From rumblings of inner-city bans of older diesel cars to German carmakers paying customers to trade in their vehicles for electric alternatives, diesel is once again under a choking cloud of bad publicity.
Sales of diesel cars in Britain fell by a fifth in July, while online searches for second-hand electric vehicles have risen by 700%, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and Auto Trader, respectively.
Diesel’s share of the new car market has been falling steadily for many years. It was 42.5 % in June — the smallest market share since March 2010.
For years, the UK government incentivised consumers to buy diesel cars because they emit around a fifth less C02 than their petrol equivalents. But the diesel engines, particularly older models, also emit nitrogen oxide and other pollutants, which contaminate roadside air and have been linked to respiratory conditions.
But carmakers have begun hitting back, with many now pointing out that Euro 6, the latest iteration of diesel technology, is cleaner than earlier models.
And many are incentivising drivers to get rid of their older diesel cars in favour of newer, cleaner, machines. BMW and Mercedes have launched a scheme to offer drivers of old diesels cash in return for ditching their old models and upgrading to newer, cleaner vehicles.
Volkswagen, with its Audi, Porsche, Skoda and Seat brands, is also considering a UK repurchase programme, although it is waiting for sign-off from its corporate headquarters in Germany to launch the scheme in Britain, according to two people briefed on the situation.
Consumer searches for diesel cars have also fallen. Around a quarter of Auto Trader searches specify fuel type of those, motorists selecting to view diesel cars has fallen from 71% in November 2016 to just 54% in May, though the figure rose slightly to 57% in July.
Mercedes-Benz Trucks has reportedly taken its 3D printing strategy one stage further by printing robust, heat resistant metal parts form digital data records.
Mercedes-Benz Trucks has 3D printed a heat resistant thermostat cover, an example of what it calls ‘cost effective spare and special parts production’. This is replacement part is only ordered in small numbers, and is used in older truck and Unimog models whose production ceased around 15 years ago.
The part has been described as passing all the stages of Mercedes-Benz’s stringent quality assurance process ‘smoothly’.
The production of the metal parts is being made possible through digital data records and therefore saves on expensive special tools, storage and transport costs.
A trial will see 81 biogas lorries of varying sizes take to the road to review their performance, fuel efficiency, reliability and costs.
Led by industrial gases major Air Liquide, the biogas lorry trial is funded by the UK Office for Low Emission Vehicles (part of the Department for Transport) and is a partnership with Innovate UK via a new initiative, the Low Emission Freight and Logistics Project. It involves five different sizes of heavy goods vehicle ranging from 12 to 44 tonnes and all the vehicles are new to British roads.
The trial vehicles will be operated in ten different configurations and use three fuels: biomethane and compressed and liquefied natural gas (CNG and LNG). Those running on natural gas are expected to see reductions in CO2 emissions of up to 8% in comparison to conventional diesel lorries of the same size, while biomethane is expected to give savings of 70%.
The trial will also test the effectiveness of a refrigerated trailer using a cryogenic liquid nitrogen cooling system, which is also expected to reduce CO2 emissions and improve air quality.
Several haulage fleet operators are involved in the trial, including Kuehne + Nagel, Wincanton, ASDA, Brit European, Howard Tenens and Great Bear.
Major US car firms have reported a sharp fall in sales in sales in July, driven by lower rental fleet sales and weaker consumer demand.
Sales were down by 15% at General Motors, 10% at Fiat Chrysler and 7.5% at Ford compared with July 2016.
After several years of record growth, July looks set to become the fifth month in a row to see a fall in overall US car sales. The fall comes amid weak in consumer income and spending growth in the US.
Mustafa Mohatarem, chief economist at General Motors, said he expected sales to improve in the coming months although they were unlikely to match last year’s record.
Key US economic fundamentals remain supportive of strong vehicle sales,” he said in a statement. “Under the current economic conditions, we anticipate the second half of 2017 will be much stronger than the first half.”
US car manufacturers have been deliberately scaling back sales to rental car companies, because they often bring them little in the way of profits. It is that strategy that drove some of the steepest sales declines last month.
Overall US vehicle sales at four big firms – Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Toyota – have fallen by between about 3% and 7% so far this year. Ford expects retail sales across the industry to fall by about 6% for the year as a whole.