Miracle or mirage bosch’s diesel ′breakthrough′ business economy and finance news from a german perspective dw 27.04.2018

But after all the failures, success is back in vogue. Few weeks pass these days without some announcement by a carmaker about a mobility breakthrough of some kind. This week, Bosch made their move, announcing via a dramatic statement from their CEO that "today, we want to put a stop, once and for all, to the debate about the demise of diesel technology."

"There’s a future for diesel," said Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner at the company’s annual press conference on Wednesday. "Bosch is pushing the boundaries of what is technically feasible. Equipped with the latest Bosch technology, diesel vehicles will be classed as low-emission vehicles and yet remain affordable."

These are big claims from the world’s biggest supplier for diesel engines. It says that technology it has been working on since 2014 will help car manufacturers reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) to remarkably low levels of 13 milligrams per kilometer, way below the current legal limit of 168 milligrams and indeed the future 2020 limit of 120 milligrams.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that such a breakthrough could only come about through many billions of euros of research and development investment, and that the new technology would be prohibitively expensive. But the miracle extends to those areas too, apparently.

A Bosch spokesperson told DW the cost of investment over the last few years was a mere "two-digit million" figure, while the Stuttgart-based company claims that "as the advance comes from a new combination of existing technology … reducing emissions will not make diesel vehicles any less affordable."

Bosch says two factors have driven high NOx emissions, namely driving style and the influence of temperature. On the first, it says the new technology features an RDE (Real Driving Emissions)-optimized turbocharger which will recirculate exhaust gases quicker and more flexibly than before, meaning drivers can now accelerate quickly without a proportional spike in emissions.

On temperature, Bosch says optimum conversion of NOx emissions requires exhaust gases to be 200 degrees Celsius (392 Fahrenheit) or more. In slow, stop-start urban driving, this temperature is usually not reached by diesel cars, leading to higher rates of urban emissions. Bosch says it has come up with a "sophisticated thermal management system" that will ensure the exhaust system stays hot enough to keep emissions at a low level. That system involves moving components within the engine around, to ensure specific temperatures are reached and maintained.

So, now that we are all combustion engine experts, we might ask ourselves: what’s not to love? The tests Bosch have conducted with vehicles fitted with the new technology appear to genuinely have achieved the remarkably low emissions figures.

It was telling that the suite of Bosch announcements included the drawing up of a new code of conduct for staff aimed at "ethical technology design" as well as calls for more transparent emissions testing. In a further indication of the ground that has to be made up, the company’s Chief Financial Officer Stefan Asenkerschbaumer said Bosch had set aside €1.2 billion to cover potential costs from ongoing probes into Dieselgate and other antitrust investigations.

There is already little doubt that if diesels are to survive into the future, they are going to have to be pretty clean. Bosch, like all the other big players in the German car industry, knows this and so we can expect plenty more ‘breakthrough’ announcements from them into the future as they look to keep alive an area of vital strategic importance to them.

"Diesel is still a fossil fuel," says Greg Archer. "We can’t produce enough renewable diesel to power all of our cars. So we are still going to need a transition over the next 20 years to electromobility, powered by renewable electricity, and that is a practical solution to deliver the de-carbonisation of transport which we need."