Is Diesel On The Way Out In Europe?

Tougher testing procedures and stiffer penalties could spell the end for diesel fuel in EU countries.

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If the sudden electrification push among European manufacturers sped up the inevitable decline of diesel engines, then the ongoing emissions-related scandals and investigations seem to be driving a stake through the heart of the controversial fuel—Reuters reports today that EU lawmakers have approved the framework for regulations aimed at tightening the bloc's testing procedures and giving it the ability to fine automakers 30,000 euros per car over the kind of violations that saw Volkswagen agree to pay billions in penalties to the United States. To put that in perspective, if the law were in place when VW's scandal was uncovered in 2015, the automaker would have been charged a staggering $271 billion over the 8.5 million overpolluting cars on the road in Europe today.

The law would also stop automakers from paying private agencies to test their cars in a patchwork certification process, instead calling for the creation of state-run test centers possibly funded by additional taxes on car manufacturers. So not only is it clear that European legislators are aiming to prevent manufacturers from repeating VW's (and possibly Fiat-Chrysler's) mistakes, they're also trying to make diesel more trouble than it's worth to companies.

"Diesel will not disappear from one day to another," European Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said today, according to Reuters. "But after this year of work ... I am quite sure they will disappear much faster than we can imagine."

Of course, none of this is happening in a vacuum. Diesels currently account for about half of all new car sales in Europe, and there are extensive supply and logistical chains employing many thousands of people to support all that demand. There are sure to be some growing pains as an entire continental industry moves away from an energy source that defined it for so long.

But it also comes as anti-diesel sentiments are beginning to gain momentum in other arenas. Several major cities are all working towards banning diesel-powered cars completely in the next ten years over emissions concerns, and the British are trying to straight-up tax them out of existence amid a mounting public health campaign.