Full hybrids and plug-in hybrids will suffer most in the aftermath of Volkswagen Group's emissions-cheating scandal, says Rinaldo Rinolfi, who is one of Europe's pre-eminent powertrain experts. He says the move to real-world emissions tests, which has been accelerated by VW's use of a defeat device to deceive testers, will show that plug-in hybrids are not nearly as efficient when on the road compared with the very low-CO2 results they attain under Europe's current guidelines.
This is not the first time Rinolfi, who many consider the father of the common-rail diesel, has shared a bold prediction with Automotive News Europe. In 2005, when he was head of Fiat powertrain engineering, Rinolfi told ANE that the move to Euro 6 emission standards, which took effect last year, would end the diesel engine's reign as Europe's most popular powertrain. ANE Editor Luca Ciferri met with Rinolfi in Turin last month.
In 2005 you predicted that by 2014 gasoline engines would end diesel's reign as Europe's most popular powertrain for new cars. It looks like the change will happen this year. How low will the market share for diesel go?
I'm happy to have envisaged the right trajectory a long time ago. And I am not changing my long-term view: diesel will stabilize at about 40 percent of the European market by 2020.
What effect has the VW Group's emissions-cheating scandal had on diesel demand?
Little to none. Euro 6 rules, which took effect last year, increased the costs of diesels, making them a very difficult commercial proposition for subcompacts and minicars, which are Europe's biggest and third-largest segments, respectively. This was the real reason for the diesel decline. For long drives on the highway, diesel remains the most cost-effective solution. I do not think that the VW scandal had any meaningful effect on the purchasing decision of the average European consumer.
Will there be long-term repercussions from the VW scandal?
The biggest impact – and not only in Europe – will be the faster move to real world driving emissions tests. This will completely change the powertrain mix from what is favored by the current NEDC [new European driving cycle] bench-test-only cycle. Over the years, even without defeat devices, every carmaker has found ways to achieve fuel consumption and emissions results that have progressively diverged from the real driving conditions the customer experiences.