Mexico City to ban all diesels by 2025, mayors announce

Four major cities are taking up the fight on air pollution by clamping down on diesel engines. The ban should come into full effect by the middle of the next decade.

Image from the Public Domain.

Diesel engines will be banned from Paris, Mexico City, Madrid, and Athens sometime in the next ten years to promote cleaner transport such as alternative vehicle use or old-fashioned walking and cycling. The announcement was made at the C40 conference in Mexico.

Diesels were originally promoted by governments as test runs showed they released lower levels of CO2 and other harmful emissions. But, this type of engine has (rightfully) come under a lot of flak recently, particularly in urban areas, after it became apparent that manufacturers faked the results (you can read about it here). They have been linked to nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions, which can build up in huge quantities in cities.

Fine PM, such as PM2.5, can pass into the bloodstream and contribute to heart or lung conditions (both acute and chronic), even death. At ground levels, NOx emissions can lead to ozone build-ups, causing breathing difficulties even for those without a history of respiratory problems. The WHO estimates that around three million people each year die due to exposure to outdoor air pollution.

In some cases, such as London, citizen groups have taken matters into their own hands. Environmental groups have championed their case and appealed to courts for clean air standards and regulations. Mayor Sadiq Khan has proposed an expansion of the planned Ultra-Low Emissions Zone, and campaigners are pushing for him to phase out all diesels from London by 2025.

“In the UK, London’s mayor is considering bolder action than his predecessor, proposing an expansion to the planned Ultra-Low Emission Zone. This is welcome but we want him to go further and faster,” said ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews.
“And it’s not just London that has this problem, we need a national network of clean air zones so that the problem is not simply pushed elsewhere.”

Keen on preventing such troubles at-home, mayors from four other cities with long-standing air pollution problems have pledged to use their executive power to limit the use of diesel engines. The four mayors declared that they would ban all diesel vehicles by 2025 and “commit to doing everything in their power to incentivize the use of electric, hydrogen and hybrid vehicles”.

“It is no secret that in Mexico City, we grapple with the twin problems of air pollution and traffic,” said the city’s mayor, Miguel Ángel Mancera.

“By expanding alternative transportation options like our Bus Rapid Transport and subway systems, while also investing in cycling infrastructure, we are working to ease congestion in our roadways and our lungs.”

Paris has already laid down some groundwork on the issue. Cars registered before 1997 are already banned from entering the city. The Champs-Élysées is closed to traffic once every month, and a 3-km long stretch on the Seine — once a two-lane motorway — has been recently pedestrianized. The city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, said that they will continue to “progressively ban the most polluting vehicles from the roads” of Paris.

“Our ambition is clear and we have started to roll it out: we want to ban diesel from our city, following the model of Tokyo, which has already done the same.”

Manuel Carmena, Madrid’s mayor, has spoken in support of cleaning city air saying it’s intimately tied with our efforts of tackling climate change. All in all, these four mayors seem to be set on cleaning the air, and they have their sights set on diesels.

Which is a big deal, because if major cities go down this road, they will set a powerful precedent for others to follow suit. Carmakers, too, are likely to understand this and push for the development of hybrid and electric cars even more than before. Hopefully, this time somebody will double-check their results before the WHO has to issue another grisly statistic.

The City of London Corporation bans leasing or purchasing diesel vehicles for its businesses

London’s ruling body, the City of London Corporation, has banned the purchase or hide of diesel vehicles for its businesses, it announced on Friday. The decision was taken in the interest of protecting the public’s health and well-being.

Image credits Joseph Plotz / Wikimedia.

Chris Bell, head of procurement at the City of London Corporation, said that the organization takes improving air quality “extremely seriously,” and has thus decided to clamp down on diesel vehicles. It announced Friday that it will no longer lease or purchase diesel models when vehicles from its extensive fleet of 300 need replacement. While not as drastic as the bans other cities have set, their decision is a step in the right direction.

“This agreement is a major step forward in our drive to protect the millions of London tourists, workers and residents from air pollution,” Bell said in a statement. “We are taking responsibility for the cleanliness of our fleet and encouraging the use of low and zero emission vehicles with our partners.”

The authority said it has reduced the NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions from its vehicles by over 40 per cent and PM10 (particulate matter 10 micrometers or less in diameter) emissions by over 50 per cent since 2009. The brunt of this reduction was achieved by reducing the number of vehicles it employs and replacing the remaining ones with newer, cleaner models. It also tries to promote the use of hybrid cars and encourage business owners to limit deliveries in the Square Mile.

But not every type of vehicle can be replaced. The Corporation said it will continue to use such vehicles — tractors for example — in their current diesel-chugging models until a clean alternative becomes available.

Simon Birkett, founder of Clear Air in London, welcomes the initiative, saying that London is showing Mayor Sadiq Khan and other members of the government that it’s possible to ban diesel vehicles.

“It’s no longer ‘if’ but ‘where’ and ‘when’ diesel will be banned,” he told BusinessGreen, adding that such bans should be supported by a massive investment in active travel and public transport.

97% of Diesel Cars Don’t Respect Official Pollution Limits

According to the most comprehensive set of data, almost no diesel cars respect pollution limits, with a quarter producing over six times more than the limit.

Breaking the rules

The report included graphs such as the one picture here. It reveals the bare the difference between emissions in a lab setting, left, and on a track, right, when car engines were run hot

About six months ago, in September 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to the Volkswagen Group. The notice was issued because Volkswagen had intentionally cheated on the emission tests. The announcement was met with public outroar, and a swarm of legal repercussions which are still in process. But soon after that, another question emerged: is Volkswagen a singular bad apple, or is this a more common practice than we thought?

A study conducted by Adac, Europe’s largest motoring organisation, revealed that diesel cars made by Renault, Nissan, Hyundai, Citroen, Fiat, Volvo and many others also emit more than they should – and more than they declare. The figures were staggering. These weren’t minor breaches, with pollution levels exceeding the allowed ones by 10 or 20 percent – in some cases, cars emitted ten times more than the limit. It became clear fast that this is a much bigger problem than previously thought, and this new analysis confirms those fears.

The new data comes from the Emissions Analytics (EA), a UK-based emissions consultancy agency and one of the biggest in the business. They covered 250 vehicles in more stringently standardised road conditions, finding that just one Euro 5 diesel (the EU standard from 2009) did not exceed the limit. Another seven Euro 6 Diesels (the stricter standard from 2014) fell into the accepted limits. In total, a whopping 242 out of 250 cars emitted more than they should have. Over a quarter emitted six or more times the accepted limit.

Legally illegal

The Range Rover Sport is one of the worst emitters.

Robert Goodwill, a transport minister, said he was “disappointed” by the results and accused manufacturers of “gaming” the testing system. However, in the strictest sense of the law, the producers may have done nothing wrong – it’s the testing system that is flawed.

Several notable universities including the Imperial College London carried out tests in the laboratory, on testing tracks and in real life conditions. They found that the lab tests (which are the current norm for establishing the pollution levels of a car) are nowhere near accurate when it comes to real-life conditions. This is not a case of car producers “fixing” the cars to cheat on the tests, it’s a case of the tests themselves being inaccurate. In other words, lab simulations greatly underestimate the amount of pollution. Ironically, Volkswagen cars fared among the best in the real-life tests.

Naturally, the involved organizations tried to downplay these results, with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders stating that the difference between lab and real world tests were ‘well known’. Sure, this may be the case in the academic world or for the car industry but for the general public (and I’d bet some policy makers as well) these differences are certainly not ‘well known’. The emission limit is set for real-life conditions, so if the differences are indeed known, then the system should be changed to reflect these real conditions.

EA also highlights another trend: some car manufacturers are actively trying to reduce their emissions while others are simply trying to pass tests.

“There is a growing worry about air pollution, but while some car manufacturers have been more proactive, others have done only the minimum,” said Nick Molden, the CEO of EA. “The point is diesels can be clean.”

More emissions, shorter lives

Photo by Jensbn~commonswiki.

It’s well documented that diesel emissions cause a number of health conditions and lead to overall shorter life expectancies. Urbanized areas like London, New York or Shanghai have experienced a significant reduction in air quality, a reduction that can be at least partially attributed to cars. According to The Guardian, the British government estimates this pollution is responsible for 23,500 premature deaths a year. The government already lost a supreme court challenge in 2015 over the adequacy of its plans to tackle the crisis and is uncertain about its future strategy.

Over the last few months, it has become evident that at least in the Western World, this problem is at a much greater magnitude than previously thought. When Adac published their analysis last year, things seemed pretty dire. At the time, Reinhard Kolke, head of test and technical affairs at Adac’s state-of-the-art test centre in Bavaria, told the Guardian:

“If all cars complied with [the official EU NOx limit], we would have solved all the worst health effects. Every consumer has the right to expect all manufacturers to do this. But still there are these gross emitters.”

Now, as more and more studies are revealed on the matter, it’s looking even worse. We need a unified strategy to ensure that car producers are respecting emission limits but that seems nowhere in sight. As mentioned above, several universities and research groups are working closely with producers, so the data is probably there – we just need to do something useful with it.


Transit buses fueled by natural gas more viable than diesel or electric

Researchers at Purdue University found that a local bus system running on natural gas is more economically feasible and less harmful to the environment than the currently employed diesel model. The team lead by  Purdue University energy economist Wally Tyner also concluded that natural gas is a better fit than electric-hybrid.

compressed_natural_gas_busThe analysis was  was specific to the Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corp., also known as CityBus, which operates 72 buses and cares for 30,000 riders daily. The team prompts, however, that their findings can be extended across all bus systems across the country.

The company already runs a couple of diesel-electric hybrid buses which have a higher fuel economy than a standard diesel bus but considerably higher capital expense in the form of higher bus costs. While operation costs can make diesel-hybrid buses feasible in the long run, high capital costs makes the initial investment difficult to make.

“Because of the lower fuel price and pollution reduction, the CNG bus is considered to have good potential as an alternative vehicle used in the public fleet in the United States,” Tyner writes

Purdue researchers found that over the course of 15 years, even with the $2 million expense of building a natural-gas fueling station, the natural-gas system would cost $48 million over the span of the project, compared with $54 million for the diesel-electric and $48.5 million for the diesel-only, according to the report. The analysis takes into account fluctuations in diesel and natural gas prices, operation costs and maintenance.

“Moreover, from the environmental perspective, the implementation of compressed natural gas (CNG) buses in the fleet would also produce less emission and provide benefit to the environment of the local society,” the report says.

The  natural-gas option has a 65 percent to 100 percent chance of being lower cost than the diesel option, considering fuel price forecasts. Natural gas has become ever cheaper in recent years mainly due to massive shale gas exploitation. Shale gas production is expected to increase until 2035.

Full report can be viewed here.