This much is clear: automotive manufacturers must reduce the CO2 and pollutant emissions of their vehicles fleets. Customers demand it, as do the EU climate targets. But with what technology?
Customers face uncertainty while automotive manufacturers hunt for solutions. By 2021, they are required to meet the world’s most demanding climate targets for cars in Europe by lowering average CO2 values per kilometre from currently 120g to 95g. This is the equivalent of a reduction of 20 percent over six years, and failure means facing penalty payments. “The BMW Group will meet these limits. We have committed to them”, says Thomas Becker, head of political and external relations at the BMW Group.
A conversation about the role of diesel engines, new electric models, petrol cars and out-of-the-box innovations.
The current debate about banning diesel vehicles is causing a significant decline in diesel sales across the EU. Has this become noticeable in the BMW Group fleet as well?
Thomas Becker: In 2017, the proportion of diesel vehicles in Europe was still significantly over 50 percent and they continue to make a clear contribution towards reducing CO2, although not to the extent planned originally. The BMW Group has reduced the CO2 emissions of the whole fleet by over 41 percent since 1995. Diesel engines have a major share in this because of their efficiency and CO2 emissions, which are about 15 percent lower in comparison to petrol engines. In addition, our engineers have equipped nearly all diesel models with a combination of NSC and SCR catalytic converters as of March 2018. As a result, our diesels achieve comparably low emissions levels.
What does that mean?
It means first of all that modern Euro 6 diesels meet the demanding European limits. In its current investigation, the ADAC checked the nitrogen oxide emissions of Euro 6 diesel models. German manufacturers achieved the lowest pollutant levels in a fleet comparison, with the BMW Group’s BMW and MINI vehicles among the best. In fact, the BMW 520d and 530d had the top values. Other NGOs and neutral institutions also certify very good performance for us.
In other words, the sooner these Euro 6 cars get onto the streets, the faster progress for air quality will be?
Europe has formulated the world’s most demanding climate targets for cars. The Euro 6 diesel is vital for meeting these targets - although of course not on its own, but in combination with electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Likewise, the rapid launch of new technologies is critical for air quality in cities. The trend towards a higher average age in the fleet must be broken.
Customers will need incentives if you want to encourage them to buy new vehicles.
To accelerate the transition from diesel vehicles with standards older than Euro 5 to state-of-the-art exhaust aftertreatment or electric vehicles, the BMW Group and other German car manufacturers have committed to offering self-financed incentives in the short term. This includes for example a switching premium to be paid towards the purchase of a BMW i3, a plug-in hybrid or a new Euro 6 vehicle with a maximum CO2 value of 130g per kilometre.
Will this premium be offset against government purchase incentives?
No, it can be used in addition to the environmental bonus currently offered in Germany for the purchase of electrified vehicles, for example. This gives buyers of the new BMW i3 a total discount of 6,000 euros. But incentives alone are not enough. Framework conditions also need to be right, and this also includes expanding the charging infrastructure, which has yet to happen.
2018 is the year of electromobility at the BMW Group. What does that mean?
We invested in electromobility earlier than most German manufacturers, and have gained a certain head start here with a total of 200,000 electrified vehicles sold so far. We are currently the European market leader for battery vehicles and plug-in hybrids. By 2025, we will offer 25 fully or partly electric models worldwide and increase the share of electrified vehicles in global sales to 15 or 25 percent.
It sounds as though diesel and electric drives the only measures that reduce CO2 emissions.
The BMW Group thinks further than drives. By integrating new technologies and concepts, we will tap into more CO2reduction potentials. For example, automated driving can ensure better traffic flow and therefore lower emissions. Data connectivity already makes fuel-saving acceleration possible today, and electromobility leads to lower-emission driving due to the increased utilisation of renewable energies. Our data shows that Car Sharing is used instead of older second-hand cars, making a significant contribution to lower emissions in cities.
So petrol engines are basically over?
Not at all. Every technology, from petrol engine to diesel, electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid, has advantages for different applications. We will continue to offer our customers a choice. Everyone can choose the concept that fits them the best. Diversity makes sense, otherwise we would not be making the best use of efficient technology. In the end, pragmatism is more effective than ideology.