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It still smells of sulphur today

No, I’m talking literally, not about various diabolical figures.

Thanks to a great new blog called, I’ve been doing some digging around sulphur levels in diesel fuels. Sulphur’s a particularly nasty chemical, and is especially a problem with diesel fuel for vehicles.

Europe of course has been leading the way in legislating its removal. Sulphur of 15 parts per million (ppm) (ultra-low-sulphur diesel) is the maximum-allowable content for diesel fuel there, though ‘zero-sulphur’ fuel (efffectively less than 10 ppm) is replacing it quickly and has been widely available for years, with countries like Sweden having made it mandatory, and it being the legislated minimum Europe-wide from 2009.

The US naturally is lagging behind, but catching up with 15 ppm diesel having become the maximum from last year (down from 500 ppm). An interesting aside for those who claim government should always just leave business alone to become more efficient is that the US car manufacturers, who have been left alone, are technologically lagging and in dire trouble because of it. Since they haven’t been forced (or seen fit) to produce cars that run on low-sulphur diesel, their cars are seen as pieces of junk in Europe, and they have little export market, with the US making up the overwhelming proportion of their sales. The European car manufacturers are now in the prime spot to gain market share in the US with their far superior diesel engines. The Japanese manufacturers have focused on efficient petrol engines (which is why they went the hybrid route), leaving the US manufacturers to focus on big monsters, which less and less people want these days, but that’s another story. Not surprisingly the big 3 in the US are all flirting with bankruptcy.

In Asia, Hong King, Taiwan and Singapore all have a maximum of 50 ppm.

So, South Africa, with all the focus on its booming car-exporting industry, must have a limit of 15 ppm right? Or at least 50 ppm? Wrong. We’re sitting with a maximum allowable content of 500ppm, (with BP having been the first to introduce 50ppm diesel last year, but it’s by no means the standard).

So many of the cars here have no prospect of ever being allowed through the borders of Europe or the US. Though there’s always China, with a limit of 2000 ppm.

What’s worse for local car fans is that the greenest new cars (such as this one) can’t be released here, because of the poor local fuel quality.

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