The Future of Diesel Technology

The Future of Diesel Technology


What is diesel?

Diesel fuel is a mixture of hydrocarbons obtained by distillation of crude oil and is used as a fuel for diesel engines.


What is the history of the diesel engine?

Rudolf Diesel invented the diesel engine in the late 1800s. During this time, most machinery and vehicles were powered by steam engines that only converted approximately 10% of heat into useful work. Diesel was inspired to make a change after attending a lecture on thermodynamics at the Royal Bavarian Polytechnic of Munich, which stated that it was possible to convert all heat into work.

Over the years, Diesel developed an engine that was just over 25% efficient, which was more than half as efficient as the current steam-powered engines. Current steam engines operated through the compression of air and fuel together, which risked the engines self-igniting and destabilising. Instead, Diesel’s engines operated through the compression of only air, creating a higher compression rate meaning that less fuel was needed to power his engines. Also, Diesel’s engines could use a heavier fuel, which we know of today as ‘diesel’, which was cheaper than petrol to refine from crude oil.

Diesel’s engines became appealing to military use as the engines emitted less fumes, meaning that they were also less likely to cause explosions. In 1904, diesel engines were utilised by French submarines.

Although Rudolf Diesel passed away in 1913, his diesel engines’ potential was recognised. The first diesel-powered trucks appeared in the 1920s, and trains in the 1930s. By 1939, ¼ of global sea trade was fuelled by diesel. Today, diesel fuel and diesel engines play a huge role in our everyday lives.



What is diesel used for today?

There are multiple applications of diesel fuel worldwide. These include:

  • Mining: diesel generators can provide power to mining equipment and machinery when covering operations such as drilling, excavating and cranes.
  • Healthcare: diesel generators are there to provide back-up power if there are power failures or interruptions.
  • Transport: various modes of transport use diesel fuel, such as cars, buses, trucks, trains and boats.
  • Construction: provide 24/7 lighting, communication systems, and power construction equipment such as cranes. Generators can also provide back-up power to the main grid if there are power failures.
  • Business: can help to protect businesses if power failure occurs to prevent loss of business and revenue, and to ensure that operations continue to run smoothly.
  • Manufacturing: can help this to continue in case of power failure.
  • Telecommunications and Data: diesel generators can make sure these are always kept online and that data is always accessible.
  • Education: can provide back-up power for security alarms, smoke alarms, sprinklers, emergency lightning, and IT equipment and data.


What impact does diesel have?

The Department for Transport (DfT) states that diesel vehicles have significantly lower CO2 emissions per kilometre travelled due to their higher engine efficiency, suggesting that diesel engines have a lower, though still significant, impact on the environment.  

Diesel engines can withstand higher compressions, meaning they can power longer than gas-powered engines before needing major mechanical work. Also, diesel engines can achieve much greater, and approximately 25-30% better, fuel economy. This is because diesel contains more usable energy than gasoline and, due to diesel’s efficient and dense properties, it is therefore able to achieve greater mileage. There have been multiple cases proving diesel engines’ efficiency, such as a 1991 Mercedes Benz E-Class W124 which clocked a staggering 3.4 million kilometres (2,112,662.05 miles), proving its longevity and dependability.

Due to constant technological advances in diesel engine adaptations and improvements in government fuel and emissions legislations, this has led to greater developments in low-sulfur diesel fuels and specialised equipment. Also, because of this, typically the newer the diesel engine/ vehicle is, the greener the engine is. This is supported by evidence from scientists at the University of Montreal, which states that the modern technologies adopted by new diesel vehicles makes them now far cleaner, specifically in relation to particulates.

Therefore, diesel engines could be more favourable to petrol engines due to their lower emissions of CO2, their constant technological developments in becoming more environmentally ‘green’, and always working towards meeting carbon reduction requirements. 


What can the future bring for diesel? Or, what can diesel bring for the future?

From 2011-2017, 59 million tonnes of carbon dioxide have been eliminated by the newest generation of commercial diesel trucks in the U.S. and, by 2027, heavy-duty diesel trucks in the U.S. will aim to reach the anticipated 1 billion tonnes of CO2 emission reductions through more advanced fuel economy standards and emissions legislations.

By 2030, it is estimated that black carbon emissions from diesel sources in California will have fallen by 99% from 2020. Also, by 2020, 196 countries are expected to adopt cleaner diesel fuel standards that enable the greatest benefits from the new generation of diesel.

Advancements in biodiesel, produced through recycling unusable waste products such as vegetable oils and animal fats, could be a step towards even ‘greener’ diesel production.


What are companies doing to become more futuristic?



New product developments have enabled Bosch to reduce the levels of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) emissions. In 2017, European legislations stated that new passenger vehicles should emit no more than 168 milligrams of nitrogen oxides per kilometre. This has recently been adapted to no more than 120mg/ km in 2020. To comply with legislation laws, Bosch state that vehicles fitted with Bosch technology can reach levels of NOx emissions as low as 13mg/ km and, when tested in tougher conditions, the level of emissions tested to average at around 40mg/ km. This has been accomplished through advanced technology and adaptations, such as:

  • Exhaust-gas turbochargers: allow engine start-ups to release lower emissions and offer a more flexible air system
  • Exhaust systems: provide excellent thermal management systems
  • Sensors: help to regulate temperatures, emissions, and ensures correct data management and readings


Denso offer educational tours, in-house newsletters and workshops to promote sustainability and business growth. In terms of product development, Denso manufactured a new diesel common rail system in 2013, which was the world’s highest injection pressure of 2,500 bar. This new system could contribute to fuel efficiency by 3%, whilst also reducing particulate matter by 50% and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by up to 8%.


Perkins recycle approximately 55,000 metric tonnes of end-of-life iron annually, therefore remanufacturing materials means reducing waste and minimising the need for raw materials to be used to produce a new product.

Perkins state that the remanufacturing process can account for approximately:

  • 80% less energy
  • 88% less water
  • 92% fewer chemical products
  • 70% less waste production


Yanmar have developed new product technologies to focus on emission controls, such as the 1533kW 6EY26DF engine that offers ship owners a medium-speed dual-fuel solution, allowing them to switch between liquefied natural gas and diesel. This product has high-precious airflow technology to optimise combustion conditions.

Yanmar state that the engine’s features include:

  • Switch between LNG and diesel fuel mode even under full engine loads.
  • No power limitations even for LNG.
  • Advanced air-fuel ratio control for stable gas mode operation.
  • 84% NOx, 25% CO2, and 99% SOx and PM reductions, which meet IMO Tier 3 standards.
  • Improved thermal efficiency ratios at almost 50% in gas mode.

Delphi Technologies

Delphi Technologies have adapted products and machinery to become more ‘futuristic’, such as:

  • DPF 300 Master Series:
    • Significantly extends service life
    • Maintains optimum fuel economy
    • Ensures optimum exhaust function
  • DF 21
    • Multiple injections – optimal combustion performance
    • Very low leakage – supplying very high efficiency, helps to reduce the risk of harmful fuel deposits
    • Overall reduction in injector envelope size – reduced injector material content, reduced packaging space requirements



The diesel industry works inexhaustibly to reduce emissions, manufacture new efficient systems, comply with legislation requirements and produce safe operations and products to benefit their customers and the environment.


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13 February 2020


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