UK automotive trade association, SMMT, says diesel remains firmly part of targets to drive down CO2 levels, despite the undoubted negative publicity of late.

The fuel has taken a publicity pounding since the emergence of the Volkswagen scandal last year, but its prevalence in the commercial sector continues to be a vital cog in the commercial arena as Europe in particular, emerges from the depths of its recession.

“Diesel definitely has a future,” SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes told just-auto on the sidelines of this week’s Commercial Vehicle Show in the UK’s second city of Birmingham.

“It is one of the fundamental technologies that will help industry achieve its CO2 targets. There is attention equally on health – equally that has been blamed on diesel vehicles but it is important to understand – especially in terms of commercial vehicles there are few real alternatives.

“The economy, society demands on these vehicles [are] to make sure supermarket shelves are stacked, to make sure the economy operates.

“Clearly, in recent months, there has been a lot of attention on diesel emissions rather than commercial vehicles and the [UK] government report last week was welcome as it demonstrated no other brand was using defeat software. The vehicles tested were legally compliant.”

Nonetheless, Hawes conceded there had been a gap between laboratory and real world performance, which had had to be addressed, through Real Driving Emissions (RDE) evaluation.

“The RDE will make Europe the toughest emissions type approval in the world,” added Hawes. “Commercial vehicles are using RDE and it is demonstrably improving vehicle emissions.

“Sure, what we face in cars, there is a major challenge there, [but] I expect the industry will rise to [it]. It will be difficult. That is a significant regulatory challenge.

“There has been increasing focus on air quality – the challenge now is to address the NOx issue because that is a concern to the public and we expect the industry to do so. What we are not seeing is any drop off in sales of diesel vehicles.”