12 April 2016

Diesel cars even eco-friendlier than electric cars

Neste, car

Recent debate over the eco-friendliness of motoring has revolved around Tesla and electric cars, Google and self-driving cars, energy-saving combustion engines and overall car structures. Then again, urbanization, Uber and co-owned cars are changing the ways in which cars are used and owned towards a more flexible and effective direction.

However, examining motoring from the environmental perspective, there is a third solution in addition to new technology and service concepts, a solution that does not require motorists to buy new cars or give up their cars altogether. I am talking about renewable fuels that work in the cars we own right now – in cars both old and new.

No wholly emission-free fuel is available, but we can already take a giant leap using renewable diesel. When fuel is produced from waste and residues, its greenhouse gas emissions fall dramatically, at best by as much as 90 percent compared with fossil diesel. Neste is already producing such fuel in such large volumes that it would be sufficient for all diesel cars in Finland for two years.

At the moment, the emissions of a car fueled by diesel made from waste and residue are lower than those of an electric car if the emissions of an electric car include the emissions assigned to the current life cycle phase of Finnish electricity production. For example, if the carbon dioxide emissions of a diesel car are 106 g per km, the full life cycle emissions using 100 percent renewable diesel made from animal waste fat would be as low as 24 g per km. The corresponding figure of an electric car is 28 g per km.

When the aim is to reduce the adverse environmental impact caused by motoring, we need to pay attention to emissions produced during the entire life cycle of fuels. In terms of the climate, it makes no difference whether emissions are produced at an oil rig on the other side of the world or whether they originate from coal during electricity production. Emissions are emissions.

Locally hazardous particulate emissions are practically zero thanks to the particulate filters of modern diesel cars. Exhaust systems produce fewer particulates than street dust and other sources, which are not affected by the type of engine that a car has. Nitrogen oxide emissions are reduced by urea-based catalytic converters, which are everyday features on modern trucks and buses and are making their way to private cars and vans.

For motorists, the choice should be an easy one: a higher quality and more eco-friendly fuel at a low price. In the end, electric cars and cars fueled by renewable fuels should not compete with each other – they should fight on a single front to ensure that these types of options increase on the market. This is also our goal at Neste.

It would benefit everyone if we achieved a technically, legislatively, commercially and taxationally equal solution.

In this way, Finland wins, and everybody wins.

Lars Peter Lindfors
Lars Peter Lindfors
Senior Vice President, Technology, Neste