Although Europe, like the United States, has been caught up in its own version of Volkswagen’s diesel-emissions scandal, there’s not yet been a corresponding move away from diesel engines on the other side of the Atlantic. That’s set to change with increasingly tough emissions standards and competition from a new generation of high-efficiency gas hybrids. Volvo has been the first to reveal one of these, the new three-cylinder “T5” plug-in that we’ll see in the new XC40 and then throughout the lower and middle reaches of Volvo’s range. And Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson predicts that it (and similar powerplants) will progressively replace diesel engines over the next decade or so.
“It is a very attractive alternative to a diesel engine,” Samuelsson told journalists in Gothenburg. “It offers much lower CO2 levels but more or less the same performance in both horsepower and torque. On cost, I would say that within a couple of years we will see a crossover, the diesel getting more expensive and the [hybrid system] going down.”
There are no diesel-powered Volvos in the U.S, and there will be progressively fewer in those parts of the world that do still favor them. Although there is no emissions or economy data for the T5 yet, we’re told to expect that the powertrain will emit less than 95g/km in European testing, that number bringing both sizable tax benefits in many countries and also being the official Euro target for fleet-average emissions. Samuelsson says that, more importantly, the T5 will also deliver diesel-like fuel economy in real-world use. So will Volvo still be making diesels in ten years?
“Diesels will be more expensive, they will have much more advanced after-treatment with additional fluids that have to be filled not once a year, but probably every time you refuel the car,” Samuelsson said, “I think that it’s very realistic that the percentage will go down. If it will go down to zero, I think we don’t need to speculate—let the future decide, let customers decide. We are flexible enough that we can make petrol and diesels on the same line, basically.”
As well as the 40-series family, Samuelsson also confirmed it’s likely that the three-cylinder T5 will be offered in the larger 60-series, although he ruled it out for Volvo’s biggest 90-series models, where the company already offers a four-cylinder T8 ‘Twin Engine” hybrid.