Diesel is not dead: BMW sees 'clean' diesel in its vehicle portfolio

EXCLUSIVE: BMW Group UK's i and iPerformance national corporate sales manager, Hannah Bishop, has claimed that the car manufacturer continues to see clean diesel as an important part of its vehicle mix, despite the Government's commitment to phasing out the sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040.

BMW diesel engines have the lowest nitrogen oxide emissions of all European automakers, according to a report from the Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club (ADAC)

BMW diesel engines have the lowest nitrogen oxide emissions of all European automakers, according to a report from the Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club (ADAC)

Speaking at edie and Utility Week’s recent Accelerate event at the MINI Plant Oxford, Bishop told senior stakeholders from the energy and automotive sectors that BMW would be “keeping diesel” while ensuring that it has at least 25 electrified models by 2025.

“We do not think that diesel is dead; we are cleaning diesel and still see it as an important part of our whole vehicle line,” she said. “To not address that and to say everything will be electric would be naïve.”

Bishop added that BMW has committed to ensuring that all its petrol and diesel cars have CO2 emissions under 120g/km by 2025, meaning they will be classed as “low-emission” vehicles.

The manufacturer expects EVs to account for between 15-25% of car sales globally by 2025 and has backed the transition with more than £89m in investments at one of its manufacturing hubs in Dingolfing, Germany. It is also set to launch the first fully-electric version of the iconic Mini, which will be built in the UK, next year.

Diesels generally produce less CO2 than petrol cars and helps manufacturers to meet emissions reduction targets, but diesel vehicles are now responsible for almost 40% of all NO2 emissions in the UK’s major cities.

BMW diesel engines have the lowest nitrogen oxide emissions of all European automakers, according to a report from the Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club (ADAC).

Carbon clampdown

Bishop’s comments build on a wider discussion among car manufacturers on whether petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles should have a place in the UK under the petrol and diesel phase-out detailed in the Government’s Air Quality Plan.

Addressing the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee last week, representatives from brands including Toyota and Nissan were asked whether the Government should prohibit the sale of hybrid cars with an electric range of 50 miles or less under its ‘Road to Zero’ plan, with MPs dubbing them a “short-term fix rather than a long-term future”.

BMW’s management board member Ian Robertson echoed Bishop’s claims by suggesting that the UK needs “a mix of technologies to achieve a [carbon-reduction] result”.

“Ultimately, I do still think that hybrid vehicles will have a role to play in a low-emission environment,” he added. “The price point resulting from a battery-only car takes the affordability of a vehicle outside of what some customers could aspire to.”

Robertson argued that hybrids did not represent “stopgap” technology, but instead made EVs more affordable and attractive to customers, stating that 14,000 of the 15,000 EVs produced and sold in the UK by BMW last year were hybrid and the remaining 1,000 fully electric.

The proposal was also slammed by Toyota’s UK managing director Tony Walker, who said it was not “technology-neutral” and would make the chain’s current hybrids “unsaleable”.

“The target should be such that hybrid electric vehicles should continue to be part of the mix,” Walker said. “People talk about hybrid as though it is a transitional technology, but we don’t think this and see it as a breakthrough technology which is continuing to evolve.”

However, Nissan Europe’s EV director Gareth Dunsmore disagreed and said that while hybrids are “well-accepted” by customers as a “first step”, a zero-emissions future should be the aim for all UK car manufacturers.

The latest figures show that a record number of electric and hybrid cars were registered in Britain last year, as sales for diesel cars continued to decline amid taxes and pollution fears.

Sarah George & Matt Mace


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