Study Suggests Diesel Cars Killed 38,000 Extra People Without Even Hitting Them

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
study suggests diesel cars killed 38 000 extra people without even hitting them

Earlier today, we mentioned Volvo was preparing to dump its diesel-burning engines because the EU is aggressively pursuing anti-diesel legislation. While it’s easy to accuse Europe of being fraught with fringe environmentalists, the truth is that the continent spent decades avoiding restrictions on diesel-burning passenger vehicles, sold loads of them, and has suddenly found itself with its green pants around its ankles.

In addition to hazy skies, air pollution isn’t exactly great for your health. A recent study published in Nature found diesel engines produced 5 million more tons of nitrogen oxide than previously estimated for 2015. The research focused on vehicles in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea and the United States and uncovered that we’ve grossly overestimated the amount of good being done by our global regulatory efforts. Companies are practically guaranteed to be falsifying testing results while others are openly incapable of reaching government-enforced guidelines.

Who cares? It’s not like anyone is dying, right? Well, not exactly.

Keen to adhere some urgency to the findings, the researches estimated the added 5 million tons of NOx contributed to about 38,000 more premature deaths in 2015 than previous estimates.

Thanks to a lower population density and overall higher quality of air, only about 1,100 of those deaths were from North America. Meanwhile, China, India and the European Union took the brunt of the representative corpses. The EU found itself with a disproportionately large number of NOx related health issues compared to some more populous regions. The same is true when you break it down into countries. The European Environment Agency surmises the United Kingdom actually sees a few thousand more diesel emission-related deaths than Germany each year, despite possessing a significantly smaller population. Italy, which is even smaller than the UK, has almost twice the death-rate of Deutschland.

Hans Bruyninckx, the EEA’s executive director, stated in 2016: “Emission reductions have led to improvements in air quality in Europe, but not enough to avoid unacceptable damage to human health and the environment.”

The authors of the Nature study used real-world analysis to determine “nearly one-third of on-road heavy-duty diesel vehicle emissions and over half of on-road light-duty diesel vehicle emissions are in excess of certification limits.”

The researchers insist adopting and enforcing next-generation standards, specifically something more aggressive than Euro 6, could virtually eliminate diesel-related NOx emissions in these at-risk regions. While it’s difficult to quantify pollution specific fatalities — even though that’s what a good portion of the study is devoted to — its findings estimate 174,000 premature deaths could be prevented in 2040 by applying stringent standards to heavier-duty vehicles and shifting passenger cars away from diesel entirely.

Some might assume if automakers can’t best the current emissions standards without cutting corners today, there’s no way they’ll be able meet the more rigorous guidelines of tomorrow. However, the authors cited recent tests that proved “real-world NOx emissions in line with certification limits are technically achievable.”

Ray Minjares, from the U.S. International Council on Clean Transportation, was consulted as part of the research team.

“Manufacturers know how to make their cars clean and they are actively choosing not to,” he stated. “The question for the public is: are we comfortable with that situation? Why are manufacturers who sell vehicles in Europe choosing to provide Europe with dirtier versions of the cars they sell in the U.S.?”

[Image: Michael Gil/ Flickr ( CC BY 2.0)]

Join the conversation
3 of 95 comments
  • Markf Markf on May 18, 2017

    Trump #Triggered

  • Brn Brn on May 18, 2017

    I stopped reading at "Study Suggests".

    • Hummer Hummer on May 18, 2017

      Studies show that studies suggesting suggestions need more studies suggesting studies have studies suggested to study suggestions.

  • Wolfwagen IIRC I remember reading somewhere that the Porsche Cayenne was supposed to have a small gasoline-powered block heater. There was a loop in the cooling system that ran to the heater and when the temperature got to a certain point (0°C)the vehicle's control unit would activate the heater. I dont know if this was a concept or if it ever made it into production.
  • Jeffro As I sit here this morning with my 2 day old TRD OFF ROAD 4RUNNER tucked safely away in the garage, my head spins with this weird desire to locate a 85 LTD equipped with the epic 😵‍💫2.3 and the FOUR ON THE FLOOR. THE HOLY GRAIL. Ying and yang baby!The search begins.
  • ToolGuy 404 error on the product link. Which probably isn't terrific marketing on TTAC's part.
  • ToolGuy Second picture: Do you like pegboard storage? (I don't.)
  • ToolGuy "WHAT???"(old 'I was in the artillery' joke)