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Better European Road Tests Force Larger Engines for Lower Emissions

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Mercedes-Benz Fleetwide Emissions

Following the debacle with Volkswagen’s diesel cheating, Europe has taken a long, hard look at its current emissions regulations and come to the conclusion that they are really, really bad. As a result, testers are switching to far more representative on-the-road evaluations.

To reduce emissions, carmakers across Europe have begun making larger engines.

That is not a typo; for years, automakers have been reducing engine size to increase efficiency while adding on turbochargers to make up for the lost power. However, heat from these super-sized turbos generate diesel NOx up to 15 times over the limit—in gasoline engines, this means the engine loses efficiency and belches fine particles and carbon monoxide.

As a result, tiny engines are disappearing, making the smallest engines, particularly those that run on diesel, increase in size by a fair amount across the board. In addition, in the future increasing efficiency could mean increasing hybridization of the vehicle lineup, since a small engine can produce good performance when paired with electric motors.

Frost & Sullivan analyst Sudeep Kaippalli summed up the idea behind hybridization, saying, “You can’t downsize beyond a certain point, so the focus is shifting to a combination of solutions.” Kaipalli predicted an imminent surge of hybrid models.

Of course, not all automakers will follow that strategy–Mazda has claimed that its next generation of engines will get better efficiency than even some hybrids.

This change of policy is only a challenge in Europe. Engines in North America, China, and other emerging markets already tend to larger, and have already been facing more stringent emissions testing. Engines outside of Europe as a result still have room to improve efficiency should their size decrease (although many may instead pick up hybrid additions due to its efficiency advantages without power loss).

News Source: Reuters