For the last several years, governments have been enacting stricter emission standards in their efforts to help preserve the environment. In response, carmakers have turned to making smaller engines to meet these new standards. But now, this general trend is about to turn around, as several car manufacturers are going back to bigger engines.
Auto industry insiders such as the powertrain head at the Renault-Nissan alliance have declared that the era of downsizing has ended. They’ve admitted they can no longer meet the emission standards using the current methods of curtailing engine capacities.
Renault will ultimately discard its small car engines over the next 3 years. The same goes for General Motors and Volkswagen. They all the same reason for going bigger, and that’s because they’ve all realized that small engines don’t really perform all that well in real world emission tests.
Renault is likely to change the size of the 1.6-liter R9M diesel engine, and make it bigger by about 10%.
It’s also going to discard the 0.9-liter H4Bt gasoline engine, which comes with lots of problems. In order to keep from overheating, the H4Bt injects too much fuel. It also emits too much carbon monoxide, fine particles, and unburned hydrocarbons. Renault isn’t going to spend lots of money refining the engine to solve these problems. The easier, faster, and cheaper solution is to just replace it with a newer—and bigger—engine instead.
Other Car Makers
Renault isn’t the only car manufacturer that’s going bigger with their engines. General Motors is too. You can expect GM to say goodbye to its present 1.2-liter diesel engine and.
Volkswagen is also joining in the trend. Its current 1.4-liter 3-cylinder diesel engine will be gone and replaced with the 1.6-liter 4-cylinder unit.
Other car makers are expected to follow suit. Of course, these won’t include Mercedes-Benz, since that brand didn’t join the downsizing trend in the first place. They’ve recognized in the very beginning that going for a smaller engine wasn’t really much of an advantage when it came to meeting emission standards.
The Volkswagen Scandal
It was the Volkswagen “Diesel Dupe” scandal that first shed light on the fact that there can be discrepancies between emission test lab results and emission test results in the real world. At the time, VW was marketing their cars as eco-friendly, as evidenced by their low emissions.
But the EPA discovered that these VW cars actually had a sophisticated bit of software in the diesel engine. This defeat program was able to detect if the car was running under controlled lab settings, and then changed its performance accordingly.
Once they’re out in the real world, the diesel engines switched out of test mode so they can provide the sort of performance that their drivers expected. The problem was that the engine also emitted too much nitrogen pollutants. The levels of these pollutants were actually 40 times as much as what was allowed in the US!
So nowadays, people know that results in the lab can be very different than the emission results in the real world. Governments are aware of that fact too. Several countries have since made their own investigations and have found that cars made by Renault, along with Opel and Fiat, are some of the worst nitrogen oxide emissions levels among the new diesel cars.
To meet the increasingly stricter emission standards, car companies are also focusing on developing their own hybrid and electric cars. Electric cars are fueled by powerful rechargeable batteries and they emit pollutants. Hybrids use a combo of batteries and fuel engines, and this setup also reduces emissions considerably.
Many car brands now trumpet their own line of electric and hybrid cars. VW has promised to sell at least 2 million EVs a year by 2025. Renault also has the Twizy, Fluence ZE, and the Zoe to promote.
Even Lamborghini is joining in the hybrid trend. The company has confirmed that will offer a plug-in Urus alongside the more conventional 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8.
Of course, there’s also Tesla. The meteoric rise of this electric car company has been stunning, and numerous surveys have revealed that it’s the most admired electric car brand in the world. For the brand, the size of the internal combustion engine is irrelevant, since they don’t use them at all.
Tesla was the brand that proved once and for all that electric cars aren’t just hyped up golf carts, and all the other brands with their own EVs are reaping in the PR success of Tesla. Tesla came out with its own roadster, and this 5-seater (+2) Tesla Model S P100D Ludicrous+ sedan is currently the fastest accelerating production car. It was able to go from 0 to 60 mph in just 2.3 seconds.
Whether you go for electric cars or with bigger gasoline engines, emission standards are the new reality we all have to deal with. It’s a problem for everyone, but now everyone knows that smaller engines aren’t the answer after all.
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