Gas cars more polluting than diesels because European legislators ordered it

T&ETransport & Environment (T&E), a green-lobbying group based in Brussels, has asked a respected certification agency, TÜV Nord, to measure toxic emissions from three late model gasoline cars, all with direct high pressure fuel injection. The cars were a Ford Focus 1.0 L Ecoboost, a Hyundai i40 1.6 GDI station-wagon, and a Renault Megane 1.2 L Energy 115. The test established that all three cars are fully compliant with current emission legislation, but that they will have to be modified to meet the more stringent regulation coming in 2017. This should not be a surprise. The auto industry is a very big one, and it can only move slowly. Regulations are always more stringent, and car manufacturers can adapt, but nobody shall expect them to be compliant with many years in advance. Designing new vehicle emissions control devices, and mass producing them just takes time. The surprise, though it won’t be one for engineers, is that since all diesel have particle filters since 2011 (in Europe), while gasoline cars do not, those now emit ten times more particle matter than diesels.

This leads T&E to call for particle filters to become compulsory equipment on gasoline cars, and that wouldn’t be expensive, as it says the device only costs €50. That is effectively the price of a particle filter for a small car when bought in bulk, but nobody shall ignore the cost of integration into a vehicle. Cars manufacturers are already working on it, and particle filters in gasoline models shall become commonplace within the next ten years. More than the manufacturers’ negligence, it is the regulator’s lack of sight that T&E shows.

In today’s Europe, a gasoline car has lower NOx emissions but higher CO and particle emissions than the average diesel car. Physics doesn’t explain this. Regulation does. European regulators made a huge mistake when they established different emissions levels for gas and diesel. Most nations have done the same mistake with tax. In most of Europe, there’s less tax on diesel fuel, so instead of calling for particle filters on some cars, T&E should ask a single regulation for all cars, diesel and gasoline alike. That would just make it easier for everyone, car companies included.