VW Group is looking for alternatives to diesels as several European cities plan to ban the powertrain to reduce the level of smog-causing nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the air. The backlash against diesel has intensified since VW admitted in September 2015 that it cheated global emissions test and sold cars that produced NOx that far exceed government standards in several countries. VW Group has had to recall more than 11 million vehicles worldwide to fix the problem.
Another factor working against diesels is that to make them comply with tougher pollution rules expensive after-treatment solutions such as selective catalytic reduction (SCR) must be added. VW has equipped both of the 1.5-liter diesels it will offer in the new Polo with SCR. The cost to adopt SCR adds about 200 euros to the cost of a vehicle, estimates Vicente Franco, who is a senior researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation.
VW will continue to develop its larger, more versatile EA288 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel, which is used in a variety of VW Group vehicles, but nothing smaller.
Automakers are adopting 48-volt systems to help fuel efficiency as diesel cars face a consumer backlash because of their toxic NOx emissions. Renault is offering the technology on its latest Scenic minivan.