A new, stricter set of emissions regulations will come into force on April 1, 2023 known as RDE, or Real Driving Emissions norms, and as a result, several cars or variants of cars will not be upgraded to the new emissions standards. This is largely because of the huge costs involved in doing so and, hence, these models are set to be axed. One of these, Autocar India has learnt, will be the Hyundai i20 diesel.
Diesel makes up just 10 percent of i20 sales
The i20 is available with two petrol engines and one diesel option, and it’s not surprising that Hyundai is cutting its losses with the latter as it accounts for around 10 percent of sales – roughly translating to 700 units per month on average. Compare that to 2015 when the split between i20 petrol and diesel sales was 50:50, and you can see how far the demand has fallen.
While at one point every premium hatchback came with a diesel engine option, today only the i20 and Tata Altroz offer one. As overall customer preference moves away from diesel, it is the hatchbacks that are the first to go. Apart from general factors causing the shift, in hatchbacks, the difference between the price of the equivalent petrol and diesel variants is much greater than in, say, larger vehicles like SUVs. The fuel efficiency advantage of diesel also doesn’t pay off when the usage is more city than highway.
Hyundai India diesel line-up will start from Venue
The i20 will not be the first small Hyundai to lose its diesel engine – the Grand i10 Nios and Aura siblings quietly lost their diesel variant earlier this year. Not only was the difference between their petrol and diesel sales far greater (less than 5 percent diesel in the case of the Nios) but the two models had their unique 1.2-litre, three-cylinder diesel engine that was used by no other model. As a result, this engine definitely wasn’t worth saving.
The i20’s 100hp, 1.5-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine, on the other hand, is shared with the Venue and Kia Sonet, while the more powerful 115hp version with a variable-geometry turbo (VGT) is also used in the Creta, Verna and Alcazar (not to mention a number of Kia models). While it will be axed from the i20, the 1.5 CRDi engine will continue in all the other models and upgraded to meet the new RDE norms. Diesel is far more important in Hyundai’s SUV line-up, still making up 35 percent of Venue sales and over 60 percent of Creta sales.
What is unclear at this point is if Hyundai will keep the fixed-geometry turbo (100hp) version of this engine for just the Venue, or simply draft in the more powerful VGT (115hp) version from the Creta to the smaller SUV. After all, Kia already uses this for the Sonet diesel automatic, and it would make sense to consolidate the engine to a single version, because upgrading for RDE is no small task.
Upgrading diesel engines to meet RDE norms is expensive
We’ll save the complete technical breakdown of what exactly the RDE norms dictate for another story, but the gist of it is that the emissions regulations are even stricter than we have had before. They come into effect in April 2023, and in order to meet them, many existing engines – mostly small-capacity diesels – will have to be upgraded.
The main takeaway is that all diesels will require to shift to the expensive SCR (selective catalytic reduction) method of emissions control. Until now, smaller diesels that emitted lower pollutants could get away with the simpler and far less expensive LNT (Lean NOx Trap) system to meet existing emissions standards. All the larger diesels, generally upwards of 2.0 litres, meanwhile, had already moved to the SCR system to meet the BS6 norms of 2020. You’ll recognise them by their AdBlue filler next to the fuel filler cap.
Adding an SCR system to Hyundai’s 1.5 diesel will drive the cost up considerably, further increasing the price gap from petrol variants, and this will have a huge impact on the i20 – a car whose diesel variants don’t sell in huge numbers. It’s no surprise, then, that Hyundai is pulling the plug on the i20 diesel but not giving up on diesel altogether either. In fact, Hyundai (and Kia) are upgrading the 1.5 diesel with SCR for its entire SUV range.
While manufacturers like Maruti, Renault-Nissan and the entire VW Group long gave up on diesel when BS6 was implemented, and others like Honda are set to lose diesel engines as a result of RDE, Hyundai does not want to give up on its strong diesel fan base.