Will Shiers, PowerTorque’s European Correspondent, meets up with two UK truck industry experts, who dare to speak out in favour of the diesel engine. It’s safe to say they’re probably not on Greta Thunberg’s Christmas card list…
“Diesel engines will be with us for at least the next 50 years,” reckons Des Evans OBE, who together with his twin brother Dennis Evans co-wrote the book The Road to Zero Emissions. This bold statement is an example of how passionate the two men are about the combustion engine, and how at odds they are with the UK Government’s current strategy towards reaching net carbon zero.
From a journalistic point of view, the statement is music to the ears. In my job I’m bombarded with press releases from people who claim the electric truck to be the best thing since sliced bread, and it’s a refreshing change to hear someone who’s brave enough to express the alternative view in public.
The UK’s journey to net zero is one of many subjects that has completely divided the nation in recent years (hot on the heels of Brexit, Covid vaccinations, illegal immigration and of course Meghan Markle), and the article triggered positive and negative responses in equal measure.
Des draws a parallel between the industry’s current situation and the division of the truck-making Foden family in the 1930s. Back then Edwin Richard Foden could see the future was diesel, but failed to convince the Foden board of directors that steam didn’t have a future, so left the family business and set up rival lorry manufacturer ERF.
“Only this time I think we’re choosing steam over diesel, because there’s so much hot air about what we should and shouldn’t do,” says Des. “And we’re listening to more people like Greta Thunberg, who in my opinion has very little knowledge of the applications that are required in transport today. Transport has consequently been denigrated and penalised for all the wrong reasons.”Des Evans and Dennis Evans
He firmly believes that the internal combustion engine has done more for prosperity and for saving this planet than any other invention, and reckons it won’t be going anywhere any time soon.
“It’s going to be around, certainly for heavy goods vehicles at 15 tonnes and above, which accounts for 80 per cent of transport requirements in the world, for the next 50 years. It’s still arguably the most economic and the most environmental application to transport goods around the world.”
He reminds me just how clean a Euro 6 engine is, explaining that 100 Euro 6 trucks produce the same emissions as one Euro 3 truck from 25 or 30 years ago. “The air coming out of the tailpipe of a modern truck is cleaner than when it went in. We can redefine a Euro 6 44-tonne prime mover as an air freshener!”
This leads us on to the UK’s plans to decarbonise road transport. In 2030 the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned. And the government has pledged that the UK will become the first country in the world to commit to phasing out new, non-zero-tailpipe-emission heavy goods vehicles weighing 26 tonnes and under by 2035, with all new trucks sold in the UK to be zero-tailpipe-emission by 2040.