Tucked deep inside the German countryside and surrounded by rolling hills, Robert Bosch's Boxberg proving ground has some of the cleanest air in the country. Therefore, when one of the supplier's top executives used the idyllic backdrop to speak out against a crackdown on excessive smog 100 km away in the company's home town of Stuttgart, the contrast was notable.
Banning diesels because they emit a high level of harmful nitrogen oxides while ignoring their comparatively low carbon footprint was "ecologically misguided," said Rolf Bulander, who leads Bosch's automotive-focused Mobility Solutions division.
"Driving bans are one-dimensional precisely because they ignore the efficiency of the diesel that is needed to tackle climate change and underestimate its still latent potential," Bulander said.
Half of Bosch's 7-billion-euro r&d budget is spent on environmental issues such as making combustion engines cleaner, he said. "Politicians should not restrict our engineers' creativity by favoring one technology over another," Bulander said.
His plea comes as France and the UK have committed to banning diesels and gasoline engines without hybrid options by 2040, a move that German Chancellor Angela Merkel said was the "right approach" during an interview last month.
At the heart of the anti-diesel push are these questions: What will the industry do with all the component plants geared toward perpetuating cars powered by fossil fuels and how long do conventional drivetrains have before being replaced by electric ones?
According to Bosch's German rival, Continental, the answer to the second question is 2023. That is the launch year of the last pure combustion engine platform under development by manufacturers in Europe. Every powertrain that arrives after that will have some form of electrification.
Demand for diesels has plummeted in Germany from a steady level of about half of all new-car sales to a little more than 40 percent since reports of diesel bans in big European big cities such as Stuttgart and Munich started to cause car buyers to wonder whether they would no longer be able to drive to work.
Delphi's big move
Combustion engines took another negative blow when U.S. partsmaker Delphi said in May it would spin off its powertrain operations. The division, which generates revenues of $4.5 billion, will be separately listed. Delphi's remaining electrical/electronic architecture and electronics & safety businesses also will become a stand-alone, listed company. The head of the company's E&S unit is David Paja, who said that Delphi's customers understand the reasons for the spinoff.