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Nissan revolution: Could new petrol engine make diesel obsolete?

Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co has come up with a new type of gasoline engine it says may make some of today’s advanced diesel engines obsolete.

The new engine uses variable compression technology, which Nissan engineers say allows it at any given moment to choose an optimal compression ratio for combustion – a key factor in the trade-off between power and efficiency in all gasoline-fuelled engines.

The technology gives the new engine the performance of turbo-charged gasoline engines while matching the power and fuel economy of today’s diesel and hybrid powertrains – a level of performance and efficiency the conventional gasoline engine has so far struggled to achieve.

The potential breakthrough technology comes at a time when diesel engine technology has been tarnished by Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) emissions cheating scandal.

The German automaker admitted last year to using secret software to cheat exhaust emissions tests on its diesel cars, affecting millions of vehicles worldwide, and prompting the departure of the company’s CEO and other executives.

“Diesel engine is a hot topic globally. We believe this new engine of ours is an ultimate gasoline engine that could over time replace the (advanced) diesel engine of today,” Kinichi Tanuma, a senior Nissan engineer who leads product development for the premium Infiniti brand, told reporters at a pre-launch briefing last month.

“Everyone’s been working on variable compression and other technologies to significantly improve gasoline engine fuel economy … at least for the last 20 years or so,” said James Chao, Asia-Pacific managing director at consultant IHS.

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